PANAMA CITY BEACH — Thanks to the News Herald for the following piece…The Man in the Sea Museum is sprucing up for 2010 with a new sign, new exhibits and hopes of expansion. President Mike Zinszer said the museum, containing diving artifacts from around the world, is being modernized and rearranged to better show off the many exhibits, which honor Bay County’s ties to sea and ocean research and exploration.
There are plans to purchase the lot next door, membership is improving, the gift shop has been expanded and a new sign has sprouted along Back Beach Road, just west of State 79. “The artifacts here represent diving throughout the world,” Zinszer said. “This is Bay County’s museum.”
Volunteer Mike Baker, who retired from the Navy and recently moved to Bay County, was out recently helping tear down the old sign. Volunteers are a large part of the museum’s success, Zinszer said. “When I heard about the museum, I came and checked it out,” said Baker, a retired chief gunner’s mate. “I’ve made this my project.” As part of the modernization, the museum has an updated Web site, http://www.maninthesea.org, created by David Goldflies of CyberSytes, one of many people who have donated their time, said Zinszer, an instructor at the Advanced Science Diving Program at Florida State University-Panama City.
“We were literally about to shut our doors (a year ago),” Zinszer said. “We needed a Web site as a platform to present our vision about where we wanted to go. David was one of the first persons who saw the vision we saw.” The site also is listed on the new Web site of the Bay County Tourist Development Council at visitpanamacitybeach.com. Click on family attractions; then jump to M, for Man in the Sea.
“The Man in the Sea Museum is a great attraction for Panama City Beach,” TDC executive director Dan Rowe said. “It provides a unique look at the area’s contributions to diving and deep sea research. I applaud their efforts.” The new sign was donated by LB Signs Inc. of Panama City at half the price of what the museum would have typically paid, saving thousands of dollars, museum manager Leslie Baker said. She insisted Bay County needed to preserve and expand institutions such as the Man in the Sea Museum, both as a cultural pilgrimage for tourists and an educational resource for school children. “Mike and I are very concerned about our heritage in general,” she said. “We all need to do a better job to preserve our heritage. I don’t think the natives of Bay County realize the contributions the area has made to deep sea research.”
The museum includes a collection of submarines, modules and pods used for undersea studies, a Mark V diving suit, virtually unchanged since 1837, and a Navy deep sea diving system from 1968, among other exhibits. The crown jewel of the museum, Sealab-1, was the world’s first underwater living facility. Lee Venus, 84, a Panama City native, who now lives in San Jose, Calif., was at the museum recently, marveling at the changes that have taken place over the last year. “I was here about a year ago and the place was a dump,” she said bluntly. “Now, it looks like a museum.”
The museum, which is not funded by government sources, is hoping to increase its membership in 2010, Zinszer said. The fee is $35 per year and $1,000 for a lifetime membership. The museum charges a $5 fee at the door. Leslie Baker said she also is hoping Bay County schools will become involved by scheduling tours and adopting exhibits, where a class might help maintain an aquarium or other displays, for instance. “They could perform a community service project by helping to preserve the heritage of Bay County,” she said.
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