Artifacts sought for maritime heritage exhibit

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Over the next few months, the Franklin County Tourist Development Council will be researching and collecting artifacts that reflect the area's seafood and maritime history for placement in an interactive Maritime Heritage museum to be installed at the Olan “Buddy” Ward Park west of Apalachicola.

The park, located on Highway 98 along the bayfront, is the former site of the Lombardi commercial seafood processing plant. The land and the building were bought by the county using TDC funds in 2010 for use as a park, boat landing facility and future heritage museum. In 2019, building and dock renovations were completed and the park was dedicated to Ward, an Apalachicola seafood business owner and lifelong advocate for the seafood industry.

The park features a concrete boat launch ramp, restrooms, covered picnic tables, grills and a nature observation dock. The park also features the restored concrete shell of Lombardi’s original oyster plant which will house the maritime heritage museum. The interior is stark now but has been restored to resemble its original use an oyster shucking plant, complete with individual shucking “stalls” and a refrigeration room.

County leaders say they’re looking forward to taking the next step and populating the museum on a permanent basis with displays and artifacts.

“The maritime heritage display is going to be really key for our tourism,” said County Commissioner Joseph “Smokey” Parrish. “Visitors will be able to watch videos on the oyster, shrimping, crabbing and fishing industry here.

“That’s what we’re all about. The visitors can see what it once was and what we all hope to see again in our lifetime, to bring that maritime heritage back,” he said.

TDC officials say the museum will contain exhibits, photographs, videos and interpretative displays and artifacts dating back more than 100 years to document the history of Franklin County’s many maritime-based industries that have flourished throughout the generations. Beginning back to the earliest industries of timber and cotton and river shipping to the early days of oyster harvesting and later shrimp, crabs, and fish, the museum will document the evolution of the county’s maritime heritage.

“Franklin County has seen many different industries over the years but the one thing that each industry has shared is dependence on the river and bay,” said TDC Director John Solomon. “This maritime heritage museum will show visitors what has made Franklin County great and it will show that the environment is the economy here as much today as it was more than 100 years ago.”

If you have Franklin County maritime related artifacts or photos (such as those used in the oystering, shrimping, commercial fishing industry or the timber and cotton industries) that you would like to donate or lend to the museum, please contact museum@floridasforgottencoast.com

This article originally appeared on The Apalachicola Times: Artifacts sought for maritime heritage exhibit

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