New leaders of Coast Guard Museum effort see momentum growing
As we embark on our respective roles as president/CEO and executive director of the National Coast Guard Museum Association (NCGMA) and begin the planning process for this major undertaking, we want to express our gratitude to our community for providing this opportunity to build in New London the first and only National Museum dedicated to the men and women of the Coast Guard. We also recognize that the success of this project will not be based on our efforts alone. As we share a sense of excitement, investment, and responsibility with all the community, it is with great enthusiasm that we want to provide an update regarding the progress of our museum project.
Our shared excitement is easy to describe — we have a unique and impressive site for the museum. There are over 1 million people who use the inter-modal transportation system in downtown New London, with well over another 1 million passing our waterfront site each year. These visitors, and others whom we anticipate will arrive at this destination attraction, will help turn into reality the vision of a vibrant downtown.
Our world-class museum will be a shining feature of the New London waterfront, benefiting from its proximity to this transportation hub, the Coast Guard Barque Eagle, City Pier, and downtown businesses. The location is ideal, providing close access to ample parking and all that downtown has to offer; restaurants, boutiques, services, and historic sights. The waterfront access also permits Coast Guard vessels to become an integral part of the Museum experience. Being equidistant from the U. S. Coast Guard Academy and the Coast Guard Research and Development Center provides national institutions a place to showcase leading-edge research and technology for the maritime environment.
There is growing excitement surrounding the creation of a 21st century museum, with interactive exhibits and striking architecture, in the heart of downtown New London. The association has retained the enowned Boston-based design firm Payette Associates as the architects. Additionally, a top museum exhibit design firm, Gallagher & Associates, has been employed to create the interior exhibits for the museum. Their list of work includes the Science Center at Connecticut College, the D-Day Museum in New Orleans, the Gettysburg Museum in Pennsylvania and the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. We have been fortunate to assemble a team of professionals with the precise experience needed to translate years of military history into an experience that will delight, inform, and entertain all visitors who will come to learn how the Coast Guard has and continues to serve our nation.
Fundraising, design, and public outreach efforts are proceeding beyond our preliminary expectations. The NCGMA was excited to see private financial investment in our museum increase by nearly $2 million in recent days, with corporate donors from throughout the United States lending support. Additionally, the Secretary’s Circle of NCGMA has come together, comprised of 15 former federal cabinet secretaries who were responsible for overseeing the Coast Guard. This group’s members, who perhaps more than anyone else, appreciate what the men and women of the Coast Guard provide to our national defense and maritime commerce, have been reaching out to their colleagues to support the museum in a bipartisan and unprecedented way.
These funds, however, will only be one type of investment required to make the museum a success.
The federal government, state of Connecticut, and city of New London have taken active leadership roles. We are working with our elected federal officials to align federal support. Connecticut is providing $20 million to build a pedestrian bridge at New London’s Union Station to facilitate the safe flow of visitors to the museum, Amtrak rail platform, Cross Sound Ferry terminal, and the New London waterfront. New London transferred the site last year to the Coast Guard.
As the association moves from planning to construction, we will see additional investments from our development partners in their projects at Union Station and Cross Sound Ferry. Likewise, we are starting to see capital investments in businesses in downtown New London recognizing that the museum and those businesses can derive mutual benefit from the development project.
Finally, we believe it is important to acknowledge and express our commitment for the responsible development of our project. We recognize that we likely will have only one chance to make this project the kind of success worthy of New London, Connecticut, the Coast Guard, and the nation. That success can only be achieved by intelligent planning, a sensitivity to local concerns, and the shared and focused effort to move forward.
We trust our vision will continue to be shared by the southeastern Connecticut community. The museum honoring the U.S. Coast Guard will stand as a gleaming addition to the historic New London waterfront.
Dick Grahn is president of the National Coast Guard Museum Association and Wes Pulver the executive director.
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