Gulfport has a rich, storied past. The town, shaped by its relationship to water and the people who made and continue to make their living on the water is a big part of the city’s history. Now the acting board of the Gulfport Historical Society wants to preserve that past to ensure that Gulfport’s history will be accessible to everyone.
“Florida history is filled with stories about the ways people are tied to the water, and at the Gulfport Historical Museum we want to add Gulfport’s story to that history,” said Cathy Salustri, acting secretary of the Gulfport Historical Society. The acting board, consisting of Christine Brown, acting president; Nicole Spence, acting treasurer; Cathy Salustri, acting secretary; and Gail Biron, acting board member, took the first step to further that goal by beginning the digitization process of the museum’s records using eHive.com, a widely used online collection management system specifically created for museums, art galleries and historical collections. All of the museum’s artifacts will be entered into the eHive system, including photographs. Once the project is completed, the information will be available on the Internet for all to view.
The museum project emphasizes the Gulfport community spirit, and volunteers came to lend a hand February 20 through 24. Current inventory was catalogued, boxed and moved off the premises to prepare the building for a fresh coat of paint. Every item was logged by number and description, to be entered into the new system.
The museum will reopen on April 6, the date of the twice-annual membership meeting, open to anyone who wants to attend. Paid members will elect new officers and a dinner will be served.
Visitors to the museum will see a redesigned layout, thanks to help from the city of Gulfport, in order to better showcase photos, maps and historic documents. A pictorial timeline will be installed around the room on the wall.
“The board is designing new displays and new programming. We definitely want to make our focus the history of Gulfport and, most importantly, the people and their personal stories,” said Brown.
Another of the museum’s goals is to document the city’s more recent history, which is presently scarce, including Gulfport’s ahead-of-its-time embrace of the LGBT community, the ArtWalks and the arts community.
“We are hoping that the people of Gulfport will look more closely at our collection and be able to add to the information we already have and fill in the missing pieces,” said Spence.
While still at the discussion level, the acting board plans to integrate the history of Gulfport into some of the city’s events.
“We are very motivated and excited to embrace the community with new pioneering interactive events that can integrate the history of Gulfport with entertaining innovations of events for all ages, including our youth,” said Biron, who is also the Technical Events Specialist for the city.
“We want people to see the entire city as a sort of museum, to realize we have a rich history as they walk down Beach Boulevard or through Clam Bayou,” said Salustri. “The most important thing for people to know is that when they come into the museum, they get a better sense of how we got from there to here, and that they’re part of our history, too. It’s still happening.”
How You Can Volunteer
The Gulfport Historical Society needs volunteers from data entry to photographers to people who will transcribe oral histories, ac- cording to Cathy Salustri, acting secretary. “We welcome people who want to volunteer to run our new gift shop and keep the doors open, and people who want to help with our new walking tour, historic markers, and self-guided audible tour,” said Salustri. “The best thing we can ask of people who want to help is to get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll find a volunteer opportunity that matches their skills.”