by Chris Chase
Coastal Journal staff
BRUNSWICK — The Brunswick Naval Museum has taken its first steps towards being housed in its final location, the chapel at the Brunswick Naval Air Station.
Museum volunteers, led by John B. Riley, have moved the museum’s collection into a pair of rooms in Hangar Six on the former base, and hope to set up exhibits soon in order to start earning funds and doing whatever’s necessary to move the museum into the base chapel.
The museum itself aims to have exhibits of artifacts from the Brunswick Naval Air Station and the surrounding community. The idea came about during the Base Realignment and Closure, the process the station went through after it was decommissioned.
“A group of people got together and were interested in the idea,” said Riley.
In order to become a museum, they had to first get certified as a nonprofit – a process which proved difficult, as no one wanted officially be a member of the administration.
“While everybody was in favor of it,” said Riley, “we could not find a committee chairman for it.”
After a bit of struggle, the organization was eventually formed and set to move into the chapel. They had raised enough money to begin the move, and were on the brink of moving, when they had to do fire and code inspections on the building. That’s where they hit a snag.
“Even though it’s an older building, it’s classified as new, because it was not on the tax code,” said Riley.
Due to this technicality, the building needs to be up to the code of a new building, which it is far from at the moment. In order to bring it up to code, according to Riley, they would need an additional $250,000 on top of what they already needed to move in.
“We figured it would take about a half-million [dollars] to renovate the structure,” said Riley. “We’ve done every study, we know what is needed in certain areas to improve the insulation and improve the green footprint of the building.”
The reason the museum wanted to move into the chapel is due to its proximity to the memorial gardens, which they would plan on maintaining and adding to their own exhibits.
At first, the project had trouble securing funding through donations and grants.
“Part of our problem was our lack of a building,” said Riley. “Not having a building means it’s harder to get money for a building. This project has been full of catch-22s”
According to Riley, the two rooms that they have temporarily acquired inside Hangar Six will go a long way towards securing funding and grants for their future project, as well as attracting attention and allowing people to come see some of the exhibits they already have.
“Now they can come and see that we know what we’re doing,” said Riley.
The eventual goal for the project is to move into the chapel and display a variety of artifacts from the Brunswick Naval Air Station, in order to preserve some of the history of the base, its occupants, and its relationship with the surrounding community.
“The initial stuff is going to be squadron memorabilia,” said Riley, “things that were part of the physical process here at the base.”
In the future, according to Riley, they plan on trying to secure a trainer aircraft for display, as well as some other artifacts that have been catalogued and stored in Washington, D.C.
According to Riley, the two small rooms in Hangar Six are just temporary. They plan on moving into the chapel, the only limiting factor at the moment is money and time.
“I would hope that we would be able to, within two years, actually be in the chapel,” said Riley. “As soon as the chapel is ready we’ll be going over there.”
Riley and others all feel the project is very important to the community, and is necessary in order to preserve the heritage of the station and its impact on the community.
“It’s important so that the memory doesn’t fade too far,” said Riley. “It’s an educational museum to get the word out about the people that worked here.”