$7.2 Million Expansion Is Boon to Naval Museum

OLD IRONSIDES'' isn't the only thing at the Charlestown Navy Yard getting a fresh look these days. The USS Constitution Museum, housed in a 19th-century dry-dock pumping station, is undergoing a $7.9 million renovation and expansion.

Phase 1 of the project - which included renovations of the existing museum, construction of a 200-seat theater, and a connecting gallery that will attach to a new wing of the museum - was completed earlier this summer. Renovating another historic shipyard building that will house the new museum wing is Phase 2 of the project, slated for completion next summer.

The museum focuses on ``the people-side of [the Constitution's] story,'' says the museums's director of development, Glenn Pare. He hopes that each of the museum's 125,000 annual visitors make a personal connection to Old Ironsides, through the museum's hands-on displays of life on the ship and the ship's voyages.

One new exhibit is a computer-simulation game designed by the Watertown, Mass., company Chedd-Angier. In the simulation, a player commands the USS Constitution in one of two battles the ship actually waged; the player steers the ship and fires guns - maneuvers that can be rather difficult on a square-rigged ship.

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