A 1940s Aqua-Lung regulator belonging to Jacques Cousteau and a pair of 15-pound leather diving boots from 1865 will be among the items on display at the Cayman Islands National Museum’s newest exhibit.
The International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame is teaming up with the National Museum for the year-long exhibit, which is showcasing artifacts from the deep.
The official opening is from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday.
Items in the collection include the first Aqua-Lung regulator imported to the United States by oceanographer Mr. Cousteau in 1943 and the diving suit worn by actor and Hall of Famer Lloyd Bridges in the 1968 film “The Daring Game.”
There will also be an early “underwater camera” jerry-rigged from a pressure cooker bought from department store Montgomery Ward.
According to Museum Director Peggy Leshikar-Denton, the museum will be the first physical home of the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame.
The display will also “celebrate the birth and development of the Cayman diving industry,” she said in a press release.
This exhibit is the first of its kind in the Cayman Islands, she added.
“Early divers really wanted to be innovative,” said museum conservator Mary Peever. She has the responsibility of preparing the artifacts for display by preventing what she calls “active deterioration,” including oxidation on a Graflex camera housing dating from the 1920s.
Also to go on display is a protective chain-mail diving suit designed by Australian filmmaker Ron Taylor for his wife, diver Valerie Taylor, whose adventures swimming with great white sharks inspired Peter Benchley’s novel “Jaws” and the 1974 film adaptation.
“This display has been carefully curated by the Board and we are excited to have the expertise of the [museum] team to help us tell the story of [the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame] and its role in honouring the industry,” said Leslie Leaney, executive director of the Hall of Fame, and an inductee, in the release.
In addition to the display of artifacts on the main galley floor, the exhibit will also include a Legends Gallery Floor focusing on pioneers of the Cayman Islands diving industry.
The Hall of Fame was founded in 2000 by Cayman’s Ministry of Tourism in an effort to honor those who have pioneered the sport of scuba diving, making it safer and more enjoyable.