The Coast Guard celebrated the groundbreaking of its future national museum on Aug. 19 with a ceremony at its riverfront site in New London, Connecticut, also home to the Coast Guard Academy.
Adm. Linda Fagan, Commandant of the Coast Guard, officiated the symbolic “keel-laying” ceremony — which traditionally marks the start of cutter’s construction — for the museum’s main building.
“Today was a beautiful day in New London and for the Coast Guard,” Fagan said in a release. “I am excited about the National Coast Guard Museum, a place where we can share our history and stories with the American public. I appreciate the many people who worked hard to get us here, and I can’t wait to see this new museum take shape.”
A number of local and national government officials attended the celebration of the project designed to honor the legacy and heritage of the Coast Guard’s 230-plus-year history, including Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who called the museum “a befitting honor to our heroes for their bravery and devotion to duty.”
“As Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, I strongly believe that just as their service never wavers, our support of the U.S. Coast Guard and all of our armed forces must be just as resolute and unwavering,” DeLauro said in a release.
Visitors to the museum can expect to learn about the branch’s overarching mission, accomplishments and history via 200 galleries and 80,000 square feet of exhibition space spread out across six floors. Safety, security and stewardship are at the heart of the museum, according to a service news hub post, while exhibits will focus on themes like “defenders of our nation, enforcers on the seas, lifesavers around the globe, champions of commerce and protectors of the environment.”
Included in the experience will be a STEM Discovery Center that will offer a unique, interactive activities for visitors. Additionally, a Medal of Honor posthumously awarded to Signalman First Class Douglas Munro, the only Coast Guardsman to receive the decoration, is expected to be on display.
“Creating a national-level museum takes years of dedicated efforts to make sure we honor this wonderful service appropriately,” museum director Elizabeth Varner said in a release. “Watching the museum come to life with major milestones, such as today’s ceremony, is not only rewarding for those of us directly involved, it’s a great accomplishment for every Coast Guard member and the country they serve.”
Along with Space Force, the Coast Guard is currently the only service without its own national museum. The Army’s national museum opened in 2020, the National Museum of the Marine Corps in 2006, the Navy’s in 1963, and tracing its roots all the way back to 1923 is the National Museum of the Air Force, a date that long-preceded its evolution into a separate branch. The Coast Guard facility, meanwhile, has been in the works since 2015.
The museum, which will be free and accessible to the public, is expected to open sometime in 2024.
Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media