History of Diving Museum

By: CultureOwl
Visual Arts
History of Diving Museum

The History of Diving Museum (HDM) opened to the public in 2005 to share the international story of “the quest to explore under the sea.” Located in the beautiful Florida Keys, visitors from all around the world enjoy strolling through exhibits that cover over 4,000 years of the development of underwater diving while learning about early pioneers and the special role that South Florida has played in this largely untold story. 

The majority of the Museum’s artifacts were acquired by the Museum’s founders, Drs. Joe and Sally Bauer, two medical doctors with a fascination for diving history. They loved all aspects of the sport and attained expertise as marine biologists, aquarists and dive historians. After purchasing their first diving helmet in 1970, the Bauers researched the evolution of man’s entry into the sea with a focus on early history and technology, prior to the development of scuba. Over the next forty years, they assembled one of the world’s largest collections of equipment, documents, books, films, and videos related to diving. Their passion took them to virtually every corner of the globe, seeking out inventors and diving pioneers, tracking down artifacts, piecing together a comprehensive timeline to modern diving. The journey began in a pre-internet world forcing them to do in-person research and review of historical and scientific journals which helped them define the history of diving. While Dr. Joe was multi lingual, there were times that other experts and translators were sought out as well. 

The Bauer’s enjoyed the hunt, traveling to authenticate artifacts, test historic equipment, submerge in a model of an early diving bell and construct and dive a replica of an 1838 regulator. As they built the Museum’s collection, they also created a network of diving history lovers; Drs. Joe and Sally were founding members of the International Historical Diving Society of both the United Kingdom and the United States. Because of the Bauers’ work, this important story is able to be shared by thousands of people every year. The Museum still collects and preserves historical diving artifacts, while educating a new generation of divers and history-lovers. 

Educational outreach is a significant part of what the Museum does, offering this inspiring history to schools throughout the Florida Keys, South Florida, and beyond. This is accomplished through Museum in Motion partnerships with school districts to provide virtual and in-class presentations on a variety of topics such as marine biology, history of diving, and underwater artists. The Museum hosts marine themed book clubs and also collaborates with other organizations and individuals to introduce students to careers in the diving field. Schools and summer camps visit the Museum for hands on activities and guided tours with staff and volunteers.

HDM has grown steadily since opening in 2005. In 2012 the Bauer Diving History Research Library was opened, creating a space for lectures and events while housing a robust collection of books, patents, and paper-based artifacts. In 2015 a changing exhibit gallery was opened, enabling the Museum to feature two changing exhibits each year focusing on a wide array of topics with dive partners across the world. Previous exhibits have highlighted underwater habitats, technical diving, and collaborations with local artists, schools and diving groups doing incredible work underwater such as Diving With a Purpose and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.  

The Museum’s newest featured exhibit is Diving in Pop Culture, open only through December 31st 2021. In this exhibit visitors will see representations of diving in literature, movies, games, collectibles, and more. From Reap the Wild Wind to Men of Honor, from board games to video games, there is something for everyone in this fun new exhibit. Popular culture’s depictions of diving inspire, encourage, and sometimes terrify divers and non-divers alike. Artifacts on display include a scuba regulator with a Star Wars backstory, Van Halen’s 1982 record Diver Down, and a variety of gear and equipment seen in films and television shows like Sea Hunt, Jaws, and Life Aquatic. Also showcased are vintage advertisements, magazine spreads, and other materials from the Museum’s archival collection. 

To complement this new exhibit, HDM has developed a series of programs and special events through the end of the year. Visit DivingMuseum.Org to learn about film screenings, art programs, book clubs, and more. Along with the exhibit-specific events, the Museum offers a monthly “Immerse Yourself!” presentation and has several themed weekends to participate in. On Father’s Day weekend, the Museum will celebrate some of the pioneering “fathers” of diving. In July, HDM will celebrate women in diving with PADI Women’s Dive Weekend. In August and September, be on the lookout for weekend events that will take participants back to the early days of SCUBA diving using vintage equipment. Each special event weekend will have unique programs, custom scavenger hunts, and fun for the whole family.

The History of Diving Museum honors our military by offering free admission to active duty and discounts to veterans year round. HDM also offers free entry to military families as part of the Blue Star summer program created by the National Endowment of the Arts and the Department of Defense. A highlight of their visit is the Military Exhibit which has information on each branch of service, pioneers and missions relating to divers in the armed forces.

HDM encourages you to “dive in” and explore for yourself! Visit the exhibits, attend events, shop in the Museum Store, become a member, and sponsor or volunteer. 

The History of Diving Museum and Museum Store are located at 82990 Overseas Highway (MM83) in Islamorada, FL is pet and child friendly, open daily from 10AM-5PM. For more details check out DivingMuseum.org or find us on social media and our YouTube channel. To learn more email Info@DivingMuseum.org or call the Museum at 305-664-9737.

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