By Sam Cox (Rear Adm. USN, Ret.), Director, Naval History and Heritage Command
At the Great Lakes Naval Station Fourth of July Fireworks show this year, I was able to make a very exciting announcement. On a day celebrating over 240 years of American independence, I, along with Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Mike Stevens, announced the renaming of Navy’s Great Lakes Naval Museum to the National Museum of the American Sailor – honoring the service and sacrifice of those who have given so much to maintain our freedom.
A Renewed Focus
The National Museum of the American Sailor name change signals a shift in vision from a regional focus to one that accurately depicts the diverse background, history and interests of the Sailors who have served our nation. The name change also reflects the interest of museum visitors, many of whom travel from across the country to attend the basic training graduations of their loved ones at the Navy’s Recruit Training Command.
Filling an interpretive gap in the Navy museum system, the new vision focuses on the historical experiences of Sailors. Until now, there has been no one museum solely dedicated to the American Sailor; this museum will celebrate their unique experiences through the ages, encompassing the total Sailor creed and culture. Dedicated to telling the story of anyone who has ever worn the Navy uniform, this building will do more than house history. The National Museum of the American Sailor will stand as a place for Sailors, Navy families and proud Americans to learn more about the Navy that serves them by using the history and experiences of our Sailors as the basis for its exhibits.
“The Navy is first a people business. As such, it is our people, our American Sailors, who hold our truest link to the past.”
A Vital Link to the Public
The mission of the Naval History and Heritage Command is to collect, preserve, protect, present, and make relevant the artifacts, art, and documents that best capture the Navy’s history and heritage. Often times, we use the “things” of our past to fulfill that mission, but the Navy is first a people business. As such, it is our people, our American Sailors, who hold our truest link to the past. Our Sailors have patriotically defended our nation at home and around the globe, from the Revolutionary War to today.
As the Curator of the Navy, I have made it my mission to share their unique stories and experiences with the American people, to make relevant the astonishing history of our Sailors. In the coming years, visitors can expect to see exciting, engaging exhibits that showcase the overall history and role of the U.S. Navy, the story of naval training and the experiences of American Sailors in the past and today.
I am very excited for this “new” museum, and I welcome you all to visit. Our nation’s history would not be the same if it were not for the millions of American Sailors who have served in the United States Navy.