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Did You Know, November 27, 2023

The creation of the Dahlgren Heritage Foundation, which runs the Dahlgren Heritage Museum, came at a good time in relation to a particular project that was put into place on the Dahlgren naval base.

As Andrew Revelos stated in the article “Dahlgren History Project Preserves Lessons Learned,” which appeared in the October 18, 2013 edition of the South Potomac Pilot, “…military and civilian leaders at Dahlgren found a way to consistently achieve success by giving rank-and-file scientists creative space to solve military problems. Preserving the lessons learned from Dahlgren’s more than nine decades of naval problem-solving has, regrettably, been less successful than the programs themselves.”

Over the years, there were Dahlgren employees who attempted to save historic materials. Early in the 2000s, in preparation for what would become the Base Realignment and Closure Act of 2005, longtime NSWCDD employee Wayne Harman began the process of gathering material and information to prove the base’s worth to the Navy. He learned that Robin Staton, another longtime NSWCDD employee, had been storing materials for years.

In 2009, Harman and NSWCDD Operations Department Head Pete Kolakowski met with Naval History and Heritage Command Director Rear Admiral Jay Deloach to discuss re-establishing a Dahlgren museum. This led to the creation of the Dahlgren History Project, which would “preserve the lessons of the past for the current workforce while supporting a Dahlgren museum if a private, organized effort to establish one arose.” Staton, who became a Project employee after retiring from NSWCDD in 2012, said: “The purpose of the history project is knowledge preservation, management, and transfer….We serve as a repository for the historical information, to keep it organized and be able to respond to data calls.”

The Dahlgren Heritage Foundation was incorporated in 2011, and then the base’s Dahlgren History Project kicked into higher gear, with Harman’s hours increasing to a full workweek and the hiring of a full-time employee, Karen Farley. Farley was succeeded by a series of interns from the University of Mary Washington’s historic preservation department. “One of those interns, Sara Krechel [now Gray], returned to the Dahlgren History Project as a full-time employee after graduation.”

The Dahlgren History Project is not currently a formalized entity. However, the Dahlgren Heritage Museum strives to do its part to record and preserve materials related to the Bases’ projects and people. The connections created during that time exist to this day: Sara Gray, who currently serves as technical information specialist for NSWCDD, continues to serve as a great source of information and materials in our partnership to share Dahlgren’s story. Staton and Harman came to work for the museum after the Project ended. Although Harman passed away on November 16, 2021, his wife continues to support the museum in his honor.


Wayne Harman, historian at the Dahlgren History Project, examines a pristine example of Thatcher’s Calculating instrument, an “ultimate slide rule” patented in 1881. (US Navy photo by Andrew Revelos)

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