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In preparation for the thousands who visit the Charlestown Navy Yard each year, USS Constitution crewmembers gather every Tuesday morning from January through April to learn new interpretation techniques and dive deeper into the history of “Old Ironsides.” The annual History and Interpretation Training course is taught by USS Constitution Museum staff and Margherita Desy, historian with the Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston/USS Constitution.

Margherita Desy, historian with the Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston, explains the history of the Charlestown Navy Yard Dry Dock 1 and how it works to USS Constitution crewmembers gathered in the “Old Ironsides” 1812 Discovery Center at the Museum. (U.S. Navy photo by Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class Erin Bullock/ Released)

As the 2015-17 restoration concludes, this year’s 11-week course looks back on the history of the Charlestown Navy Yard’s Dry Dock 1 and the U.S. Navy’s centuries-old efforts to repair, rebuild and, eventually, restore Constitution. For seasoned crewmembers this is an opportunity to reflect upon the restoration they have seen unfold and for the new crew it is a chance to understand the work underway since the Ship entered dry dock in May 2015. While the keel and hull are visible in dry dock it is the optimal time to explore the Ship’s construction and the details of Joshua Humphreys’ unique design.

USS Constitution Museum’s Jodie Smith encourages crewmembers to share their positive experiences at historic sites which can be applied to their own interpretation within the Charlestown Navy Yard. (U.S. Navy photo by Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class Erin Bullock/ Released)

The Museum Learning Department leads the discussion on interpretation techniques as passion and knowledge go a long way in providing a memorable experience for visitors to Constitution. To date, the crew have reviewed “starting conversations” and “reading body language” and reflected upon their own experiences as visitors to other historic ships and sites.

Crewmembers participate in a scavenger hunt through the Museum’s galleries in search of simple machines used aboard USS Constitution. (USS Constitution Museum photo)

In one example of keeping with the Museum’s hands-on, minds-on approach to learning, the crew went on a scavenger hunt through the galleries and aboard Constitution in search of simple machines that helped with daily shipboard life in 1812. Understanding simple machines allows the crew to expand their interpretation to different “Old Ironsides” audiences. Crewmembers also go behind the scenes in the Museum’s archives and collections vault to learn about historic items not on display.

Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Robert Montgomery, assigned to USS Constitution, walks through the catacomb underneath Boston’s historic Old North Church during the crew’s continuing education of “Old Ironsides'” history. The USS Constitution Museum and NHHCDB are conducting a twelve-week training course about Constitution’s history for the Sailors. (U.S. Navy photo by Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class Erin Bullock/ Released)

Many visitors to the Navy Yard arrive via the Freedom Trail, so it is only fitting that the sailors familiarize themselves with those historic sites. Field trips to the Paul Revere House and Old North Church took place in February and this month the crew will visit the Bunker Hill Monument and Museum. Best known for his “Midnight Ride” during the American Revolution, Paul Revere owned a foundry that provided USS Constitution with a 242-pound bell and other fittings between 1794 and 1798. The crypt at Old North Church is the final resting place of Samuel Nicholson, Constitution’s first captain. When Constitution returns to Pier 1 later this year she will be steps away from where the British landed in 1775 during the Battle of Bunker Hill.

Through these connections, crew members link USS Constitution to the history of Boston for the experience of all who visit the Charlestown Navy Yard.

This 11-week course and curriculum is developed and facilitated by Museum Educators with support from friends like you. To date, over 2,400 sailors have participated in this training, developing the interpretive techniques that bring Constitution‘s legacy to life. Your contribution today helps us inspire “Old Ironsides”‘ crew who share the Ship’s remarkable story with more than 500,000 visitors each year. Donations welcome.

Republished with permission of the USS Constitution Museum.
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