Past Exhibits

The Thresher Legacy: A Better, Safer Navy

December 3, 2014 – April 19, 2021

The loss of USS Thresher (SSN 593) — America’s most advanced submarine — with all hands on April 10, 1963, shocked the Navy and the submarine community. Ultimately, the disaster drove the Navy to create new programs that improved submarine safety (the SUBSAFE Program) and expanded the Navy’s deep sea capabilities (the Deep Submergence Systems Project). The Thresher Legacy examined how this tragic loss produced profound and positive changes within the Navy.


Silent Victory: Submarines in World War II

February 24, 1995 – March 27, 2018

U.S. submarines played a crucial role in World War II, especially in the Pacific where they sank 30 percent of the Japanese Navy’s ships and almost five million tons of Japanese shipping. This exhibit detailed the actions and performance of American submarines during the war and honored the 52 boats that were lost in service.


41 for Freedom

January 8, 2010 – January 26, 2016

Strategic deterrence was a defining aspect of the Cold War. For over 20 years, 41 U.S. fleet ballistic missile submarines (FBMs or boomers) conducted strategic deterrence patrols with Polaris and Poseidon nuclear missiles. This exhibit highlighted these 41 celebrated submarines, the Polaris missile program, and the critical role of strategic deterrence.


The Skin They’re In: U.S. Navy Diving Suits

April 16, 2011 – August 23, 2015

Navy divers work worldwide in cold, threatening, and dangerous environments. Diving suits act as artificial skins to protect them in these challenging conditions. This exhibit explored how different types of diving suits kept Navy divers safe on the job.

You can view an online version of this exhibit here.


Civil War Mines

May 25, 2012 – August 23, 2015

New technology and weapons used in the Civil War added aspects of modern warfare to traditional combat. Out of necessity, the Confederacy evolved and standardized underwater mine technology and implementation. This exhibit examined how the Confederacy introduced improved mines on a large scale and became the first nation to wage modern mine warfare.

An online version of this exhibit is available here.


The Trident Family: Service and Sacrifice

February 11, 2005 – January 2013

A Trident Sailor’s decision to serve commits his* whole family to the submarine life. Their days and months are filled with hard work and separation, patience and sacrifice, difficult goodbyes and joyful reunions. This exhibit followed the experiences of a submariner at sea and of his family at home during the course of a Trident patrol.

*At the time this exhibit was developed in 2005, women were not yet part of the Submarine Force. The decision to allow women to serve on submarines was made in February 2010 and implemented in November 2011.


Women Divers: Part of the Navy Team

July 21, 2006 – April 1, 2010

Women joined the Navy diving community in 1975, but their path was not without difficulties. This exhibit examined the challenges and achievements of some of the first women Navy divers. Through determination, persistence, and a love of diving, these early pioneers proved themselves in a male-dominated world to become valued, respected members of the diving community.

You can view an online version of this exhibit here.


The Silent Service

September 6, 2004 – January 3, 2005

This collection of stunning paintings, created by artists Thomas Hart Benton and Georges Schreiber, depicted submarine service during World War II. Collected by Abbott Laboratories as their contribution to the war effort, the paintings were intended to give face and voice to the “Silent Service.” Benton and Schreiber studied their subjects before beginning the paintings, living aboard WWII submarines for a time to ensure authenticity in their work.


Missions of Mercy: Navy Hospital Ships, WWII and Today

March 25, 2004 – September 7, 2004

Following her decommissioning, transport ship USS Henderson (AP 1) found a second life as hospital ship USS Bountiful (AH 9). Bountiful assisted the fleet during the last two years of World War II, serving as a floating hospital and caring for casualties from the Marianas invasions, the Peleliu landing, and the Iwo Jima Operation.

Artist and Navy surgeon Thomas McLaughlin’s father served aboard Bountiful as a physician during the war. Missions of Mercy featured 28 paintings McLaughlin created in honor of his father. Using McLaughlin’s depictions of life and work on Bountiful, paired with artifacts from modern hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20), this exhibit looked at the roles of hospital ships in American wars from World War II to the present.


Angels Came at Dawn

August 15, 2003 – March 15, 2004

From 1942 to 1945, eleven U.S. Navy nurses were held as prisoners of war (POWs) by the Japanese in the Philippines. The nurses cared tirelessly for other American POWs despite experiencing their own sickness and malnourishment. Rescue finally came during the early morning of February 23, 1945, when troops with the U.S. Army 11th Airborne Division parachuted into the camp. To the beleaguered POWs, the paratroopers seemed like “angels falling from heaven.”

Angels Came at Dawn told the story of these nurse POWs through a series of 32 paintings by Dr. Thomas McLaughlin that portrayed their struggles and eventual rescue.