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Dive into History: New Library section of History of Diving Museum opens

(DiverWire) The Bauer Diving History Research Library is open! A packed audience watched as co-founder Dr. Sally Bauer, museum board members and staff, along with Ed Kinkelaar from the Islamorda Chamber of Commerce, sliced through the ribbon at the long-awaited cutting ceremony for the History of Diving Museum. The formal dedication was a kickoff to an elegant evening.

Named after the museum’s founders, Drs. Joe and Sally Bauer, the new facility serves as the repository of the Bauer Library Collection, which consists of approximately 2,500 volumes. The collection is focused on titles published prior to the mid-1900’s.

It is one of the most comprehensive collections of rare books relative to the story of undersea exploration and was amassed by the Bauer’s over a span of four decades.

Their good friend, Barb Draves now sits on the board as secretary. She traveled with the Bauer’s on many expeditions as they were searching for books and other items. Thinking back, she laughs, “I think they brought me along just to catalog and lug the heavy, sometimes wet, smelly stuff. They would dive and bring things up to identify. We would venture into antique shops and old warehouses that were so dirty and packed, that you had to walk sideways down the aisles to maneuver around but, they always came back with something remarkable.”

During opening statements, Sally explained that both she and her late husband, Joe, loved books. This library was always part of their original vision. She told of fond childhood memories, when her parents would bring books home from the store to read and share. She mentioned that while Joe’s family was making their way through Europe, trying to get to the United States, that Joe had ratty torn clothes, hand-me-down shoes and a single book as a prized possession. Sally began the readings going over hand written notes Joe kept near his desk, from a William Beebe passage. We also heard about authors Lotte Hass, Eugenie Clark, Jules Verne and Jacques Cousteau, along with selected favorite passages from their books.

It was amazing to learn the library’s oldest volume dates back to 1535. Yes, in the 1500’s people were writing about how to get to the ocean floor. Once the climate-controlled room was equipped, additional pieces of the collection, including manuscripts from the 1600-1800 were brought in, just days before the dedication. And thanks to board member Patti Gross, everyone could see the space transform in a wonderful slideshow.

After the readings were concluded, guests were able to don white gloves and gently examine a few rare books themselves. Visitors also had access to the museum exhibits throughout the night so they could see the updates and reconfigurations that have been taking place, all the while enjoying drinks provided by Tasters Grille & Market and hors d’oeuvres provided by Kaiyo Grill and Green Turtle Inn.

The project was made possible with a matching grant awarded by the Monroe County Tourist Development Council. The grant allowed the museum to purchase custom archival quality bookshelves, document storage drawers, a waterless fire suppression system, light fixtures, and an art hanging system. Technological improvements include wireless internet, and audio-visual equipment to make it a functional space for business meetings, presentations, lectures and special events. “The staff, board, and volunteers have all worked extremely hard on this project and its completion signifies a very important step forward for our young Museum,” said Erin Wolfe, Manager of Collections and Administration.

A fitting conclusion to the evening was the donation of The Fishes of the Galapagos by marine biologist and author Jack Grove. “To have a museum dedicated to the real history of diving here in the upper Keys is a tremendous community service and I am proud to be a member. I trust that with the opening of the new library there will be a growing appreciation of this important academic resource. The History of Diving Museum is much more than an attraction for tourists, it is a resource for the community and especially our youth. Schools and educational programs throughout South Florida will find this museum of great value. I look forward to spending many hours perusing the historic texts and pondering the significance of the extensive displays,” he told participants during the evening’s events.

The Museum is dedicated to collecting, preserving, displaying and interpreting artifacts, antiques, books, documents, photographs and oral history related to the History of Diving. The museum tells the international story of human attempts to explore, understand and venture under the sea. It also celebrates the special role that South Florida and the Florida Keys played in this untold story.

The library is open to the public by appointment only, please contact the Museum for details. 305-664-9737 or visit their website: History of Diving Museum.

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