US Navy’s Weapons Collection Dates to 17th Century

US Navy's Weapons Collection Dates to 17th Century

The curators of the Collection Management Division (CMD) with the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) staff is going through the entire collection to make sure it is correctly cataloged, photographed, inventoried and if necessary, rehoused under the proper conditions.


NHHC has a long history of preserving, analyzing, and disseminating the history and heritage of the U.S. Navy. In the early 1970s, the organization became a single entity responsible for all aspects of Navy historical preservation and dissemination.

A relatively small staff keeps track of the hundreds of thousands of items that are part of NHHC’s programs for historic artifacts, art and underwater archaeology. And among the most popular is NHHC’s historic weapons collection, according to Karen France, the curator branch head of NHHC’s Collection Management Division.

Those weapons include some of the oldest in NHHC’s collection, including a bronze 6-pound Spanish cannon cast by Andres Melendez in 1686 for King Charles II.

The core of the collection was created by Rear Adm. John A. Dahlgren, a former commander of the Washington Navy Yard and a naval ordnance innovator, who invented and developed bronze boat guns, heavy smoothbore shell guns and rifled ordnance until the start of the Civil War.

“Basically, we’ve been tied to this collection since 1908,” France said. “We have weapons that are pre-American Revolution to current operations, and that collection also includes weapons made for the Navy, its allies and adversaries.”

The collection features a number of experimental guns that earned the Washington Navy Yard its reputation in gun development.

“These artifacts are examples of development weapons, and as such reflect the continuity of the Navy’s tradition of development new technologies to meet current needs, just as Dahlgren did at the Washington Navy Yard,” according to Julie Kowalsky, a curator with the Historic Small Arms Division.

The Naval History and Heritage Command provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy’s unique and enduring contributions through the nation’s history, and supports the Fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis, and interpretive services.

US Navy, May 29, 2014