Charleston Naval Shipyard Museum returns to North Charleston

By Ashley Barker
Published Jan. 20, 2014

An exhibit that tells the story of the Charleston Naval Shipyard has been returned to its home, according to a news release.

The exhibit, commonly referred to as the Shipyard Museum, has been displayed on the USS Yorktown at Patriots Point for more than 30 years. Patriots Point maintained the exhibit’s artifacts — including tools and equipment from the shipyard that were used from the 1920s to the 1990s — and documents detailing the base’s 1996 closure.

The original exhibit was created in 1981 by the late Palmer Olliff, who worked at the shipyard for 48 years, the release said. The exhibit was upgraded and expanded in 1996 when workers who had lost their jobs decided to donate items for preservation.

Patriots Point Executive Director Mac Burdette said the naval yard helped define the Charleston area for generations.

“As a museum, we feel it is very important that artifacts be exhibited whenever possible within the context of the history that made them important,” Burdette said in a statement. “I have always felt there was some level of unfairness that local residents who wanted to visit the exhibit on the Yorktown had to pay the admissions fee to our museum.”

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey said the exhibit’s items are currently being stored, until a permanent location can be found with the city.

“We intend to create a home for the exhibit that complements the Charleston Naval Base Memorial at Riverfront Park and appropriately tells the story of the shipyard’s 90-plus years of history,” Summey said in a statement.

Melissa Buchanan, Patriots Point’s curator, said planning and moving the exhibit took more than six months.

“Artifact moves within a museum are a planned process and even more so once packed for shipping across town,” Buchanan said in a statement. “The moves are carefully planned as to prevent any damage, with artifacts carefully wrapped, crated and moved in a precise order.”

Burdette said the space where the exhibit was held will now be used for traveling and rotational exhibits and, possibly, events.

“This is a great decision for all who value the history of the Charleston area, North Charleston and the shipyard that helped to defend this country through three major wars and the Cold War,” Burdette said.

Reach Ashley Barker at 843-849-3144 or @AshleyNBarker.

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