New exhibits open at fishing museum

Sheri Kotzum | 315-4353 | @DestinLogSheri |

If you’ve visited the Destin History and Fishing Museum lately, you may have noticed a few new additions.

Thanks to their partnership with the Tourist Development Council, the museum has been able to open three new exhibits and two temporary exhibits within the last few weeks.

The first new exhibit about lionfish was a group effort among the community. The TDC, Henderson Beach State Park and Bass Pro Shops of Destin pitched in to create a tall square pod that displays lionfish replicas. A poster attached to the pod explains why lionfish are a problem for the Destin area and how the public can help keep them at bay.

Although the lionfish pod is the only one completed, the museum’s executive director, Kathy Marler Blue, said she has a total of eight pods that she plans to display with various themes.

But the new exhibit that Blue is the most proud of is called “Destin, not just a place, but a way of life.”

Set on a custom whitewashed wood backdrop, the display features pictures, artifacts and information about the history of Destin’s first churches, school, community center and the Blessing of the Fleet.

Six backlit stained glass windows help divide the sections. The windows were a part of the St. John’s Greek Orthodox Church and were donated to the museum along with the churches plaque, a roof tile and one of the copper crosses from its roof.

“While it wasn’t one of our first churches, the history of the little Greek Orthodox church means a lot to the community,” Blue said.

Built in 1984 as a tribute to George Maltezo, who helped build the St. Andrews By-the-Sea Episcopal Church, St. John’s was a place for prayers, baptisms, weddings and funerals. Through the years, it fell into disrepair and was eventually torn down. Items from the property were distributed among family members, local Greek churches and the museum.

“I’m just so blown away at how good this display looks,” Blue said. “We’re just very proud of it.”

Among other new things to the museum, visitors can learn how to tie various nautical notes with different types of marine rope at the new Marine Knots display or can listen to one of 110 old records that have been digitized and put on a tablet in front of one of the historical exhibits.

“All these projects were done in partnership with the TDC,” Blue said. “They have enabled us to fast track projects that we never would have been able to do in a billion years.”

Blue has also added two temporary exhibits, thanks to Allen Laird, the owner of AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar.

A lifetime lover of maritime history and heritage, Laird provided artifacts from the RMS Queen Mary – an ocean liner from the 1930s – and a manual air pump for standard diving equipment from the 19th and 20th centuries.

“Typically our museum is the history of Destin … but he’s enabling us to be able to share some maritime history from other parts of the world as well,” Blue said.

And for those of you who like unique photo opportunities, a small replica of the Linda Ann – one of Destin’s early fishing boats – has been set up in front of the museum, complete with a fighting chair and fishing rod that visitors can use to strike a pose.