The USS Constitution at the Charlestown Navy Yard, the world’s oldest commissioned warship, has been undergoing a much needed restoration and will not be leaving dry dock for the next three years.
The restoration will close the USS Constitution Museum to tourists that visit the ship until it enters dry dock on May 19. The museum will then partly reopen on June 9 with tours.
Until the reopening, the U.S. Navy will build a viewing stand at the head of the dry dock. Here, visitors can step up to get a unique view of the Ship on blocks and stilts, secured for repair. Sailors from her crew will be on hand to answer questions and explain the work currently under way.
On June 9, once the Constitution is secure in Dry Dock 1, the Constitution will reopen to the public with tour hours taking place Tuesday through Friday from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.
The USS Constitution Museum will feature a film orienting visitors to all areas of the ship. Members of Constitution’s crew and Museum Educators will be on hand to answer questions and provide more detailed descriptions of the work underway. Together they will provide a comprehensive experience for those who come during this time.
According to the Navy, the multi-year restoration project will involve re-coppering the hull, replacing worn rigging and old planks and making general repairs to the stern, bow and captain’s cabin.
The Navy is paying for the work, which could cost up to $15 million. The last time the Constitution was dry-docked was in 1995, in preparation for its bicentennial.
Recently the U.S. Navy recently teamed up with the USS Constitution Museum and Google to provide a virtual tour of the ship while it is being repaired.
Using the same type of equipment that allows Google Maps to provide ‘street views’ throughout the U.S., Google Maps photographers were aboard the ship last year to record a virtual tour of Old Ironsides.
Google Maps photographed the ship to create a virtual 360-degree experience of Constitution in preparation for the ship’s scheduled dry-dock.
“People around the country and across the world will have the opportunity to experience Constitution online,” said Commander Sean Kearns, Constitution’s 73rd commanding officer, “This capability will be especially important while most areas of the ship are inaccessible during her restoration.”
The 216-year-old warship has been added to the list of historical landmarks that Google Maps has available for online tours. Among the list are the Taj Mahal, The Louvre Museum, underwater reefs, and regular street views from around the world. To date, Google Maps has been able to cover 57 different countries.
The virtual tour will help Constitution and history enthusiasts view and experience the ship as she presently looks at her berth in Charlestown Na
vy Yard before preparations begin to de-rig and offload the ship in the upcoming months.
USS Constitution, the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat, actively defended sea lanes against global threats from 1797 to 1855. The ship has long been a featured destination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and the Constitution and her crew of U.S. Navy Sailors offer community outreach and education about the ship’s history and the importance of naval seapower to more than 500,000 visitors each year.