Visitors to Captiva can now experience what it was like to ride on the historic Santiva while learning about the island's unique past.
The Captiva History Gallery, a replica of the old Santiva -- the mail and supply boat used by islanders before the construction of the causeway -- opened to the public with a reception on March 26.
Its construction coincided with updates to the Captiva Memorial Library that started last fall. The library agreed to donate part of its space to the Captiva Island Historical Society, which has been busy archiving over 3,000 documents and photographs, as well as producing the "Captiva Memories" DVD series.
Guests enjoyed the interpretive panels on the exhibit, a replica of the old Santiva. MCKENZIE CASSIDY.
At the same time, historical society members met in group sessions to brainstorm historical categories, gather materials, and raise funding in the local community.
Russ Bilgore and June Rosner toured the exhibit during the official ribbon cutting and reception, and described it as fantastic. They had both lived on Captiva Island for 24 years until Hurricane Charley forced them to move.
During the tour, they saw a replica of the Santiva's helm, interactive panels, and maritime charts at the exhibit's bow, while at the stern was a photograph mural of Charlie McCullough with mailbags, crates, beverages, produce, and fishing gear next to historical shopping lists and black-and-white photographs.
The middle of the exhibit is also a series of interpretive panels teaching visitors about Captiva's history through presentations about daily life, transportation, sea life, and storms that have shaped the island.
"I liked to see the Forces of Change," said Rosner, referring to the panel about storms and hurricanes. "And the slides of Rauschenberg and Lichtenstein."
Robert Rauschenberg and Ray Lichtenstein, artists who helped drive the American Pop Art movement, both lived on Captiva and Rauschenberg's home was turned into a community for artists after his death in 2008. Other images showed historical figures like Teddy Roosevelt, often photographed fishing off of the local waters.
Bilgore said he has been watching the efforts made by the historical society.
"It makes me very proud," he said.
Jim Pigott, chairman of the society's Board of Directors, said a modest history project by a dedicated group of islanders transformed into a bona fide historical society that is now celebrating its fourth year.
"We made this organization in order to preserve and collect artifacts and documents, primarily documents, whether they are letters, postcards, news articles, and books having to do with the history of Captiva," said Pigott. "There is a great deal of history that has gone on this island over the last 100 years."
Paul McCarthy, a historical society board member, said the exhibit was a very special project.
"It was an amazing collaboration of a lot of different people and those of us who walk through the room can see each piece that someone put into it," said McCarthy.
The historical exhibit is now open to the public and shares the same hours as the Captiva Memorial Library.
For more information about the society, visit captivaislandhistoricalsociety.org.