On Thursday, September 28 the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum celebrated a project twenty years in the making with the opening of a new building that houses an education and exhibit space as well as conservation labs, research library, an x-ray room and offices. Over one hundred people including elected officials, the Museum’s Board of Trustees, Museum members and longtime supporters attended the celebration.
“I began working on the restoration of the Keepers’ House through my involvement in the Junior Service League in the early ‘80s so it is truly a dream come true to see the archaeology and education center open,” said Judy Burnett Albright, a longtime volunteer, board member and now Trustee Emeritus. “Here, we are saving history, teaching children and providing new opportunities to locals and visitors to learn about our shared connection to the ocean all while we keep the light shining. I couldn’t be prouder to be a small part of this exciting project that is making a difference in our community!”
The new facility is unique to northeast Florida and has many notable features. Keeping the visitor in mind in the design process, the set-up of the lab spaces provide a walk-thru viewing room with a TV to help zoom in on an important detailed process that may be occurring. There is also a section of a ship’s portholes below the viewing window for a children’s view into the labs. The entire process of conservation from start to finish is on show here and staff anticipates people growing attached to a particular object undergoing conservation efforts and making repeat return trips to check on the status of an important object.
The new exhibition, Legends of the Light, is installed partially in the new building’s education space and partially in the Lighthouse tower. As one climbs the 219 steps to the top, information-packed but still fun and playful interpretive panels dot the landings as the visitor ascends. For those who cannot or choose not to climb the tower, there are plenty of hands-on activities and visuals for children and adults alike in the new building’s exhibit portion, including a Lighthouse tower playhouse and a fourth-order Fresnel lens.
“We’ve had such an outpouring of support from the community on this project,” said Kathy Fleming, Executive Director. “This new building with its lab spaces and new exhibition space is a very tangible addition to our Museum. I think that helped make it a more exciting project to get behind. We’re so thankful to those who’ve helped us along the way as we celebrate this accomplishment together because, in the end, every person, every dollar and every hour donated helped us get to this point.”
Although all Museum members were invited to the event due to each member having some involvement in the fundraising process, there were some extremely generous donors recognized both at the event and with naming plaques within the new building including The Lastinger Family Foundation, Charles G. Cox, Gerald and Janet Carlisle, Judy Burnett Albright, Joe and Margaret Finnegan, Junior Service League of St. Augustine, Dr. Ron Dixon and PGA Tour, Inc.
For more information on the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum, visit www.staugustinelighthouse.org.