Pearl Harbor Visitor Center – History, Renovations, and Now
July 11, 2016
On December 7th, 1941, Hawaii, along with the country as a whole, was dealt a terrible blow with the attack on Pearl Harbor. Commemorating that fateful day when over 2,400 American lives were lost, the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument at Pearl Harbor is one of the most-visited sites in Hawaii, with well over one million people coming each year. While the USS Arizona Memorial is situated in the harbor above the fallen ship, the onshore Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is a rich source of information for everything related to the infamous attack.
History of the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center
The iconic memorial for the USS Arizona was constructed in 1962, and the Visitor Center followed later, opening in 1980. The Visitor Center was originally built on 11 acres of landfill on the waterfront of Pearl Harbor and consisted of a museum exhibit, theater, and bookstore.
In the early 2000s it was discovered that the landfill—the foundation of the Visitor Center—was slowly sinking into the harbor. As a result, action was taken to renovate the Visitor Center. This work served not only to preserve it from sinking into Pearl Harbor, but also to upgrade its facilities, which had become outdated since opening 20 years previously. Special efforts were made to make the entire facility more environmentally sustainable. As part of the renovation, the center was also expanded to cover a total of 17 acres. With more land, the museum exhibition spaces would be able to better tell the story of Pearl Harbor and the Second World War in the Pacific.
The renovation of the Visitor Center was completed in 2010, and it was officially dedicated on December 7th, the 69th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. Among the upgrades to facilities, the Visitor Center now produces a quarter of its energy using photovoltaic solar panels. Thanks to the the expansion, the center now boasts a second theater in addition to the original, which was refurbished during the renovations. In addition to a new theater, there are now two distinct museums: the Road to War and the Attack and Aftermath.
The Road to War Museum provides a comprehensive history of events leading up to the attack on December 7th, 1941. The Attack and Aftermath Museum details what happened on that tragic day and follows the course of World War II from then up until its conclusion in 1945. Each museum takes advantage of climate-controlled exhibit spaces to display sensitive artifacts of Pearl Harbor that were previously unavailable for public viewing. Throughout the comprehensive renovations to the onshore Visitor Center, the beautiful memorial above the sunken USS Arizona remained untouched, and the process for visiting it is still the same. Today, visitors can explore the two new museums prior to boarding the Arizona Memorial, giving them an opportunity to gain a more thorough understanding of Pearl Harbor and events surrounding the attack. Now, 36 years after its initial creation, the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is more striking than ever.