The restoration of the Confederate submarine Hunley is nearly complete, but plans for a permanent site to display it have yet to be decided. Clearly, there is no better destination for the historic vessel than Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum in Mount Pleasant.
As the first submarine to sink an enemy vessel in wartime, the Hunley’s place in naval history is secure. The submarine would be a great addition to a museum with a historical focus. But its Civil War heroics aren’t the only story that the Hunley has to tell.
Its discovery in 1995 by a team led by author and undersea explorer Clive Cussler was a remarkable achievement in itself. So was raising the fragile iron vessel, which contained the remains of its eight crewmen.
Since its recovery, the Hunley has undergone an extensive restoration at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center at the former Charleston Navy Base. That work has advanced the technological tools now available to underwater archaeologists.
The Hunley would serve as a compelling exhibit in a variety of ways, and would be a logical fit and a major draw for the state’s naval museum. The World War II aircraft carrier Yorktown and destroyer Laffey are among the most important exhibits at the museum.
Apparently, the Charleston Naval Complex Redevelopment Authority is willing to provide a significant part of the funding to relocate and exhibit the Hunley. Plans initially had North Charleston taking the lead on a Hunley Museum, but the city has cooled to the idea.
It makes more sense to work with an existing and appropriate museum rather than create a new one from scratch.
There have long been proponents of putting the submarine at Patriots Point, recognizing that it’s the ideal place for the Hunley to be exhibited.
There are many financial and administrative details to be worked out, such as coordinating the development of a museum with a conservation timetable for the submarine.
The Patriots Point board and the Hunley Commission should get on board with the idea. Relocating the Hunley to the naval museum is a plan that deserves to go forward.