History of the National Aquarium, Baltimore
The National Aquarium, Baltimore, began in the mid-1970s, when Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer and Commissioner of Housing and Community Development Robert C. Embry conceived and championed the idea of an aquarium as a vital component of Baltimore's overall Inner Harbor redevelopment.
In 1976, Baltimore City residents voted for the Aquarium on a bond referendum, and groundbreaking took place on August 8, 1978.
In November 1979, the United States Congress voted it a "National" Aquarium.
The grand opening was on August 8, 1981.
The City of Baltimore funded most of the Aquarium's $21.3 million construction cost. Other major sources include: $7.5 million from City capital funds generated by the sale of Friendship (now Baltimore-Washington International) Airport to the State of Maryland; another $7.5 million from the 1976 bond issue referendum; and $2.5 million from the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Commerce Department. The private sector contributed about $1 million.
The land and the buildings are owned by the City of Baltimore.
The Aquarium is run by a nonprofit corporation, the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Inc., which consists of a volunteer board of directors and larger advisory board, plus a full-time paid staff.
Under the terms of its management agreement with the City, the nonprofit corporation strives to remain self-supporting for operations.
History of the National Aquarium, Washington, DC
The National Aquarium was first established in 1873 in Woods Hole, MA, as part of the Federal Fish Commission.
In 1878, The National Aquarium moved to the site of the Washington Monument, and consisted of holding ponds, known as "Babcock Lakes."
In the 1880s, the National Aquarium consisted of a hatching station and small aquarium in Central Station, located near the present National Air and Space Museum.
The Fish Commission became part of the Department of Commerce in 1903, and changed its name to the Bureau of Fisheries.
With the building of the Department of Commerce Building in 1932, the National Aquarium was incorporated into the lower level of the building.
In the 1940s, the National Aquarium came under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior, when the Bureau of Fisheries became the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
In 1982, federal funds were eliminated from the operating budget for the National Aquarium. With the threat of closing, The National Aquarium Society was formed to keep the National Aquarium operating.
One National Aquarium, Two Locations
In 2003, The National Aquarium Society board of directors signed an alliance agreement with the board of directors of The National Aquarium in Baltimore, enabling the two aquariums to work together to strengthen the animal collection and educational impact of the Aquarium.
In 2004, initial planning for the National Aquarium, Washington, DC, renovation project took place, with receipt of a $573,000 grant from NOAA.
Though the National Aquarium has changed locations, it is considered the longest continuously operating aquarium in the United States.
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