By Wendy Campbell
Odyssey’s Shipwreck exhibit at the Baldwin County Heritage Museum allows visitors to take an amazing journey 1,700 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean to the wreck site of the SS Republic, the greatest shipwreck treasure of the Civil War era.
The Baldwin County Heritage Museum is located in Elberta, Ala. The museum represents the agricultural and cultural history of Baldwin County.
“We are a heritage museum and here you can view bits and pieces of everyday life and everyday people,” said Becky Holiday, education director for the museum. “The items you will find here will remind you a days from your past, the stuff you remember from your grandmother’s house or your grandfather’s barn. Visiting the museum gives people the chance to remember their roots and relive fond memories from the past.”
Obtaining the Shipwreck exhibit was a huge accomplishment for the museum.
“Getting this exhibit for our museum was a real score, a huge accomplishment,” said Ralph Veller, chairman of the museum. “It will help to bring top-notch recognition to the museum. Since we are a non-profit museum we rely on funding, grants and donations to survive.
“We are unique here because we aren’t sponsored by an educational facility,” added Holiday. “We rely on volunteers such as the visitors from the north who live down here in the winter months. Without our winter visitors donating their time and fundraising abilities through the various Snowbird clubs, this museum might not still be here.”
The Odyssey exhibit was opened to the public in September of 2008. Visitors are allowed to explore fascinating high-resolution video footage and images of Odyssey’s extraordinary discoveries hundreds of feet below the ocean surface. The public can view priceless shipwreck treasures and authentic historical artifacts recovered from the SS Republic. There is a remarkable sampling of the 51,000 gold and silver coins and nearly 14,000 artifacts recovered from the shipwreck.
Visitors can relive the dynamic life of the SS Republic, including her Civil War heroics at the Battle of Mobile Bay, through the use of interactive exhibits. Guests will be treated to stories of courage and survival endured by the ship’s passengers and crew.
In August 2003, Odyssey discovered the wreckage of the SS Republic. The ship played a prominent role in the Battle of Mobile Bay and was later lost in a fierce hurricane off the Georgia coast. En route from New York to New Orleans in October of 1865, the ship went down with a fortune of gold and silver coins in addition to an enormous cargo of goods bound to help rebuild the war-torn South and New Orleans.
Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc., the world leader in deep-ocean shipwreck exploration, was co-founded by Greg Stemm, whose family has deep-rooted ties to the Baldwin County community.
Admission to the Baldwin County Heritage Museum and grounds is free. Admission to the Odyssey exhibit is $12 for adults, $10 for senior citizens, $8 for children ages 2-12 and $6 for school groups, any age. Reservations are recommended for school groups. Details: Baldwin County Heritage Museum, 25521 E. Highway 98, Elberta, Ala., between Mobile and Pensacola, about 3.5 miles east of the Foley Beach Express, 251-986-8375, www.BaldwinCountyHeritageMuseum.com
Baldwin County Heritage Museum
By Wendy Campbell