The NYT article below was sent by Mike Rhode, archivist at the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery Historical Office. A link to the article in the Times follows the article.
As Mike pointed out, the last few paragraphs are of particular interest to us in the history of maritime medicine community. It hints of a sad commentary.
At Long Last, a Glimpse of a Shipbuilding Past By MATT FLEGENHEIMER The site of the Brooklyn Navy Yard has hosted Lenape Indians and Riveting Rosies, Hollywood royalty and lecherous seafarers, Brooklynites and Breuckelenites. On Thursday, in the long shadow of a rusted, deserted machine shop on the Navy Yard's 300-acre grounds, a four-story center, dedicated to the site's forebears and present occupants, will celebrate its opening with an event for invited guests. It will open to the public the next day - Veterans Day. The museum, called the Brooklyn Navy Yard Center at Building 92 and built with more than $25 million in public money, has been billed as a bridge between the once heavily fortified naval hub and the surrounding neighborhoods that have seen generations pass without a glimpse behind the gates. "People have been here their whole lives and never been inside the navy yards," said Andrew H. Kimball, the president and chief executive of the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation. "It's just a cool story." From 1801 to 1966, the yard functioned as one of the Navy's flagship shipbuilding facilities. The new center's layout highlights this history, as well as the vessels the yard produced. An anchor from the amphibious assault ship Austin, launched from Brooklyn in 1964, sits on the ground floor, with its chain extending to the ceiling and its weight chiseled into its steel: 22,500 pounds. Benches from the battleship North Carolina line the second level near a detailed model of the battleship Maine, whose explosion in Havana Harbor in 1898 hastened a war with Spain. And in the World War II section, visitors can inspect a mangled pipe from the battleship Arizona, a ship dedicated on March 16, 1914, by the assistant secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt. The piece was recovered from Pearl Harbor, where the ship was sunk on Dec. 7, 1941. Most of the wreckage still lies at the bottom of the Hawaiian waters. Many of the center's tokens, though, have little to do with building ships. At the front of the timeline, a copy of a 1637 deed of sale for the land, from the Lenape Indians to the Dutch, adorns the wall. Upstairs, World War II-era warnings about sexually transmitted diseases are emblazoned on gurneys. A few feet away in the gallery, a stone liquor jug with a broken handle, the detritus of a 19th-century evening in Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn, stands inside a clear case. "It was the Barbary Coast of New York," Daniella Romano, the curator of the center, said of the streets outside the yard. "Brothels, gambling houses and brawling." More modern touches include video interviews with laborers from the yard, like the women who worked industrial jobs during World War II in the tradition of Rosie the Riveter, speaking of their attempts to lobby bosses for the same $1.14 hourly wage that men received. "Eventually," one woman said, as images of the factory cycled across the screen, "we got the $1.14." One gallery is dedicated to the present occupants of the yard - artists and electronics distributors, a medical laboratory and a sugar manufacturer. A computer-guided military parachute, designed by a yard tenant, is among the items on display. Then there is the intersection of past and present: an animatronic pigeon, taken from the movie set of "The Producers" - which was shot at Steiner Studios, inside the yard - and displayed beside an information box on homing pigeons, which were used around the turn of the 20th century as a means of communication between ships. Robert Hammond, 85, also embodies that intersection. During World War II, as one of the first black nurses at the site's naval hospital, Mr. Hammond was initially banished to work in a kitchen because a supervisor did not want to integrate the nursing corps. Some officers, he said, were concerned that he might menace the white female members of the nursing staff. With the center's opening, Mr. Hammond said he finally had a reason to return to the place he left behind in 1945, after one year of service. "I have never been back to that yard," Mr. Hammond said as he prepared to travel from his home in Long Beach, Calif. "But I've got the adrenaline going in my old bones." http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/07/nyregion/bldg-92-at-brooklyn-navy-yard -set-to-open.html
©2011 Thomas L Snyder