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Celebrating Diving’s past at the History of Diving Museum

(DiverWire) A good time was had by all who attended the anniversary celebration for the History of Diving Museum. More than 110 museum- goers and 18 volunteers enjoyed a special day as the History of Diving Museum in Islamorada celebrated its 6th Anniversary last month.

Event highlights included sold out tours with Museum co-founder, Dr. Sally Bauer, a silent auction and a Mark V Suit up raffle which was won by artist, Pascal Lecocq. Certainly appropriate for someone whose paintings often feature hard-hat divers. Children also enjoyed finding items in the exhibits to complete the scavenger hunt and an artifact table, complete with white cotton gloves for proper handling of museum objects, was a popular stop for all ages.”

What a unique way to kick off a gorgeous weekend in the keys!  With clear skies, calm seas and blue water calling to be on the ocean, these locals, tourists, and divers embraced the day to learn about those who had gone before them to explore beneath the sea. Exhibits start with techniques breath-hold divers used 4,000 years ago. Do you know how long you can hold your breath?  The museum has an exhibit with a machine and timer so you can test yourself. As you travel through the centuries, the span continues to today’s deep abyss exploration.

It’s remarkable to see the timeline all laid out together. Mankind has been trying to expand time underwater for hundreds of years. Building on limited knowledge of air supply, gas exchange, and the human body’s needs, inventors created a plethora of gadgets. It was fascinating to see the development in so many areas one doesn’t normally think about.  Early on, there was a realization of stale air, which led to the use of hand-cranked surface support hoses. They saw a need for light at depth and brought underwater open flame lights then transitioned to globes with light bulbs powered by electrical lines and eventually batteries. Captain Wes Lemar, with over 30 years experience diving, commented, “I had no idea, there was a WOW factor at every turn”. Did you know the first SCUBA and rebreather devices were invented nearly 200 years ago?

After an enlightening tour, guests were invited to a welcome reception. Before the cake was cut, this year’s Dr. Joe Bauer Memorial Award was given to Richard “Dick” Rutkowski. He is a pioneer in the fields of hyperbaric medicine, diving medicine and diver training, especially in relation to the use of breathing gases. Since the late 1960’s, Dick has authored several books, founded numerous training programs and, among many other honors, has had a glacier named after him.

With the day’s festivities winding down, I had the honor of sitting down with co-founder Dr. Sally Bauer, a 2011 inductee to the Women Divers Hall of Fame. She is a charming woman whose wealth of knowledge flows through her conversation with unbridled passion and enthusiasm. From her 40-plus years of collecting and historical research, she has an intimate understanding of the development covering thousands of years and crossing the globe. “The History of Diving Museum is a hidden jewel in the Florida Keys. Most people drive by giving it little regard and assume it’s the portion under the turquoise blue awning. Little do they realize it’s got 3,000 square feet of exhibit space, housing the worlds largest and most comprehensive collection of diving artifacts in addition to the museum store, office, storage and work shop. Once they stop, they are astounded. That’s quite a lot, especially considering it’s on an island.” What do they see in the future? “One of the unique things that set’s us apart is that we cover the world story, not just the United States or military aspects of diving. In doing so, we’d like to expand and build out a traveling exhibit area that could be changed and updated. Right now the museum houses about one third of our private collection. There’s a lot more to see.”

You are invited to come on down and experience what it feels like to sit in an Edmund Halley 1691 diving bell, learn about our own South Florida connection with the Miller-Dunn company’s invention of an open-bottom “DivinHood”, you can even put on a diving helmet. Be sure to catch the hallmark exhibit, Parade of Nations.  A collection of 45 of the most precious helmet’s from 24 countries around the world.

FREE – Take advantage of Smithsonian Museum Day (free admission with coupon) Saturday, September 24, 2011.

This is the perfect place to take a break from the sun, off-gassing during a surface interval, spend time if a dive is canceled or sit out traffic on US1. Be sure to bring the non-divers in your group, they are equally fascinated. You can also stop by on the third Wednesday of every month for a free program at 7:00 p.m. presented on-site in the Bauer Diving History Research Library.

Mm 83, open daily 10 am to 5 pm, regular daily admission: $12 adult, half price for children 6 to 12, free for children 5 and under.

Museum information: www.divingmuseum.org or 305-664-9737. Social: Facebook

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