By Emily Pearce, NHF Middendorf CuratorThe Navy has not always done its due diligence in preserving its material heritage. The practice of collecting naval artifacts dates to the early nineteenth century under patrons such as Thomas Tingey, but these objects were not always handled with preservation practices in mind. It was not until 1961 that Admiral Arleigh Burke established a national museum to house and protect the United States Navy’s collection. Since this decision, the Navy has done its best to collect, protect, and preserve its material culture. The latest demonstration of this mission is the Naval History and Heritage Artifact Consolidation at the Defense Supply Center Richmond.
NHF staff had the privilege of visiting the new facility earlier this month. The visit included a tour of the new space guided by Collections Manager Melanie Pereira. Ms. Pereira informed the staff of the plans and procedures for the facility and indicated designated spaces for research, conservation, and storage of artifacts. The refurbished warehouse is being outfitted with high quality shelving units, laboratory spaces, and digital tools to ensure the longevity of this massively important collection.
Perhaps the most rewarding part of our visit was witnessing the high level of care the curatorial staff employed when working with the artifacts. Every member of the team whom we were introduced to explained to us with ferocious enthusiasm what object they were working on and how each facet of the object spoke to the history of the United States Navy. Every artifact—including those donated by NHF!—is being cared for with extreme passion and expertise at the Richmond facility.
The innovative technology utilized in the building couples with the skills of the collection teams to provide a safe and stable environment for this immense collection. The Artifact Consolidation is proving to be a phenomenal benefit to the study of and preservation of naval history. Curators, conservators, and collection team members continue to develop and implement best practices within this space, giving the Navy’s collection a state-of-the-art new home.