Friday, June 11, 2010

The Museums

Monday was the day for museums. First on the list was the Pirate Soul museum on Front Street in Key West. Rich in history and folk lore, the Florida Keys are a bed of all things pirate. No pictures were allowed inside the museum. Here is an excerpt from the website:

The Florida Keys were home to Pirates long before Pat Croce founded Pirate Soul. In fact, the seafaring history of southern Florida is one of the oldest in the United States.

After Ponce de León searched Florida for its elusive fountain of youth in 1513, Protestant French Huguenots, acting in defiance of the Roman Catholic Spaniards, built a base of operations in Florida as early as 1564.

The Spanish settlement of St. Augustine had already been there for some years, but the foreign presence divided the attention of the Spanish and made it easier for other forces to gain a stronghold.

In 1586, Britain's Sir Francis Drake voyaged the Caribbean as a privateer, bearing a letter of marque bidding him to challenge Spanish dominance in the region. There, he captured the settlements of Santo Domingo, Cartagena and St. Augustine. But when the Spanish military might threatened his homeland, Drake was forced to abandon the captured land. The next expedition would have to wait until Britain built up its maritime defenses for this new era of warfare.

Later, the pirate Black Caesar chose the area as his home hunting grounds—preying on boats throughout the Florida Keys, as well as Cuba, the Bahamas and the Gulf of Mexico.

Taylor and I both agree this was one of the best museums we visited. They have a couple of very intriguing exhibits.

Don't worry, I won't quote many websites but hopefully it will peak your interest enough for you to follow the link to the Pirate Soul.

I don't know how many of you are familiar with the chickens of Key West but they are all over the place in the Old Town area. If you plan to eat at the many outside establishments be prepared to eat with chickens pecking at your feet. There was a little family of chickens as we were waiting on the tour for the next museum.

Shipwreck Museum was next on Taylor's list. This museum was about all the shipwrecks in the keys and all the goods brought into the ports to sell. The museum has a tower to walk up and see the different areas of Key West from above. At the top of the tower is a webcam that you can see the folks who are at the tower. As it happened, no one was home for me to call to say, "go to the website and see me on the webcam." The characters giving the tour were fun and very informative.

Ah, but we are not finished with our museum day, the famous Mel Fisher Museum would be next. If you have been interested in ship salvages any at all, this name should be familiar to you. Mel Fisher found the Atocha off the Marqueses Keys and has brought up millions of dollars of booty from the wreckage. To this day, if you are a diver you can join up with the crew for a certain $$ figure and then dive with the crew. You get to keep the treasures you find. From my perspective, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference in a treasure and a rock so I don't think I would do much good finding the treasures most talk about.

I have always enjoyed the Discovery stories about Mel Fisher and I'm proud to say I own a little piece of the Atocha that I wear around my neck every once in a while. It's a nice piece surrounded by gold dolphin holding the coin in place.

The Customs House museum is part of the Key West Art and History Society. Because of all the shipping entering the US through the KW ports this building was crucial to the government to ensure all goods were checked properly and the appropriate tariffs were imposed.

The Customs House is now a terrific museum to Key West. Many artists are portrayed, they devote a large space to Ernest Hemingway and the impact he had on the area. They are building a new display showing the impact the Flagler Railroad had on the area. Taylor and I saw a little of it being built and it will be an awesome display when completed.

Whew, what a day! We certainly marked several of the 15 items on Taylor's list to visit.

Enjoy the slide show: Later...

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