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December 30, 2016. – (Key West, FL). Key West Art & Historical Society Salutes the Navy with New Exhibit

The Key West Art & Historical Society celebrates the connection between the U.S. Navy and Key West with a new Custom House Museum exhibit, The Navy in Key West, which launches with a special opening party on Friday, January 13 from 5:30pm-7:30pm.

The symbiotic relationship between the U.S. Navy and Key West extends as far back as the 1820s.  For nearly two centuries, the two have journeyed through periods of menacing pirates, Civil War blockades, Cuban immigrants, two World Wars, the Great Depression and the coming of naval aviation.

The exhibit, which will be on display throughout the main floor’s two galleries, opens specifically to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Naval Air Station Key West in 2017. The exhibition will not only explore how the island of Key West and the U.S. Navy have relied on each other by highlighting unique images, artifacts, uniforms and military memorabilia, it will also offer interactive displays to learn about Key West’s maritime past. Bumpus Gallery will present a chronological history of the Navy in Key West, while the Bryan Gallery will showcase the cultural history of both entities, covering subjects like ‘Entertainment’, ‘Women in the Navy’, ‘Prohibition’, ‘Fleet Sound School’, ‘Key West in Naval Movies’, and more.

Artifacts of interest include the Jack Flag salvaged from the U.S.S. Maine shipwreck and subsequently donated to The Society, and a mahogany photograph frame from the U.S.S. Maine with an inlaid crest, American flag and ‘The Maine’ carved across the top.

“It was recovered from an officer’s cabin on the Maine when the ship was raised from Havana harbor in 1911-1912,” says Society curator Cori Convertito, PhD. “The frame was donated by Mrs. Annie L. Russell who was given the frame by the captain of the U.S. Navy tugboat U.S.S. Osceola, with whom she was ‘keeping company’.”

Convertito emphasizes that the exhibit will be much more than “a nuts, bolts, guns, and battles exhibit,” but will illustrate to visitors of all ages just how intertwined the island of Key West and the U.S. Navy are through a cultural, visual, personal, and regional history presentation.

“This exhibition provides a rare opportunity for museum visitors to recognize and appreciate the interlaced connection between each entity; Key West would not exist as it does today without the Navy, and the Navy would not exist as it does today without Key West.  We are delighted to honor the centennial anniversary of NAS Key West by hosting this landmark exhibit,” says curator Cori Convertito.

The Society will celebrate the exhibit and the centenary of Naval Air Station Key West with ongoing events and programs throughout the year, including the January 11 installation on the front steps of the Custom House of J. Seward Johnson’s “Embracing Peace” a 25-foot tall bronze rendition of the iconic picture of a sailor kissing a nurse at the end of World War II.

The Navy in Key West runs through December 2017 and is sponsored by the Helmerich Trust. For more information, contact curator Cori Convertito, PhD at or 305.295.6616 x112. Your Museums.  Your Community.  It takes an Island.


An unidentified couple walk down Duval Street wearing their U.S. Navy uniforms.  They are beneath the awning of the Kress Building, while the famous sailor bar, The Boat Bar, is visible in the background.  The image is part of Key West Art & Historical Society’s upcoming exhibit, The Navy in Key West, which opens at the Custom House Museum with a special reception  on Friday, January 13 from 5:30pm-7:30pm.

Key West Art & Historical Society curator, Cori Convertito, PhD., holds a World War II, Storekeeper 2nd Class (SK2c). Navy uniform, which is presently stored in the climate-controlled Custom House fourth floor collection room.