Exploring the Florida Keys: The History of Diving Museum
One of the attractions the Island Runaways didn't want to miss on this latest tropical getaway -- to the fabulous Florida Keys -- was the History of Diving Museum. Located in Islamorada at Mile Marker 83, this 10 year old institution just looked very appealing outside, with its huge sealife murals and diving theme. So, today we stopped by with our junior Island Runaways team member (our 11 year old) to see what the museum was all about.
(The entrance to the History of Diving Museum. Photo by Laura Albritton.)
While Zickie is a PADI-certified Scuba diver, I myself have only been on a PADI discovery dive, many moons ago. I'm pretty happy just snorkeling on the coral reefs in the Caribbean and the Keys, so I do not have any real experience with "diving" per se. Nevertheless, diving is such a huge part of Florida Keys culture and history that a visit here seemed like a great way to make the most of our island escape. Inside, the museum has a pleasant gift shop with books, souvenirs, and stuffed animals for the younger crowd. The admission, at $12 per adult and $6 per child, seemed very reasonable. (Those figures are accurate as of July 2015, and may change.) You can watch a short video in their library which gives you a brief overview of what you'll encounter. Then you enter through a hatch door!
(Ready to see the museum? Photo by Island Runaways/Z.A.)
First, you pass by an interesting timeline of early diving devices from the ancient world, including ancient Greece. You also see designs that inventors worked on during the Renaissance. It's really quite incredible, how human beings were attempting to get under the water for various purposes (like salvaging vessels) hundreds of years ago.
(The museum is a hands-on Florida Keys attraction. Photo by Island Runaways/Z.A.)
As we wandered through, the beautifully curated exhibits totally engrossed all three of us. Between films you could watch, audio you could listen to, and objects you could touch -- like the genuine silver bar recovered from a shipwreck pictured above -- the museum really engages you in the history of diving. I started to appreciate just how ingenious and adventuresome people had to be to create ways of getting under the water safely.
(An interactive exhibit. Photo by Island Runaways/Z.A.)
Despite the fact that I'm not a technology buff, this history and the incredible collection of artifacts and equipment impressed me. We ended up spending much longer than I'd expected, including watching a presentation with many different diving helmets from around the world. Apparently, the History of Diving Museum contains the world's largest international collection of diving helmets and artifacts. We enjoyed the aquarium where you could pose in a diving helmet and also the display of suits that allowed diving to go to extreme depths.
(Galeazzi Suit. Photo by Island Runaways/Z.A.)
On our island adventures, from the Caribbean to Greece to here in the Florida Keys, Zickie and I have toured plenty of attractions and museums. Some are great, and some are just OK. (And some, unfortunately, are kind of boring.) So we finished off our trip to the History of Diving Museum feeling happily surprised and glad we'd learned something new and seen some exciting objects -- including real Spanish "pieces of eight" recovered from the ocean floor. Whether or not you have any interest in diving, the Island Runaways can definitely recommend this as a worthwhile Florida Keys destination!
The museum is open 7 days a week from 10am to 5pm, exception for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. On the 3rd Wednesday of every month, at 7 pm, they have a free seminar series with lectures from explorers, archeologists, and other experts. For more information, visit their website www.DivingMuseum.org.