As the memory and educational voice of USS Constitution, the USS Constitution Museum preserves, displays, and interprets artifacts and archival material related to the Ship and her crew through interactive exhibitions, compelling programs, and engaging outreach initiatives. The Museum was incorporated in 1972 as a private, non-profit and non-government funded interpretive complement to USS Constitution, an active-duty U.S. Navy vessel, the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world, and America’s Ship of State. This allowed the Navy to clear Constitution’s decks of display cases so that visitors could see the Ship as a sailing vessel, rather than as a floating museum, and for artifacts to be cared for in proper environmental conditions.
On April 8, 1976, naval historian Samuel Eliot Morison cut the ribbon to open the Museum to the public in its present facility in Charlestown Navy Yard’s Building 22 (the old pump house for Dry Dock #1), located just across the pier from “Old Ironsides.” Since opening, the Museum has doubled in size and quadrupled in visitation. Working with the National Park Service, the Museum expanded into two adjacent buildings and built a connecting corridor in the mid-1990s. In 2001, the Museum completed renovations on a new state-of-the-art collections storage facility and research library. Today, over 350,000 people visit the Museum each year to learn, explore, and research, making it one of Boston’s most visited museum.
Samuel Eliot Morison’s Remarks at the Opening of the USS Constitution Museum
“United States Ship, Constitution, preserved through the efforts of the people of the United States and the Navy, is now here in all her pristine beauty and charm and color and she is now given a new lease on life by having this Museum created in her honor. Here will be assembled all the memorabilia that used to clutter her twin decks. Here, I hope you may follow the example of the National Maritime Museum of Greenwich, right slap on the prime meridian, in having special exhibits of the great days of sail and exposing, through sale, books in print on the Constitution and the American sail matters. For the Constitution’s integral part of our country, her preservation assures that as long as we prize valor and maintain a fighting Navy, as long as our eyes dance to see that banner in the skies, we should be a strong, powerful and free nation.”