With the help of more than 20 volunteers, the History of Diving Museum officially reopened its doors late last month, two weeks after Hurricane Irma struck the Florida Keys.
“We are very grateful to everyone who came out and worked so hard clearing debris, removing shutters and assisting with putting the Museum back in order,” Lisa Mongelia, museum executive director, said in a statement. “We still have a lot to do but we are open and ready for business. The phone has started to ring.”
During the initial phases of recovery, the facility parking lot was often used as a transfer staging area for first responders heading deeper into the Keys, Mongelia said.
“We cannot thank our first responders and all the people working so hard to aid us in the recovery efforts enough,” Mongelia said.
The first people through the doors work for Mote Marine and traveled up from Big Pine. They needed to take a break, escape debris piles for a bit, take in some cool air conditioning and enjoy the exhibits, she said.
Others were friends and family bringing supplies to residents, volunteers between shifts, first responders or vendors waiting to go to the next call or meeting.
“We felt honored to be a place that people could come to lose themselves for a few hours and put some of the stress created by Irma aside,” Mongelia said.
First assessments indicate the mile marker 83 museum has issues with the roof, carpeting and the aquarium exhibit. After securing the main building, the museum’s focus is on restoring and restocking the aquarium lost during Irma.
“This was made possible with a donation by Bruce Schulze, a member and volunteer,” Mongelia said.
“The Schulze Group is proud to collaborate with the History of Diving Museum. I’m a diver, I know people come to the Keys to experience the ocean. It is important to get this exhibit back up and functional so visitors can learn about this ecosystem,” Schulze said in as statemtn. “Take a fun picture in a diving helmet while watching the fish swim by. Kids of all ages love it”.
The exhibits and museum store are open daily from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. It’s located at 82990 Overseas Highway. Contact Mongelia at (305) 664-9737, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.DivingMuseum.org for more information. The museum has a Facebook and Twitter account.