Fishing museum back open with new exhibits

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log
The Destin Log

After being shutdown for nearly two months due to COVID-19, the Destin History and Fishing Museum is back open.

The museum, located on Stahlman Avenue in Destin not far from the Destin Communithy Center, is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

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Although the doors were closed, museum workers were able to dig in and get some new exhibits out and on display.

“Being closed enabled us to go through hidey-holes and find little odd and end things to get out on display,” said Kathy Marler-Blue, executive director of the museum. “There were boxes and stacks of stuff. I went through every article and photograph and got it all organized.

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“Those are the kinds of things you can’t do when you’re open,” she added. "So we’re happy to be back and to be able to share what we have with the folks.“

The biggest thing the museum workers accomplished during the shutdown was to pull together the Kelly exhibit.

Displayed in a special cabinet, built by Wogan’s Custom Cabinets and Refacing out of Santa Rosa Beach, the exhibit includes a 32-slide presentation that tells about the Kelly’s family contribution during their time in Destin. Starting in the ’30s, it covers when Coleman Kelly was hired to run the turpentine distillery to when they started to acquire properties in Destin and how he started the Kelly boat service and other businesses.

The exhibit also covers the philanthropy part of Mattie Kelly and how she donated to non-profits and churches in the community.

The cabinet also houses a portrait of Mattie Kelly as well as artifacts from the early turpentine business.

In addition to the Kelly exhibit, there is a Tyler Calhoun bottle collection housed under plexiglass, as well as set of old captain hats worn by Capt. Reddin “Salty” Brunson, Capt. Dave Marler and Capt. Roscoe Mikel, and a family Bible from the Marler family.

In addition to getting some of the old artifacts out, the museum has put up some new things to keep people safe during the COVID-19.

They have signage outside the museum that speaks to not entering if you are sick, mask are recommended but not required but visitors are asked to wash their hands or use a hand sanitizer on the way in as well as on the way out.

The museum has also installed a shield at the entrance way for the workers that take the entry fees.

Although the shutdown allowed the museum to catch up on things, it put a halt to income.

“It was difficult to go from the best we’ve been in 15 years to zero income. The people that we rely on, like our corporate sponsors and members, they are all in the same boat so to speak,” Blue said, noting the museum may have to come up with other ideas for financial aid.

But in the meantime, Blue said the museum is in “good shape.”

The museum receives money from the Okaloosa Tourist Development Council each year, and although that money is allotted for certain projects, it has helped.

“All the years that we’ve had access to the TDC money, that enabled us to fast track projects we would have never been able to have done,” Blue said. “I feel strongly that because of that money that enabled us to fast track projects and upgrades, that has been so beneficial to make this a must-see venue.”