GALVESTON — The museum dedicated to preserving pieces of naval warfare history is turning to the crowd to help continue its mission.

The American Undersea Warfare Center has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for the restoration of the USS Cavalla and the USS Stewart, the two ships the center maintains at Seawolf Park on Pelican Island.

The center is aiming to raise $25,000 through the website GoFundMe.com, said Lisa Simmons, the museum’s director. The money would be used to maintain the ships, a destroyer escort and a submarine in safe condition for visitors. The ships are safe for visitors, Simmons said, but Galveston’s salty and humid climate make upkeep a constant challenge.

“Restoration of the museum’s structures is very expensive,” Simmons said. “The project we’re doing right now, basically just fixing the handrails on the Cavalla, that cost has just grown exponentially, and it’s a relatively simple thing to do. When you get into paint and buying metal, all those costs add up, and we have two World War II ships to restore almost completely.”

The center earns revenue through ticket sales and sleepover events, as well as through grants and donations.

But Simmons said most grants came with conditions that don’t allow the center to use money for maintenance. A recent $20,000 gift, for instance, was awarded to the museum to develop an audio tour.

“Primarily, we’ve just been getting private donations,” Simmons said. “People come and visit and they want to help.

“With all the grants we’re receiving, which are great, we can’t use that for restoration costs.”

The museum has drawn increased interest recently, Simmons said. Last year, about 45,000 people visited the museum, about 10,000 more than the year before. She said she hoped the increased interest would make fundraising a bit easier — though the online project had only raised about $410 in its first weeks.

Crowdfunded projects and causes have become ubiquitous in recent years. A search for Galveston-area projects on the GoFundMe website yields more than 1,000 results, many of them requesting funds for medical expenditures, animal care or travel expenses. Other city groups, including supporters of the new municipal pool project, have suggested that crowdsourcing might play a part in their fundraising efforts.

Simmons also said the museum is always looking for volunteers to help with a variety of activities at the museum, including leading tours or performing more specialized maintenance work.

“If we could have an electrician, that would be a godsend,” Simmons said.


How you can help

For information about volunteering at the American Undersea Warfare Center, call curator Dewayne Davis, 409-502-8480

Contact reporter John Wayne Ferguson at 409-683-5226 or john.ferguson@galvnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @johnwferguson.

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