Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Shipwreck Historeum

After poking around Mallory Square a bit Douglas and I decided to spend part of out Key West afternoon at the Shipwreck Historeum and Museum A combination of actors and artifacts helps to tell the story of Key West's history. Long ago the island was a major stopping point in and out of the Caribbean, but the surrounding reef made it a treacherous place to sail. When a ship ran aground the call would go up, "wreck ashore!" and residents would hurry to save everything they could, including the sailors. The boat captain that reached the wreck first would receive 50% of the proceeds from the merchandise recovered. It was a lucrative business. One such captain was Asa Tift who is portrayed by Historeum staff as he describes the life and shows visitors around the museum. This place was fascinating. It houses a lot of articles from the Isaac Allerton which wrecked in 1856, recovered by Asa Tift's boats, sank off the reef and then rediscovered by underwater treasure hunters in 1985. There are exhibits and informational films, including this creepy/cool guy who has a talking face projected over the form so it looks like part of the exhibit is alive. I also loved this sign in the basement theater where we learned about the ship's rediscovery and subsequent salvaging : One of the best parts of the experience was that the Historeum has a 66 foot wooden watchtower on the top which you are allowed to climb. Now 66 feet might not sound very high to you, but it is when you are talking about an open-air wooden structure. This is the view straight down into Mallory Square (including one of the tour trains) from the 6 story-high observation deck. We could easily see over the entire island in 360 degrees, which would have been useful to the shipwreckers in the 1800s and very handy to get a picture of us with our ship today.

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