NORFOLK, Va. - A new experience inside the Battleship Wisconsin is opening up the ship for the people who lived aboard decades ago, but can no longer get around it.
On Friday, Nauticus will hold the grand opening for its Ship Experience Access Room (SEAR).
The wheelchair accessible room is equipped with four monitors attached to 20 security cameras scattered throughout the ship. But the cameras aren't as much for security as they are for allowing visitors to see portions of the now-museum without actually being in those spaces.
The former-USS Wisconsin's first conflict being World War II, many of its veterans have trouble getting around it or no longer can.
“People pay good money and they want to visit a museum and I want to give them a good product, I want to give them a good memory, a history lesson if you will and it’s hard if you come to the wardroom and you’re stuck at this point," said Battleship Wisconsin Operations Manager Clayton Allen, who tells News 3 the inspiration came from seeing people, often veterans, left behind in the ship's wardroom while their families toured. “(It's) the equivalent of about a 16-story building. It’s 1/8 of a mile long. It’s difficult at best for some. You can roll into the wardroom already, we made that available several years ago but to come into this space really opens the ship up those who can’t otherwise go below.”
The cameras and equipment were donated by Norfolk-based security software company IPConfigure, who installed it all overnight some time ago with partners Axis Communications and ScanSource Security.
Using a mouse, keyboard and joystick, visitors can sit in front of one of the monitors and click through the Battleship Wisconsin's different areas, bypassing the numerous ladders, thresholds at doorways and other obstacles that make navigating the battleship difficult.
“With 20 cameras online, IPConfigure has opened up almost 10,000 sq. ft of space to about 20 percent of visitors that simply can’t navigate ladder stairs down three decks and back up”, said Allen.
Cameras have also been installed in spaces previously inaccessible to any of the ship's visitors.
Allen tells News 3, he hopes to install cameras at the monitors in the SEAR to capture veterans inspired to tell their stories.
“Their children come in, the grandchildren come in with them and they can roll right up here. Maybe it’s the smell of the ship, maybe just being in the Navy ship that helps them to open their hearts and their minds and express themselves using the view they get from these cameras," he said.
The grand opening for the SEAR is Friday at 8:30 a.m.