Now, neighbors of the Navy Yard can visit the museum, housed in the state-of-the-art Building 92, a now “green” building, which once served as the U.S. Marine Corps Commander’s Residence.
A 2,220-pound, three-story high anchor from the USS Austin stands firm in the lobby, commanding the attention of all visitors upon entering the building.
Visitors are then taken to the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s “Past, Present and Future” permanent exhibition, which chronicles the Navy Yard’s history, its workers, the companies that are now housed there and the future of the yard.
The 8,000 square-foot exhibition spans the building’s three floors, telling the stories of the site’s various incarnations – serving as a home for Native Americans, a battleground during the American Revolution, the center of ship building, and an industrial park that hosts 275 tenants.
“In this one space you have the entire mission of historic preservation and industrial development, all captured in one building,” said Aileen Chumard, deputy director of exhibits and programs at the museum.
On the first floor, visitors are greeted with a Timeline Gallery of ships from 1750 to the 2000s.
Also on the first floor is a state-of-the-art interactive panoramic map that shows the entire history of the area from 1600 to 2020. Visitors can pull up various time cones on the map, which also features “hot spots” that can be touched to learn more about a particular place or event on the timeline.
The interactive map is also a handy tool for educators, who can stop it and put it in education mode to match their curriculum.
The Today’s Yard gallery showcases all the people who work in the Navy Yard, from mechanics to carpenters. The exhibition aims to highlight the manufacturing products being made there today, some of which the public might not even be aware of. Short videos of oral stories are constantly on replay in the gallery, giving visitors a glimpse of what it is like to work in the yard.
On the second floor, a historic film is played on repeat and serves as a great introduction to the Brooklyn Navy Yard for those not too familiar with the site.
Sounds of horns, roaring seas, and the hammering and nailing of ships being constructed add a nostalgic feel to the experience as visitors walk among historic artifacts and precise ship models.
There are panels telling stories from the Naval Hospital, photos and text telling stories of women working for the first time at the Navy Yard and historic oral stories, which continue on the third floor, such as those of historian Howard Zinn, Robert Hammon, an African-American navy medical corpsman, and Clarence Irving, a Yard machinist.
Guests can also add their own history to the mix using BNY Connections, a media database-meets-Facebook program that captures and stores all the information of those who have worked at the Navy Yard. Guests can write notes or submit photographs.
One connection was made, not through BNY Connections but on the day of the ribbon-cutting, when Beatrice Mobley of Savannah, Georgia, who worked in the cafeteria at the Naval Hospital during WWII, reunited with a man she worked with at the yard 40 years ago -- the corpsman, Robert Hammond. Hammond said he remembered her smile.
Ships were built in the Brooklyn Navy Yard until 1966. The yard went largely unused for many years, but now 6,000 people are employed at the site in various industries.
In addition to the permanent exhibition, Gallery 92, a space on the third floor, will host rotating exhibitions.
On the third floor also sits the Ted & Honey Cafe, which officially opened on Wednesday, November 16. From the cafe, visitors can see views of the yard, Flushing Avenue and Manhattan.
The Brooklyn Navy Yard Museum is free and open Wednesdays through Sundays from Noon to 6 p.m.