Great Lakes, Illinois - The Great Lakes Naval Museum was officially renamed the National Museum of the American Sailor during a ceremony and sign unveiling at the museum July 4.
The Navy's top enlisted Sailor, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens, was joined by retired Rear Adm. Sam Cox, director of Naval History and Heritage Command, North Chicago Mayor Leon Rockingham, Capt. James Hawkins, commanding officer of Naval Station Great Lakes, Jennifer Searcy, Ph.D., director of the National Museum of the American Sailor, and representatives from the Great Lakes Naval Museum Foundation and National Museum of the American Sailor Foundation to unveil the new sign in front of the museum.
"Dedicated to telling the story of anyone who has ever worn the Navy uniform, this building will do more than house history," said Cox. "The National Museum of the American Sailor will stand as a place for Sailors, Navy families and proud Americans to learn more about the Navy that serves them by using the history and experiences of our Sailors as the basis for its exhibits."
Cox and Stevens shared the news of the name change with attendees of the Naval Station Great Lakes July Fourth Celebration with a speech and video presentation Monday evening.
The National Museum of the American Sailor name change signals a shift in vision from a regional focus to one that depicts the diverse history of Sailors who have served in the U.S. Navy. The name change also reflects the interest of museum visitors, many of whom travel from across the country to attend the basic training graduations at the Navy's Recruit Training Command.
"What may appear as a simple name change to some, for me, marks a recommitment to my shipmates that as a Navy, and as a Nation, we honor the service and sacrifice of all American Sailors," said Stevens.
The National Museum of the American Sailor currently features exhibits on life in Navy boot camp, naval uniforms and traditions, the history of Naval Station Great Lakes, the role of diversity in the Navy and the role of women in the Navy. Over the next two years, the museum will expand its exhibits to introduce visitors to the overall history and role of the U.S. Navy and the experiences of American Sailors in the past and today
"I am very excited for this 'new' museum, and I welcome you all to visit. Our nation's history would not be the same if it were not for the millions of American Sailors who have served in the United States Navy," said Cox.
The museum is located in Building 42 just outside the perimeter of Naval Station Great Lakes. Building 42, known as Hostess House, was built in 1942 and served as a visitors and reception center for almost one million American Sailors who came through Great Lakes during WWII.
The former Great Lakes Naval Museum was dedicated on Oct. 26, 1996 in Building 158 and opened to the public on Oct. 13, 1997. It became an official Navy Museum in Building 42 in 2009, joining the Naval History and Heritage Command museum enterprise.
The National Museum of the American Sailor is one of ten museums in the naval history enterprise. Other museums include:
--National Museum of the United States Navy (Washington Navy Yard, D.C.)
--National Naval Aviation Museum (Pensacola, Fla.)
--Hampton Roads Naval Museum (Norfolk, Va.)
--United States Navy Seabee Museum (Port Hueneme, Calif.)
--Submarine Force Library and Museum and Historic Ship NAUTILUS (Groton, Conn.)
--Naval Undersea Museum (Keyport, Wash.)
--Puget Sound Navy Museum (Bremerton, Wash.)
--Naval War College Museum (Newport, R.I.)
--United States Naval Academy Museum (Annapolis, Md.)
The Naval History and Heritage Command, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for the preservation, analysis and dissemination of U.S. naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy's unique and enduring contributions through our nation's history and supports the fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis and interpretive services. NHHC is composed of many activities including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, ten museums, USS Constitution repair facility and the historic ship Nautilus.