Last week, OHNY staff and intern Elis visited the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum and learned about the museum’s exceptional approach to the displaying the history of the aircraft carrier, as well as the architectural challenges and difficulties of maintaining a museum that is also a ship.

Flight Deck

Aircraft carrier USS Intrepid was third Essex-class aircraft carrier of twenty-four to be built during World War II for the U.S. Navy. It was commissioned in 1943 for WWII, decommissioned after the war, and recommissioned during the Vietnam War as an attack carrier where it served three tours of duty.  During the Cold War, the Intrepid performed submarine surveillance in the North Atlantic as an antisubmarine carrier and was later one of the main recovery vessels for NASA.

Island, center of all flight and navigation operations

On display at the Flight Deck, the topmost level from which aircraft was launched, is most of the Intrepid’s collection of aircrafts from all four branches of the United States Armed Services. One main way to differentiate early naval planes from latter versions is the presence of foldable wings. To accommodate the limited space of ships and to be able to move early planes quickly within the ship, foldable wings were a necessity on aircraft carriers. It wasn’t until the Vietnam War that naval planes were built small enough to maneuver in small spaces without folding wings.

Plane with foldable wings

Different chairs of the Intrepid used by the Crew

At the Hangar Deck, the museum’s main exhibition area two levels below the Flight Deck, visitors can choose to walk along two paths. On the left, exhibits of models, replicas, and film present the Intrepid’s technology and war history. The exhibition along the right celebrates and honors life aboard the Intrepid through films, personal interviews, and objects worn and used by the crew. In the Gallery and Third Decks, visitors are given an intimate glimpse into the daily life of an aviator, sailor, officer, and marine on the Intrepid, including sleeping quarters, dining area, and the final briefing room for pilots.

Replica of NASA Pod which the Intrepid was to have retrieved

The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum first opened its exhibits in 1982. It briefly returned to service in 2001, immediately after the September 11 attack, for investigations led by the FBI. The ship was used as a temporary headquarter for the FBI, as a helicopter flight deck, and as temporary sleeping quarters for FBI personnel. After several weeks, the Museum reopened. It also temporarily closed between 2006-2008.  Repairs and refurbishment completed during this time included the complete gutting of the hangar deck, the installation of new exhibits, and dry-docking of the ship for the first time in decades.

Vietnam War aircraft

Space Shuttle Enterprise

The Intrepid Sea, Space, and Air Museum is a site in the 2012 OHNY Weekend. Don’t miss the opportunity to learn more about the Intrepid’s history and technology, how it honors its heroes, and the unique challenges of designing and maintaining a ship-museum. Please note that special exhibitions like the Space Shuttle Pavilion will not be included in the tour. All listings for the Weekend will go live on our website on September 27. Check back soon for specific dates, times and information about advance reservations, if required.


In celebration of our 10th anniversary, openhousenewyork would like to give thanks to the sites and organizations that have supported and contributed to making our Annual openhousenewyork Weekend what it is today. This series of blog posts covers sites which originally opened their doors at the inaugural Weekend in 2003 and have continually reaffirmed their support and participation year after year.

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