The Shipwreck Historeum is a highly visible Key West attraction, located right behind Mallory Square and across from the Key West Aquarium. It is not, however, one of the Top Ten Things to Do in Key West. The tour guides visitors through the dark hallway of salvaged goods from yesteryear, set up in a way so we can easily imagine the warehouse as it was back in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The tourguides are dressed in period costume, and give the tour in character, but we would have been a lot happier with just a pamphlet or audioguide for our mp3 player. The salvaged goods were strewn about in dark corners without much attempt at interpretation or museumship. In other words, it seemed like it was still just a warehouse, the only difference being now there’s an admission fee which includes being led around by an irritable clown dressed up in costume.
The supposed big hilight of the tour was being able to watch clips from an old 1940s movie made about the salvaging industry in Key West. We skipped it because it’s not that great of a movie to begin with, and we’d seen it on Netflix. Not even sure it was filmed in Key West.
The saving grace of this Key West attraction was the rooftop observatory, which back in salvaging days was used to spot ships wrecked on the reef. Once spotted, these shipwrecks became targets of aggressive, competing salvaging operations who raced out to be the first on the scene….not to save the men overboard, but to claim ownership of the treasure and management of wrecking activities. One can get nice views and snapshots over Key West from up there.