The Longboat Key Historical Society Museum is in the process of moving out of Whitney Beach Plaza.
But that doesn’t mean the Historical Society is history.
The group will continue to hold its programs such as the annual fish fry and winter lecture series.
And, as it continues to document the past, the Historical Society is moving into the digital age. Board member Chet Pletzke, the retired head of the Bethesda Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences Library, is currently digitizing the museum’s documents, photographs, newspapers and other materials, which will be available at longboatkeyhistory.com.
“It makes sense,” Pletzke said. “This is just a realistic transition. There is no way they could support what they have and pay rent. Going electronic brings it to a reasonable cost level.”
Historical Society President Shirley Beachum said that Whitney Beach Plaza’s owners reduced the group’s rent from $500 to $300 a month when it considered moving out earlier this year. Maintenance issues in the shopping center, along with a lack of docents to volunteer, contributed to the decision to close, but the main reason was a lack of traffic.
“The reason we have to get out is there is not a soul there,” she said.
With the Historical Society’s departure, just three tenants remain at the plaza: Professional Touch Dry Cleaners, Bayou Tavern and Design 2000.
The museum’s contents will move to the home of Pete and Carla Rowan, which was formerly the Longbeach Jordan Hotel — believed to be the oldest-standing structure on the Key.
The museum moved to the plaza in summer 2008, after the Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce left the building at 6960 Gulf of Mexico Drive, where the Historical Society rented space.
Beachum hopes that the group could someday have a museum again, possibly through donated space or a proposed community center.
The group continues to seek materials related to Key history. Contact the Historical Society via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing to Longboat Key Historical Society, 5380 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Suite 150, Longboat Key, Fla., 34228.