Right now, the sounds of construction punctuate the Lighthouse grounds, as a new building takes shape. The Maritime Archaeology & Education Center (MAEC) will house offices, education space, a maritime archaeology center, and a new exhibit space. Behind the scenes, our Interpretation division is working with exhibit designers to create an engaging and informative exhibit detailing the history of the St. Augustine Lighthouse and the people that lived and worked there.
The new exhibit is entitled Legends of the Light with plans to open summer 2017. It will tell the stories of the lighthouse keepers and their families who called the St. Augustine Lighthouse home. Visitors will learn about the first night William Russell lit the light at the top of the tower. They will see photographs of the Old Spanish Watchtower and get to examine a model of the tower as it looked before the ocean claimed it in 1880. The exhibit also highlights the stories of Maria Andreu and Kate Harn, two keepers’ wives who themselves served as keepers at the St. Augustine Light Station after the passing of their husbands. The exhibit design includes populating both the MAEC and the interior of the Lighthouse with these stories. Exhibit panels will tell the stories while items like a fourth-order Fresnel lens bring them to life. The MAEC will also feature a display of ten ship models from the museum collection. The labels for these ship models include information on the ship, some relevant information from the time it represents, and a silhouette of a lighthouse the ship would have seen and used.
The MAEC will serve as a destination for children who are under 44” tall and are unable to climb the Lighthouse. It will be home to an educational cart shaped like the Lighthouse. It will include educational toys and activities. For those children as well as adults who cannot or choose not to climb the Lighthouse, it will also include a View from the Top interactive station where a 360° interactive video from the top of the tower will be available. This will provide us with more ADA-accessible exhibit space.
In the Lighthouse, climbers will encounter story panels on several landings during their trek up the 219 steps to the top of the tower. The panels will share the history of the Lighthouse and the keepers and their families through stories, making the climb more informational and interesting. They will also provide a convenient reason for visitors to take a break during their trek. Each panel will show know how many steps you’ve climbed and how many you have left to go. Upon reaching the top of the tower, climbers will have a newfound appreciation for the history of the Lighthouse and the hard work that the keepers and their families put into making the St. Augustine shoreline safe.
For this exhibit, our staff has reunited with Architecture is Fun (AIF), the creative team behind the Wrecked! exhibit that tells the story of the 1782 British loyalist shipwreck found and recovered by our maritime archaeologists. Sharon and Peter Exley, the team at AIF, have delivered another wonderfully gripping exhibit design, full of eye-catching graphics and compelling stories. Their exhibits are interesting, unique, and interactive and this one is no exception.
Legends of the Light will share the stories of the Lighthouse. Visitors will learn about the people that lived and worked here. Climbers and non-climbers alike will enjoy an engaging experience that will give them a greater appreciation for the significance of lighthouses.
The new exhibit will be included in the admission price so make sure you plan your visit soon!
Paul Zielinski is Director of Interpretation for the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. He received his master’s degree in Public History from the University of West Florida and joined the Lighthouse family in 2011.