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SC agency looks to $5 million update for Yorktown

Bruce Smith, Associated Press

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (AP) -- In an effort to attract visitors to a World War II aircraft carrier, the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum unveiled plans Friday to spend upward to $5 million to upgrade exhibits on the USS Yorktown using everything from holograms to computers.

"We're in a competitive business just like any other business and this is the 21st century and we really haven't embraced it like we should have," said Mac Burdette, the museum's executive director.

A proposed master plan includes a new theater and a hanger bay with exhibits with cast figures showing how the aircraft were maintained and armed. Tours through the carrier would be themed, such as everyday life aboard the ship, the engineering of the carrier and how it was used as a weapon of war. There may also be audio narration.

One area would use interactive technology to tell stories specific to the Yorktown, such as the recovery of the Apollo 8 astronauts.

Burdette said the approach will make the ship come to life

"Right now if you go down to the engine room, you have no idea what it's for or how it works," he said. "We'll have a screen set up and you'll push a button and you'll have one of our veterans who worked the engine room telling you about it."

The carrier has dozens of memorial plaques and the plan proposes using those as part of an interactive exhibit so when visitors walk past, they see video about the crewmen.

Another proposal is called "Moments, Missions and Mayhem" where, throughout the ship, visitors will be able to, with interactive technology, encounter events such as a ready room briefing or crewmen roused from their beds during an attack.

The plan, developed by MUSAIC Design Group of Boston, will be considered by the Patriots Point board next month. Burdette said the exhibits will be upgraded in phases over three years.

MUSAIC has worked on such projects as the Tampa Bay History Center, the National Museum of the U.S. Army and the North Carolina Museum of History.

Burdette said that in the 38 years the Yorktown has been in South Carolina, its primary audience has been World War II and Vietnam vets.

"The generations that supported Patriots Point in 1975 are not the same generations supporting it today and going into the future," he said. "They are technologically advanced and they can't just look at a picture on the wall and be satisfied. They have to press a button and something has to happen that inspires them and intrigues them and excites them."

Matt Kirchman, a principal planner with MUSAIC Design, said designers looked at other ship museums and many are static.

"The idea of bringing exhibits to life aboard the vessel, that's a new twist," he said.

In other places "if you took the exhibits off the ship you could put them in any building and they would be just as much at home. We don't want to do that here. We really want to bring the Yorktown to life."