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Dec 02

Shipyard Season's Greetings at the Naval Shipyard Museum

Posted on December 2, 2019 at 3:02 PM by Sharon Hoggard

Anyone walking through the Children’s Museum this year will see our Winter Wonderland display, full of bright lights, electronic elves, and decorated trees that remind so many of us of the delights of Coleman’s Nursery, or at least of the pleasantries of our own Christmases past. 

Here at the Naval Shipyard Museum, we’ve been shuttered for the past few holiday seasons. But this year, we have our own representation of the delights of Christmas. Our temporary photograph display offers a small collection of vintage images of Christmas decorations installed instead against the industrial backdrop of Norfolk Naval Shipyard. These 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s photographs offer the contrast of seasonal celebrations with the workaday setting of a military installation.

There are exterior decorations, interior displays, set up specifically for special holiday events, like family open houses and staff parties (often including toy train displays and miniature villages), and group photos of office gatherings, with punch bowls and Christmas trees amid the Bakelite telephones, industrial safety posters, and file separators. But the images that give me the most pause are the wartime photos.

Pictured below: Gate 10 decorated for Christmas, no date (Courtesy NNSY Archives)


Gate 10 n-d cropped

The holidays are all about traditions. So start a new tradition, and come down to the PNSM to look into the faces of the shipyard’s Christmases past.

The temporary display, along with a case of vintage holiday editions of the shipyard’s newspaper, Service to the Fleet, and several examples of shipyard Christmas cards (illustrated with original artwork), will be in the PNSM gallery from November 29 through December 31. Throughout the Christmas season, the museum will continue to be open Wednesday – Saturday, 10:00am – 5:00pm; Sunday, 1:00 – 5:00pm (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, as well as Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day). Remember that all city employees may enter the museum for free!

My thanks to the NNSY Archives, Shipyard Historian & Archivist Marcus W. Robbins, and the NNSY Public Affairs Office for sharing these images and information with us. Thanks also to Tim, Andre, and the Museums Department’s Exhibits team for their assistance with graphics and production.

May you find cheer and comfort in your own holiday traditions this year.

Post Submitted by: Diane L. Cripps
Curator of History for the Portsmouth Museums