On May 31, the USS Midway Museum became the first of more than 100 historic naval ship museums throughout the country to host one million visitors in a year. Original projections developed in 2000 by the San Diego Taxpayers Association predicted museum attendance of 550,000 to 600,000 annually.

“This marks a historic milestone in the nation’s fleet of historic naval ships,” noted Midway president & CEO Mac McLaughlin. “The extraordinary support shown by San Diegans has made this possible. Time and again we’ve seen San Diego take great pride in its military heritage as the birthplace of naval aviation.”

June 7 marks the eighth anniversary of Midway opening as a museum. Since opening the annual attendance has never dropped below 800,000. In addition, the museum is coming off two consecutive annual attendance records in 2010 and 2011.

This year, Midway attendance is 14 percent ahead last year’s record pace.

Midway’s acclaimed education program also has exceeded projections. Approximately 40,000 K-12 students are hosted annually on math, science, social studies and history study trips. Demand is so great that for the second time the museum has begun construction to double its classroom space. In the next year, the museum also expects to have virtual field trips available online for classrooms across the country.

“The partnerships Midway has formed throughout San Diego have been vital to our success,” noted Marketing Director Scott McGaugh. “The Girls Scouts, American Red Cross, Armed Services YMCA, Blood Bank, multiple emergency services agencies, and others all look to Midway as an event partner.”

Television shows and segments filmed aboard Midway have included American Idol, The Bachelor, Antiques Roadshow, Monday Night Football, Wheel of Fortune, Heidi Klum’s “Germany’s Next Top Model,” the Discovery Channel’s “Bone Yard” and the History Channel’s “Dogfights,” among others.

The museum also hosts more than 250 private events a year and limits reservations to three years in advance. Overall, more than 2,000 private events have been aboard Midway since opening in 2004.

During the day more than 300 active-duty military events are held annually, including re-enlistments, retirements, changes of command, memorials, and the U.S. Navy’s annual Battle of Midway Commemoration. “Our guests have the unique opportunity to see ‘living history’ when a Navy ceremony is taking place on the flight deck,” said McGaugh.

McGaugh also noted that the museum still has at least eight years of ship and aircraft restoration and build-out plans on the drawing board, including a signature Battle of Midway Theater featuring “The Voices of Midway” that will open on the museum’s 10th anniversary in 2014.

This fall, its self-guided audio tour narrated by Midway sailors now available in English, Spanish, and Japanese also will become available in French, German, and Chinese to accommodate increasing international visitors.

Overall, approximately 12 percent of the museum’s visitors are from abroad and the share of museum visitors under the age of 17 has increased steadily in recent years to nearly 25 percent.

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