The Mariners Museum and Park's full-scale replica of the USS Monitor

Mariners’ Museum Gets Record $10 Million Endowment

A little over a year ago, the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News lowered its admission to just $1. Thanks to a recent $10 million gift, the popular entry fee will now be able to extend far into the future.

The Batten Foundation pledged to the museum the largest individual gift in its history, one intended to sustain the $1 admission initiative.

The Mariners’ Museum boasts 210 tons of artifacts recovered from the Civil War ironclad Monitor and the International Small Craft Center. It also holds the largest library of historical maritime books, images, and documents in the Western Hemisphere. The surrounding park includes Lake Maury and the Noland Trail – a five-mile shoreline trail with fourteen bridges.

After the museum introduced dollar admission during a trial run in August of 2016, “the experiment yielded a dramatic increase in the diversity of people visiting the museum, in the number of kids present in the galleries, and in overall visitation numbers,” according to a press release. The price was permanently adopted in 2018.

The museum reports that it will receive $5 million from the Batten Foundation in 2020, and another $5 million on a matching basis, once the Mariners’ Museum has received $5 million from other endowment gifts.

When former Mariners’ Museum Board of Trustees member Tom Hunnicutt passed away, the Batten Foundation was inspired to make the gift to honor the friendship between Hunnicutt and Frank Batten, Sr., who served on the board together and shared a love of sailing.

Mariners’ Museum President and CEO Howard Hoege says the gift of $1 admission helps to connect people to the water and each other, making an impact in the community and its slice of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

“By virtue of its match, the Batten Foundation has not only ensured the Museum’s permanent commitment to this significant initiative, it has opened the door to even more support for the Museum’s other important initiatives around educational programs for school-aged children, conservation of the Museum’s world class collection, and stewardship of The Mariners’ Museum Park and Noland Trail on behalf of our community,” he said. “We are humbled and honored by this gift and are using it as motivation to do even more to serve our Hampton Roads community.”

Laura Adams Boycourt