Maritime Museum hosts re-opening celebration
JOE HENDRICKS | SUN
John Beale watches Madison Brink play an interactive
fishing game at the grand re-opening of the Florida
Maritime Museum at Cortez.
CORTEZ – Much to the delight of Museum Supervisor Amara Nash, more than 120 visitors attended Saturday’s reopening of the county-operated Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez.
After closing for a month for renovations and the addition of new exhibits, the Saturday, Oct. 5 celebration revealed to visitors a new gift shop, a children’s area dedicated to the late Sam Bell, an interactive computer fishing game and a cut-away doll house-like replica of the Bratton/Burton Waterfront Store that evolved into the Albion Inn, which was located on ground now occupied by the Coast Guard station. A VIP ceremony took place on Thursday, Oct. 3.
Thanks to the efforts of staff and volunteers, the renovations cost a mere $1,500, secured through fund raising events, donations and the assistance of the Cortez Village Historical Society.
Nash said the goal was to make the museum more user-friendly, while expanding the scope of the museum to include elements of Florida maritime history beyond the primary focus on Cortez.
Standing proudly amidst the books, stuffed animals, postcards, stickers and other items offered in the gift shop, museum volunteer and former director Ted Adams said, “I love it. It’s important that we have a nice gift shop now; we didn’t always have a good store.”
When entering the main display area, one first encounters the Roots of Maritime Fishing History that features a preexisting mural and new History of Florida Fishing Villages map, produced in-house by museum staff.
A left turn takes visitors to the reconfigured Cuban Fishing Ranchos exhibit that tells the history of the 18th century Cuban fishermen who sailed north to spend the fall and winter months fishing the Gulf waters from Estero Bay to Tampa Bay. The term rancho refers to the wood-framed, palm thatched dwellings that served as their seasonal homes.
An interactive computer game, created by Jameson Wilkins, and funded by a grant from the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, allows youngsters, and the young at heart, to emulate the trip from Cuba to Tampa Bay, where fish are found, caught and shipped back to Cuba, dodging rocks, shorelines and waterspouts along the way.
Inside the new Samson Post, 10-year-old Palmetto Elementary student Madison Brink said, “I think it’s cool,” in reference to the replica fishing boat and a mock waterfront store.
“I can use this for school,” she added, before trying her hand at the Rancho fishing game.
Brink was accompanied by Bonne Favorite, her mentor in the local Big Brothers Big Sisters program. “She didn’t know about this little town of Cortez,” Favorite said of Brink’s first visit to the historic fishing village.
While watching Brink navigate her virtual fishing excursion, John Beale, the museum’s education and volunteer coordinator, said he hoped the new features would help spark an interest in Florida’s maritime history, especially among young people.
At the south end of the museum, longtime Cortez resident Kaye Bell, widow of Sam Bell, stood before the Bratton/Burton Store model she helped build. She said her husband would be proud of the museum improvements and noted that the model would be expanded to encompass more elements of the historic Albion Inn.
Saturday visitors included local fishing legend Soupy Davis, who said, “We tend to forget history, but this needs to be remembered.”
Nash said, “We had a steady flow of visitors and I’m especially glad to see so many people from Cortez. We got a lot of positive feedback and that makes us happy. We saw a lot of children and families and we hope to keep that momentum going.”
Located at 4415 119th St. W. in Cortez, the Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and admission is always free.
Learn more at facebook or the newly revamped museum website, floridamaritimemuseum.org.