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Rotary Club hears from National Civil War Naval Museum

The Bainbridge Rotary Club met at the Bainbridge Country Club for their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday. The speaker of the day was Holly Wait, executive director of the National Civil War Naval Museum.

“All of you know something about the Civil War,” she said. “You may have heard of Abraham Lincoln. You may even have heard of Jefferson Davis. You know about Gettysburg, or Bull Run, or Appomattox. You all know about the Army, and that’s pretty much what I knew before I came to the National Civil War Naval Museum.”

Wait talked about various events and aspects of the museum, such as immersive and life-size exhibits, namely the USS Hartford.

“In our collections and our stories, we try as hard as possible to maintain a balanced collection. Now of course, we have more Southern artifacts,” she explained. “First of all we have two big ships, and very shortly we’ll be getting a third big ship. They’re all Confederate ships, but within the realm of our financial ability, where the artifacts are, we try very hard to maintain a balanced collection.”

According to Wait, the museum also has a Black History Month program. “But, that’s not all,” she said. “We have a Black History program throughout the year. We also talk about the lives of African Americans, free or slave, men and women, in our regular program. So we have a real boost in that area, especially with today’s social issues.”

Wait also brought up a recent arson fire the museum suffered, which destroyed a shed containing various artifacts, including the remains of a ship.

“Everything burned. The ship, obviously, disappeared into ash,” she said.

Various artifacts and remains of the ship survived, with some currently on display, and others awaiting storage.

“We have also upgraded our mission throughout the years… and today we say that, ‘By telling the stories of the Navies of the Civil War, we connect people with the past, and give them a better sense of place and time,’” Wait said. “That’s because the American Civil War is so important to our country, and to our history as a people, no matter how far away in time it gets, those four years were pivotal in making us who we are, both good and bad.”

The National Civil War Naval Museum is located at 1002 Victory Drive, Columbus, GA 31901. Hours are 10:00 AM- 4:30 PM, Monday through Saturday, and 12:30 PM- 4:30 PM on Sunday. For more info, visit https://www.portcolumbus.org/