Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Saying goodbye to the USS Olympia
My first visit to the USS Olympia at Independence Seaport Museum will also be my last. On November 22, the ship is to be closed the public, awaiting one of two fates: it will either be scrapped or scuttled to become an artificial reef off the coast of New Jersey. I put together a video of my tour and one of the questions I pondered was, what is the life cycle of a historic landmark such as the Olympia? Nothing, especially not a century-old steel vessel subjected continuously to the corrosive effects of water, is meant to last forever. During our lifetimes, we might have to deal with the deterioration or destruction of monuments that carry great historical or cultural significance. People make plans and arrangements regarding their own deaths, so do we not need to consider the course of action to be taken when a landmark is close to its expiration?
Lest I be misconstrued, I think that the loss of the Olympia is premature and a damn shame: it is both shameful for those charged with its care and it is a shame that the citizens of Philadelphia will now be deprived of its existence. If $20 million could be raised in an instant to save the Olympia, it would be worth every cent. But it would merely be an extension on life, not an avoidance of an inevitable end that some future generation would have to face.