The National Museum of the US Navy, the Naval Historical Center is located at the Washington Navy Yard in southeast Washington DC. Occupying a complex of buildings called the Dudley Knox Center for Naval History, the Center is open to the public. Its formal mission is to collect, preserve, display, and interpret naval collections and to write and publish histories and reference documents that cover the two hundred year history of the American Navy. The Director of Naval History is responsible for overseeing the Center and other Navy museum and history programs. He also serves as the Curator for the Navy.
The Navy Department Library is located in buildings that were originally used for shops and laboratories for ordnance research in the Washington Navy Yard. It includes the Ships History Branch, the Naval Historical Foundation, the Contemporary History Branch, and the Operational Archives.
Other components of the Naval Historical Center that are not located in the Dudley Knox Center but are still on the grounds of the Washington Navy Yard include the Early History Branch, Underwater Archaeology, Declassification Branch, Conservation Laboratory, Navy Art Collection, Naval Aviation History Branch, and Naval Aviation News.
The Naval Historical Center acquired the former Washington Navy Yard Commandant's Office in 1994. The Middendorf Building and Historic Commandant's Office is a white and brown trimmed building built in 1838. It served as offices for the commandant and junior officers of the Washington Navy Yard. Commander John Dahlgren lived in the Commandant's Office during the American Civil War, and President Abraham Lincoln frequently visited him there to talk about the design and production of naval affairs and naval ordnance.