Naval Museum Opens New Immersive Vietnam Exhibit

Max Lonzanida
Public Affairs Officer, Hampton Roads Naval Museum

View of Hampton Roads Naval Museum’s newest exhibit: “The Ten Thousand-Day War at Sea: The U.S. Navy in Vietnam, 1950-1975”. The new exhibit adds 130 new artifacts as well as 40 oral histories from local U.S. Navy Vietnam veterans.

Visitors walking towards battleship Wisconsin spent the 2019 summer passing the closed gallery of the Hampton Roads Naval Museum. Glass doors that once welcomed visitors into 240-plus years of naval history in the Hampton Roads area, were covered over with brown craft paper.

A view exhibit spaces under construction at Hampton Roads Naval Museum on July 24, 2019.

Behind the glass, staff members, contractors, and volunteers were hard at work. The remaining artifacts in the museum’s World War II and Cold War galleries were removed and carefully stored. Contractors transformed a once quiet and serene gallery into a construction zone. Once the tear down was complete, new framing and electrical wiring went up, contractors installed new drywall, dramatically transforming half of the museum’s gallery.

Curator of Ship Models staff members add the finishing touches to USS Newport News (CA-148) after transporting it from the National Museum of the United States Navy in Washington, D.C. to the Hampton Roads Naval Museum in Norfolk, Virginia on September 24, 2019.

During this time, artifacts both large and small arrived, along with printed graphics and text panels. Staff members installed wooden frames, plywood panels, and display cases. With fresh coats of paint applied, staff members and volunteers worked tirelessly to install artifacts, text rails, graphics panels, lighting fixtures, touchscreen monitors, and overhead projectors. Finishing touches continued right up to the exhibit’s opening.

On October 9, 2019, the gallery of the Hampton Roads Naval Museum opened to the public. Many who have visited before will recognize the familiar displays depicting the Revolutionary War through the Civil War.

A Vietnamese sampan and a diorama featuring a Patrol Boat, Riverine with its gun tub are some of the artifacts on display at a new exhibit at the Hampton Roads Naval Museum. 

Everything else has changed– over 4,700 square feet of space is now open as part of the museum’s new exhibit The Ten Thousand-Day War at Sea: The U.S. Navy in Vietnam, 1950-1975. The immersive exhibit touches on the Navy’s role during the Vietnam War, incorporating new artifacts along with oral histories from area veterans. Don’t rely on pictures alone; the best way to see the new exhibit is to drop by the museum on the second floor of the Nauticus campus in downtown Norfolk, Virginia.

To plan your visit and learn more about the museum, visit https://www.history.navy.mil/content/history/museums/hrnm/about-us1.html