The Coast Guard traces its origins back more than 230 years when the Revenue Cutter Service was established on Aug. 4, 1790. Now, in 2022, the service is finally getting a national museum of its own. The 80,000 square foot structure will be built in New London, Conn. Groundbreaking is anticipated for late summer or early fall of this year with a target completion date of 2025.
The Coast Guard, along with the Space Force, are the only two branches of the U.S. military without their own national museums.
“The National Coast Guard Museum will memorialize over 230 years of service into one central location to honor the legacy and heritage of the world’s greatest Coast Guard,” said Elizabeth Varner, National Coast Guard Museum (NCGM) director. “It will honor the Coast Guard members who have, are, or will stand the watch at home and abroad, embodying our core values of honor, respect, and devotion to duty.”
The waterfront museum will include 38,168 square feet of exhibit space, comprised of six floors – or in maritime speak – decks. There will be three main exhibit decks: Safety, Security, and Stewardship. Additionally, there will be a rotating gallery for temporary exhibits.
When not underway, the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle will be docked pier side where museum visitors will be able to tour the only tall ship in the Coast Guard’s fleet. The United States acquired Eagle from Germany following World War II. The 295-foot tall ship serves as a training ship for the next generation of Coast Guard officers.
The NCGM will chronicle the history and contribution of servicemembers to our nation. It will engage and educate through art, artifacts, exhibits, interactive and immersive experiences, as well as educational programs using science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), civics and art—both in person at its physical location and online through its website and virtual exhibits.
The National Coast Guard Museum Association (NCGMA) is in charge of construction, overseeing a budget of $119,900,000. The museum itself will be in charge of exhibit fabrication, install, and operation, with $48,200,000 allocated to those efforts, not including annual operating costs once open.
The National Coast Guard Museum’s current version began development in 2008 with the creation of a strategic master plan by the Coast Guard and White Oak Associates, a museum consulting company. This set the groundwork for how the museum would develop in the future, with New London chosen as its home, not only for its proximity to the Coast Guard Academy, but also its historic ties to the service. Major efforts on the parts of the Connecticut congressional delegation, the State of Connecticut, City of New London and the Coast Guard have helped get this project underway.