The museum first opened to the public in 1981 and is adjacent to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. The structural system for the museum expansion consists of new structural steel framing supporting metal roof deck. The lateral system uses WF and HSS moment frames that are infilled with architectural glazing. Other structures for the project included a new pre-engineered metal building for support services and expansion of the existing comfort station using a wood-framed bearing/shear walls with a typical joint and ridge roof.

A unique portion of this project was providing new foundations and a covered canopy for WWII-era historical artifacts, including a steel underwater rescue chamber, a Japanese manned torpedo (Kaiten), and a mounted 50 caliber anti-aircraft gun. Additionally, a circular 43-foot diameter cantilevered steel tube structure sized to provide the overall scale of the submarine hull diameter of the USS Bowfin welcomes visitors at the entrance of the museum.