Tag Archives: Florida Association of Museums

Florida Association of Museums Conference in Pensacola

Florida’s Emerald Coast, the stretch of land running from Panama City Beach to the end of the state at Pensacola, is the site of one of the earliest attempts at European settlement in our nation’s history. Before that, Native Americans called this area, with its tall pine trees and white sandy beaches, home. Its story is documented in written records and in its soil, where artifacts and building foundations serve as testament to the generations who have lived there.

Staff outside the Florida State Museum in Pensacola. Front row, L to R: Loni Wellman, Barb Holland, Chuck Meide and Brendan Burke. Back row, L to R: Shannon O’Neil, Dr. Sam Turner and Andrew Thomson.


This rich history served as the backdrop for the 2016 Florida Association of Museums (FAM) Annual Conference in Pensacola, where museum professionals from around the state came together to meet, learn, and network. St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum staff members made the drive down I-10 to the City of Five Flags to share our work and to see the great things our fellow Florida museum professionals are doing for our state.

Several of our Museum’s staff members presented their work at the FAM Conference. One of our largest projects this past year was the development and creation of the Wrecked! exhibit detailing the story of a 1782 British Loyalist shipwreck that our archaeologists spent six years investigating.

Director of the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) Chuck Meide presented on the shipwreck research behind our Wrecked! exhibit.


Our staff conducted two sessions during the conference detailing the research and museum work that went into the exhibit. The archaeologists shared how their original research revealed this amazing story of evacuation and danger on the ocean. Our conservators explained the challenges of cleaning and protecting the artifacts so we could display them for our visitors. And the Museum’s exhibit team revealed the techniques and strategies that make the Wrecked! exhibit interactive and engaging, sharing the story of these doomed ocean-goers and the people who found their ships hundreds of years later.

Director of Public Relations Shannon O'Neil and Director of Interpretation Paul Zielinski gave a presentation about social media in museums (with help from Star Waters!).
Director of Public Relations Shannon O’Neil and Director of Interpretation Paul Zielinski gave a presentation about social media in museums (with help from Star Waters!).

Our social media team supports our work here by sharing our stories and what we do through our various social media platforms. Their efforts have been important in generating interest and awareness for our exhibits and events. During a conference session, they shared their strategies and lessons they’ve learned with social media teams from other Florida museums so they too can support what they do through social media. Marketing and public relations is a huge part of any organization’s success and our Museum is no different. Museum staff shared their approaches to marketing toward millennials, that elusive generation of young adults who make up the next great segment of museum patronage.

Conferences are also an excellent opportunity to explore the area and, in this case, discover some of the amazing museums and historic sites in Pensacola. Old Christ Church, one of the oldest surviving church buildings in Florida, served as the venue for several events during the conference. Evening events also included stops at the Pensacola Museum of Art, the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum, and the National Naval Aviation Museum. The University of West Florida Historic Trust hosted the conference in Historic Pensacola, where conference attendees walked the historic streets of the city and enjoyed the many structures and museums that make up the site.

Our staff enjoyed a private event at the National Naval Aviation Museum. From left to right: Andrew Thomson, Loni Wellman, Shannon O’Neil, Starr Cox, Paul Zielinski, and Barb Holland.

On the closing evening of the 2016 FAM Conference, our Executive Director Kathy A. Fleming was named as the organization’s new president for a two-year term. At the same ceremony in Old Christ Church, Brenda Swann, Director of the Interpretive Division, was also recognized with the prestigious Museum Excellence Award for her leadership in the development and execution of the Wrecked! exhibit.

Executive Director Kathy A. Fleming, the new president of the Florida Association of Museums, poses with Director of the Interpretive Division Brenda Swann, who won the 2016 Museum Excellence Award.

Staff from the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum have returned invigorated with new ideas and the energy of sharing our work with other museum professionals from around our great state.


Paul Zielinski is Director of Interpretation for the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum. He received his master’s degree in Public History from the University of West Florida and joined the lighthouse family in 2011.

Statement Against Isolated Finds Legislation

On behalf of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, our Executive Director Kathy A. Fleming stands with our colleagues at the Florida Association of Museums against the Isolated Finds Legislation that is currently under consideration by the Florida Legislature.

Here is the official statement from FAM:

FAM LogoThe Florida Association of Museums (FAM) represents over 400 art, history, science, and children museums in the state from the very smallest to the largest. As repositories of our cultural heritage in Florida, FAM opposes the passage of HB 803 and SB 1054, “An Act Relating to Historic and Archaeological Artifacts,” currently being considered by the Florida Legislature. If HB 803 and SB 1054 were to pass, the consequences could endanger archaeological sites all over the state and impact the integrity of Florida’s historic record and cultural heritage.

We believe that archaeological artifacts should be left in the natural environment, however there are times that progress will disrupt those areas. In those cases, experts and professionals are brought in to research, photograph, record, and interpret that particular artifact/s – that way the history can be explained and told when displayed.

There is a fundamental problem with this proposed legislation — it allows private entities and individuals to remove and take title to archeological “finds” from the state’s sovereign submerged lands with a state-issued annual permit. Many times artifacts are found close to other artifacts from the same historical period. Allowing an individual to take a single object without requiring a deeper examination of the site at which the item was found could damage the site and do irreparable harm to the archaeological and historical record. Once removed those artifacts have lost all historical context – making them of little use for future interpretation.

The potential impact for our Museum

Field school student Jonathan Kozack holds an artifact recovered from the 1782 British Loyalist wreck that will be documented in the upcoming Wrecked! exhibition.

As we prepare to launch our new exhibition, Wrecked!, later this spring, we are also reaching the pinnacle of more than six years of excavation, research, and conservation. Through our careful, scientific process, we have recovered and recorded more than 600 artifacts from a 1782 British Loyalist shipwreck located just off St. Augustine’s coast.

Each of these artifacts carries with it a piece of the story behind this wreck. This story that belongs to all of us, as it is part of our collective history. This story stitches together pieces of crucial U.S. history with St. Augustine’s own unique role North America’s past.

This is the story of our ancestors and without the precise recovery and research conducted by our team, this part of our collective heritage would still remain in the ocean’s shadows.

Pieces like this watch face, also recovered from the 1782 British Loyalist shipwreck, could be lost forever if the Isolated Finds Legislation is passed.
The isolated finds legislation endangers our ability to conduct scientific, historic research in St. Augustine. Artifacts like the ones we have been carefully working to save for future generations could be lost forever.

What can you do?

The Isolated Finds Legislation, HB 803 and SB 1054, will be returning for debate to the Florida Legislation next year.

Please stand with us and let your local representatives know that you support museums and archaeological programs like ours.

Let your representatives know that you want to preserve Florida’s history for the future!

Kathy A. Fleming
Executive Director
St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum