Posted on June 11, 2010 – 12:12am
St. Augustine Record Editorial
The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum is a newly accepted partner of the Smithsonian. That simple statement leads a news release about the Lighthouse’s newest affiliation.
Just saying Smithsonian and the Lighthouse Museum in the same sentence elevates our landmark attraction to almost rare air. For sure, it allows the Lighthouse access to Smithsonian museum artifacts and exhibit pieces that very few would see unless they traveled to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
Museum Director Kathy Fleming said the affiliation has been a museum goal for years. It’s an honor to join such a prestigious group — one of only 13 in Florida and one of 160-plus museums and cultural organizations in 40 states, Panama and Puerto Rico since its establishment in 1996. The benefit of access to the Smithsonian’s collections is certainly enough of a draw but added to that is the opportunity for bringing Smithsonian educational programming to our community.

The process of actual review by the Smithsonian took several months after the Lighthouse completed its detailed application. You don’t just pay your money and join. This is not about getting on a list. It’s about proving that you go all out for your community and the valuable research and educational opportunities you can provide. An attraction’s history and heritage figures into the affiliation by the Smithsonian, as well. And that doesn’t even take into effect the impact on visitors; direct tourism benefits to the Lighthouse that ripple through the community’s economy.
Glenn Hastings, the county’s director of the Tourist Development Council and longtime tourism authority in Florida, said, “Visitors look for attractions that have authenticity. When they see ‘Smithsonian Affiliate’ that gives a site credibility. Visitors don’t want to be fooled,” he said.
Fleming says the Lighthouse staff is building on the tourism that maritime history and the lighthouse itself attracts with this affiliation. “The point to us is to demonstrate how we are evolving as a community service, research and education-focused institution,” she said. The Lighthouse over the years has done a tremendous community service just by holding its free community day every March.
Smithsonian Affiliations Director Harold A. Closter is also a fan. In a news release, Closter said,
“The St. Augustine Lighthouse has a well-deserved reputation for excellence in research, education and preservation and helps us think, in multiple ways, about the relationship between people and the sea. These efforts blend very well with the Smithsonian’s own work in maritime history and environmental studies.”
We agree. Given those maritime and environmental links, the Lighthouse and the Smithsonian are a perfect fit.
Congratulations to the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum on becoming a Smithsonian Affiliate.