The American Merchant Marine Museum preserves displays and interprets historic artifacts and artwork related to the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA), the U.S. Merchant Marine, and the profession of seafaring.
The museum will educate and instill in midshipmen and the public an appreciation for the significant contributions made by the maritime services to the nation’s heritage, and in particular by USMMA graduates and personnel in peace and war.
Almost since the creation of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, there has been some sort of museum on campus. While wartime plans for a permanent museum were ultimately shelved in 1953, between 1946 and 1958 the old training ship Emory Rice was deemed a pier side “museum ship.”
While not much is known about this facility, we do know it served as an inspiration for Midshipman Charles Renick, who would graduate in 1947. While the museum ship was scrapped in 1958 and its collections scattered around campus, the idea did not die. Renick returned as an administrator on campus in 1961, and almost immediately began advocating for a distinct museum space.
The theft of the MacArthur “Surrender Sword” in 1973 from a midshipman lounge in the barracks underscored the need for a secure space to display the academy’s treasures.
A permanent site for the academy’s collection of art, ship models, and nautical artifacts was found in the late 1970s, after the alumni association donated the neighboring Barstow estate to the academy. Renick and other alumni successfully campaigned for a museum to be located on its ground floor, with storage in the basement, while a sort of hotel for academy visitors occupied the second and third floors.
The museum officially opened its doors on May 20, 1979, under the care of the American Merchant Marine Museum, Inc., a nonprofit entity empowered to exhibit, store, and even restore the academy’s heritage assets, and apparently allowed to receive new items on its own authority.
The American Merchant Marine Museum is located on the USMMA campus at 300 Steamboat Road in Kings Point.
Stop at the guard booth on the way onto the campus and present your driver’s license for access to the campus. The museum is located several hundred yards inside the Steamboat Road gate, on the right hand side. Signage is available to guide you in.
Parking is not immediately available at the museum. Consider parking in the larger lot across the street from the museum gate entrance and taking the short walk from the parking lot over to the museum.
The museum is open Tuesdays through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. when school is in session.
Visit www.usmma.edu/museum to learn more.
—With additional reporting by Christy Hinko.