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Press Releases

March 9, 2007

Justin Lyons
The Mariners' Museum
(757) 591-7738
(800) 581-7245

David Hall
NOAA Public Affairs
(301) 713-3066, ext. 191


State-of-the-Art Center Becomes One of America's
Premier Civil War Attractions

Exactly 145 years after the historic clash between the Civil War ironclads USS Monitor and CSS Virginia at the Battle of Hampton Roads in 1862, The Mariners’ Museum and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration today opened the doors to one of America’s premier maritime Civil War attractions, the new USS Monitor Center.

Virginia governor Tim Kaine and famed ocean explorer Robert Ballard, Ph.D., joined representatives from The Mariners’ Museum and NOAA in cutting the ribbon for the center, which offers visitors of all ages and backgrounds an unparalleled opportunity to learn about one of the most revolutionary vessels in naval history.

“The opening of the USS Monitor Center is the result of 30 years of a highly successful public-private partnership involving NOAA, The Mariners’ Museum, the U.S. Navy, Northrop Grumman Newport News and many others,” said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “All who visit the USS Monitor Center will no doubt leave with a sense of pride, history and appreciation for those who have served, and continue to serve, their country.”

“March 9, 1862, marked the turning point in the history of modern warfare and the way war was waged at sea,” said The Mariners’ Museum president and CEO Timothy J. Sullivan. “Today, the opening of the USS Monitor Center, just a few miles from the site of that first duel between armored warships, has revolutionized the way scholars, students and families can understand and even relive this historic moment in naval warfare. We at The Mariner’s Museum and our partners at NOAA have worked hard to ensure that history is not only preserved in the new center, but that it comes alive.”

Following remarks, Sullivan and Lautenbacher joined Gov. Kaine, Newport News mayor Joe Frank, Museum Board of Trustees chairman Alan Diamonstein, and others to cut the ceremonial ribbon, opening the new center to the public.

The new $30 million, 63,500-square-foot USS Monitor Center wing is home to numerous artifacts, a major interactive exhibition on the two ironclad vessels, their battle, the men who served on them, and modern-day efforts to recover and conserve more than 1,200 artifacts from the Union ironclad. Visitors will walk on a full-scale replica of the Monitor, experience the drama of the Battle of Hampton Roads in a high-definition theater, and observe the intricate, hands-on conservation taking place in one of the largest high-tech conservation facilities on the East Coast.

The Mariners’ Museum, in partnership with NOAA, broke ground for the new center in 2004. The museum is conducting a $30 million capital campaign for the USS Monitor Center. NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary Program has provided $9.5 million in federal funds contributing toward the $20 million that will be raised from public sources. The museum is also conducting a $10 million private sector campaign, raising funds from corporations, foundations, and individuals across the nation. Currently, more than $27 million of the total $30 million has been raised.

Since the USS Monitor slipped beneath the Atlantic Ocean waves during a gale 16 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., on Dec. 31, 1862, her revolutionary design, stealth, and iconic gun turret have been immortalized by engravings, artists’ canvases and textbooks. The wreck site was not discovered until 1973. The site was designated as America’s first national marine sanctuary two years later.

In 1987, The Mariners’ Museum was designated by NOAA, on behalf of the federal government, as the repository for artifacts and archives from the USS Monitor. Working jointly with NOAA and the U.S. Navy, the Museum has received over 1,200 artifacts from the Monitor, including the steam engine, propeller and revolving gun turret, all now permanently housed in the state-of-the-art USS Monitor Center.

The NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program, which manages Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, seeks to increase the public awareness of America’s marine resources and maritime heritage by conducting scientific research, monitoring, exploration and educational programs. Today, the sanctuary program manages 13 national marine sanctuaries and one marine national monument that together encompass more than 150,000 square miles of America’s ocean and Great Lakes natural and cultural resources.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is celebrating 200 years of science and service to the nation. From the establishment of the Survey of the Coast in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson to the formation of the Weather Bureau and the Commission of Fish and Fisheries in the 1870s, much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 60 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

The Mariners’ Museum, an educational, non-profit institution accredited by the American Association of Museums, preserves and interprets maritime history through an international collection of ship models, figureheads, paintings and other maritime artifacts. The museum is open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 12 to 5 p.m. Sunday. It will be closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. For information, visit, call (757) 596-2222 or (800) 581-7245, or write to The Mariners’ Museum, 100 Museum Drive, Newport News, VA 23606.

The Mariners’ Museum and The South Street Seaport Museum of New York City are partners in America’s National Maritime Museum, an innovative alliance recognized by an act of Congress in June 1998 to share collections, exhibitions, educational programs, publications, and other endeavors.

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