Destin History and Fishing Museum turns 15

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

From the outside it may not look like much, but the Destin History and Fishing Museum, nestled under the oaks on Stalhman Avenue, is jammed packed with exhibits from a 12-foot gator to a wall of fish and various other exhibits that tell the history of Destin as well as it's early families.

And on Oct. 1, the museum will be celebrating it's 15th anniversary with an open house and free admission for the day. Each visitor will receive a raffle ticket for a chance at one of 15 door prizes.

Kathy Marler Blue, executive director of the Destin Fishing Museum, talks with visitors as the Destin History and Fishing Museum celebrates its15th anniversary.

"Everyone that comes through the door is a learner, whether they are 3 or 93," said Kathy Marler Blue, executive director of the museum. "There is something for everyone to learn. For locals, it is a pride of heritage. For visitors, it makes the 'out there in the community' more understandable."

The museum includes 5,500 square feet of inside exhibit space with more than 100 mounts of locally caught fish and an outdoor Historic Park Complex.

More:Fishing museum back open with new exhibits

"I love the great new exhibits we have added the last two years, including the Community Exhibit, Kelly Family Exhibit and Bruce on the Loose exhibit," Blue said.

The Kelly Family Exhibit walks visitors through the life and impact the Kelly family had on Destin from the 1930's early turpentine distillery to the start of the Kelly boat service to the philanthropy of Mattie Kelly herself. 

As for the Bruce on the Loose exhibit, that's all about Destin Fishing Rodeo weighmaster Bruce Cheves and his story telling. This exhibit can be found in the Rodeo Gallery and includes video clips where you can sit and listen to Bruce tell his fish stories.

"My current favorite is 'Our Roots Run Deep' touchscreen exhibit, which features two tree slabs from the original Destin and Marler homesteads and a touchscreen computer to navigate to different aspects of Destin's history," Blue said.

More:Destin museum has interactive exhibit based on trees from Destin, Marler homesteads

But those who come to visit the museum will get the chance to check out all the exhibits in the different galleries.

Here's a break down of the galleries and some of things you will not want to miss.

Front Gallery:  

  • Science of Destin’s geologically unique sand and shell exhibit.
  • Genealogical data on the founding families.
  • Artificial Reef Building, Bay Ecology, Beach Ecology, Lionfish, Marine Debris, Otoliths, Discovery Station, Cobia, The Making of “Jaws 2.”
  • Commercial Fishing - Then & Now. 
  • Shark and Reef Dry Aquariums. 
The fish wall was the first exhibit in the Destin History and Fishing Museum, which celebrates its15th anniversary.

Fish Wall Gallery:

  • Mike Long's Fish Wall & Mural, Henry Hinkel Collection & Westerfeld Marlin, Sawfish, IGFA, Cast Net Exhibit, East Pass Bait & Tackle, Fishing Evolution, Fisherman’s Logbook with 4 TV screens of vintage photos, Primrose, Ernest Hemingway Rod & Reel, Fishing Equipment.
  • Native Americans, Pioneers of Destin, Captains’ Wall, Gone But Not Forgotten, Artist John Destin, Early Destin Living with Interactive Victrola Exhibit, Captain Hats, Family Bibles, Urban Growth & Development with three TV monitors of vintage photos, Story of East Pass & “Crab Island”, Community Exhibit of School, Community Center, Blessing of the Fleet & Churches, Kelly Family Contributions with TV PowerPoint presentation.
  • Kids Fish Bench, Marine Knots, Rodeo Fish Bench.
  • “Our Roots Run Deep” Interactive Touchscreen Computer Timeline.

More:A story for the ages: Westerfeld and Raim haul in 13 foot blue marlin on 23 foot Mako boat

The Fishing Rodeo room highlights the storied past and people who made the rodeo the iconic event it is. The Destin History and Fishing Museum celebrates its15th anniversary.

Rodeo Gallery:

  • Features “all things” Destin Fishing Rodeo.
  • Replica Leader Board and collection of Rodeo Posters from 1982 to Present.
  • “Bruce On the Loose” Exhibit iPAD with Bruce telling his stories.
  • Two Videos on the “big screen” provided by The Destin Fishing Rodeo.
  • Photographer Arturo Mennillo Exhibit on TV Monitor —1945 to 1965.
Nautical displays in the Museum Heritage Park highlight working boats as the Destin History and Fishing  Museum celebrates its15th anniversary.

Museum Heritage Park:

  • Two restored boats - Primrose & Lil Jimmy
  • 21 historic markers on original pioneer families, Early Seine Boat Fishing & Fish Camps, Seine Nets & Net Reel.
  • Original Post Office Building with all new exhibits including locals’ military service.
  • Memorial Pathway with engraved pavers.
  • Children’s Picnic & Activity Area.
  • Two “photo-opts” including replica “Megladon Jaw” & replica boat “Linda Ann” with fighting chair & rod & reel.

Even with all the many exhibits, Blue said it wouldn't be possible without the help from the community.

More:Volunteer Spotlight: Fraser says his time at museum is all about meeting the people

The museum's biggest accomplishment is that it "continues to grow and expand," meeting the mission statement with the "wonderful support of a giving community," Blue said.

The museum, located at 108 Stalhman Avenue, is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.