Permanent Collections

The permanent collections of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum focus on five categories related to lighthouse history and the maritime heritage of St Augustine and northeast Florida. The collection ranges from large three-dimensional objects to photographs and archives, and includes a research library.

This part of the collection has objects representing St. Augustine’s maritime culture and arts, such as maritime-themed art and folk art.  The Museum also collects objects and photographs related to the local shrimping and fishing industries, including shrimp boat building materials (such as boat molds and tools) used along the region’s working waterfronts.  Additionally, the collection contains half models and boat models that represent the local, regional, and worldwide naval architecture that impacted our coastal community from the colonial era through the modern marine industrial period.

Collections representing the daily life of the keepers and their families at the St. Augustine Light Station include household goods, decorative arts, clothing and uniforms, fixtures and furnishings, and children’s toys. The collection also contains tools lighthouse keepers used to maintain and repair objects and architectural components at the St. Augustine Light Station that were recovered and saved from the restoration phases.

This category primarily contains objects that illuminate the role of the St. Augustine Light Station as an aid-to-navigation and an aid to military defense, coastal trade and the growth of the community.  Some objects in this collection also represent the engineering history of the United States Lighthouse Service (USLHS) including lenses, lamps, buoys, reflector panels and equipment and tools previously used at the Light Station. The first-order, Fresnel lens that was manufactured in Paris, France, for the St. Augustine Lighthouse, is the most significant object in this collection.

Objects relating to the military presence at the Light Station site and its use as a coastal navigational and defensive aid from the 16th century through 2002 (when the United States Coast Guard relinquished control of the active aid-to-navigation) including military uniforms, equipment, and objects for leisure activities. The collection also contains oral histories, photographs, and documents related to St. Augustine during World War II.

Six historic structures are on site in the historic Light Station cultural landscape which includes approximately 7 acres of maritime hammock, and an open lawn area developed between 1874 and 1930 from the beach scrub and sand dunes. The buildings include the 1874 Lighthouse tower, the 1876 keepers’ house, two 1888 summer kitchens, a 1936 garage, and a 1941 United States Coast Guard coastal lookout building.  The lighthouse tower and keepers’ house were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980; updates to the National Register listing have included the other historic structures on the St. Augustine Light Station.

Digital Collections

The physical collection under care at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is over 19,000 items. Many of these collections have not been digitized, though our goal is to continue to digitize material to provide greater access to archival records, objects, and photographs. The Light Station Military collection, which contains several hundred photographs, has been partially digitized. The majority of these images are from the World War II era, when St. Augustine was a major training center for the United States Coast Guard. The collections depict the daily life of personnel stationed in St. Augustine as well as  at the lighthouse.

A portion of the Maritime Culture and Arts digital collection features almost 4,000 photographs of the Diesel Engine Sale Company (DESCO) which was founded in 1943. DESCO grew from a local shrimp boat company to become the largest seller of Caterpillar engines in the world. The photography collection documents the launching of DESCO boats as well as the people involved in the ceremonies. DESCO was a major employer in St. Augustine in the mid-20th century and grew in proportion to the shrimping industry of northeast Florida.

Salvador fish house