Fisher Maritime Museum Displays
WEST, FLORIDA – Since explorers first discovered the
New World, the Florida Keys have been on the trade
routes between the Americas and Europe.
Because the water surrounding the island chain
hide a literal treasure trove of shipwrecks, Key West
was the headquarters of shipwreck salvagers throughout
Key West is home to the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage
Society and Museum, an internationally recognized center
for excavation, preservation, research and exhibition of
New World maritime artifacts.
Visitors will find the richest single collection
of 17th century maritime and shipwreck
antiquities in the Western Hemisphere at the society’s
Fisher Maritime Museum is Florida’s most-visited
historical museum, with more than 200,000 visitors
Fisher, a long-time Key West resident until his death,
discovered the $400 million treasure of the shipwrecked
Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Atocha in 1985
after a sixteen-year search.
Wrecked in a hurricane in 1622 off the Florida
Keys, the Atocha was on her way home to Spain
laden with gold, silver and other cargoes from the New
and his team also recovered significant artifacts and
treasure from the Atocha’s sister ship, the Santa
Margarita, and the English merchant slave vessel Henrietta
only a handful of shipwrecked slavers ever identified by
name, the Henrietta Marie sank in 1700 near the
Marquesas Keys. From
this wrecksite, the society’s archaeological teams
excavated priceless English-made pewterware, trade
beads, ivory and cannons – as well as iron shackles
that are a chilling reminder of the slave trade’s
artifacts donated from these three vessels forms the
cornerstone of the museum’s exhibitions.
Among the items on display are a fortune in gold,
silver bars and coins destined for the coffers of Spain;
a gold chain valued at more than a quarter of a million
dollars; a horde of contraband emeralds; religious and
secular jewelry; and a variety of rare navigational
instruments and weapons.
Visitors can even lift a gold bar found on one of
the wrecksites. No
measure of value can outweigh the historical
significance of the museum’s collections as many
objects are the sole surviving example of European
craftsmanship in the world.
artifacts on display come from one of the earliest and
most complete Spanish shipwrecks ever found in the
Called the St. John’s wreck, the site is
currently undergoing comprehensive excavation by Mel
Fisher Maritime Heritage Society archaeologists.
museum’s second-floor gallery hosts a new exhibition
every six months -each one exploring a different aspect
of the New World’s rich maritime heritage. Throughout
the museum, interactive modules as well as innovative
audio and video components make it an intriguing stop
for visitors of all ages.
newest exhibit – Montana Smith and A Voyage Through
Time – is part Clue and part scavenger hunt and
takes visitors on a shipwreck exploration adventure.
The exhibition, designed to educate and
entertain, takes viewers through the Age of Sail from 16th
century galleon precursors to the clippers of the 1800s.
Noted archaeologist of the Museum of Maritime
Mysteries, Dr. Montana Smith seeks to solve the puzzle
created by retired philanthropist Griffen Reynolds, Jr.
Reynolds plans to give the Museum his collection
of artifacts from one of the shipwrecks he visited when
he was a pioneer scuba diver in the 1950s and 60s if
Montana Smith can select from six ships the exact origin
of the artifacts. Visitors
to the exhibit help these fictional characters solve the
exhibit is the creation of the Mel Fisher Museum’s
talented staff and is a hit with all that view it.
Marie and Montana Smith exhibits are
available for touring, as is an exhibit on Pirates!
In development is The Last Slave Ships, a
riveting story about slave ships captured by the US Navy
and brought to shore in Key West.
Museum has an extensive educational program for children
in place to educate area school-aged children about
science, area marine life, underwater archaeology
and the fine arts.
world-class museum has been supported by a number of
government, corporate and foundation grants, including
support from the National Institute of Museum and
Library Services, National Endowment for the Humanities,
Florida Department of State’s Bureau of Historical
Museums, Florida Humanities Council, Monroe County
Tourist Development Council, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Newman’s Own Foundation, General Motors
Corporation, Sony Corporation of America, American
Airlines/American Eagle, Remo Drums, and Robb, Peck,
McCooey, Inc. Major
endowment funding has been received from the Fisher
family, the RPM Nautical Foundation, the Rodel
Charitable Foundation and the John P. Evans Foundation.
Maritime Society memberships and museum visitor
donations have also helped to underwrite the museum’s
museum is currently planning its 20th
Anniversary fundraising celebration to be held in
Fisher Maritime Museum, located at 200 Greene Street, is
open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily. For more on admission prices or other information, call (305)
294-2633 or visit our website at