The Florida Keys History and Discovery Foundation (FKHDF) was formed in 2013 as a not-for-profit organization for the purpose of developing and operating the Keys History & Discovery Center.
With the support of the FKHDF Board members, Islander Resort, a Guy Harvey Outpost, and David Curry, we have secured a beautiful, two-story, 7,500 square foot location in the heart of Islamorada at the site of the Florida Keys Conference Center, MM 82.
We strive to give our residents and ikiisitors this world-class facility, which plays a transformative role in the life of our community.
To develop and maintain a world-class History & Discovery Center that will accurately reflect the history of our Florida Keys community in a multi-faceted and interactive environment.
To create and perpetuate a world-class, multi-dimensional Keys History & Discovery Center for and about the Keys. The unique geography of the Florida Keys makes it a place with many stories to tell. These stories define the rich character and culture of our Keys community and encompass our past, present and future. Sharing these stories will foster appreciation for our people and places. Such appreciation will contribute to our community in countless ways – culturally, civically, environmentally and economically.
The Keys History & Discovery Center, including the 35-seat theater, will answer the questions, “What makes the Florida Keys so unique and interesting, and why are our stories relevant to locals and visitors alike?”
What We Are About
The Florida Keys History and Discovery Foundation, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization registered with the state of Florida for the purpose of developing and operating the Keys History & Discovery Center.
The Foundation is funded through public and private donations, grants, membership and program fees, and sales of merchandise. The Foundation is a member in good standing of the American Alliance of Museums striving to meet and/or exceed the Characteristics of Excellence for U.S. Museums as established by AAM in all areas of museum development and operations.
The Keys History & Discovery Center occupies a two-story facility encompassing 7,500 square feet. The ground floor will explore unique ecology of the Florida Keys as well as the incredible history associated with the island chain — especially the history of the Upper Keys. The second floor will host a series of traveling exhibitions reflecting upon the nature, art or history of the Florida Keys.
The geographic emphasis is on the Upper Keys, but will encompass other areas to tell the stories in a way that will preserve our history in a meaningful, educational and entertaining manner. Major themes of interest are the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane, the Flagler Railroad, as well as our fishing and maritime heritage. We will regularly host exhibits and special events, as well as undertake projects that fit with our mission and vision.
The Keys History & Discovery Center will feature a 35-seat state-of-the-art movie theater and the Jerry Wilkinson Research Library.
General Admission: $12. Seniors: $10. Children 13 and under are free.
The Discovery Center is open Thursdays through Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and is located at 82100 Overseas Highway, MM 82, on the property of the Islander Resort, a Guy Harvey Outpost. Contact us at 305-922-2237.
Board of Directors
The Board of Directors is comprised of members of the community who have demonstrated an interest in preserving the history of the Upper Keys, while linking that history to the overall history, geography and experience of the entire Florida Keys. Members serve without compensation.
The Board of Directors welcomes input from the community and those with knowledge and interest in the history of the Florida Keys. The Board is particularly interested in speaking with anyone with relevant historical artifacts that could be part of either permanent or temporary exhibits. Anyone with an interest in becoming part of the overall effort is encourages to contact staff or any Board member.
- Click to see directors bios
- Rich Russell,president
Mr. Russell is the great-great grandson of Islamorada’s original settlers, Richard H. and Mary Ann Russell (1854). A 1975 graduate of Coral Shores High School, he has been an educator and coach since 1979, the past 24 years as athletic director. His is a graduate of the University of Miami, where he played football on a full scholarship. He is owner and sole proprietor of First Family Rental and RCR Enterprises (lobster and stone crab business). He writes the music for and sings lead in the Island Quartet, a Southern Gospel Quartet, which recently released their fifth CD. Mr. Russell also serves as chairman for the Village Historical Preservation Commission; is a member of Village Park and Recreation Board; a member of the Island Christian School Board; co-founder of the Upper Keys Foundation (a not-for-profit underwriting athletic expenses at CSHS); and member of the Green Turtle Hammocks Island School Development Board.
- George Hertel, vice president
Mr. Hertel is the owner of IFC Consulting, Inc., and developed the Islamorada Fish Company wholesale/retail/restaurant operations in Islamorada and Dania, FL. He was a real estate developer/builder in Broward County from 1975-1985. Once settled in Islamorada, he was elected to Board of Directors of Florida Keys Electric Cooperative in 2004, 2007 and 2010. He is Board president of the Upper Keys Foundation, a member of the First State Bank Advisory Board, past president and active member of Upper Keys Rotary Club, and twice named Rotarian of the Year.
- Dick Saylor, treasurer
After graduating from Penn State University and Navy ROTC, Mr. Saylor completed three years on active duty as an officer where duty assignments included engineering officer on an amphibious ship and a 12-month shore tour in Vietnam as Executive Officer of a Vietnamese riverboat repair facility advisory group. Subsequently, he earned an MBA at Temple University and embarked on a successful 30-year business career in finance, information systems and process re-engineering. He worked in numerous business units, manufacturing facilities, divisions and company organizations as financial analyst, plant controller, financial manager and division controller for an $8B food processor, served as corporate controller for a $600M sugar processor and vice president of Information Systems and Project Management for a $1.3B sugar company. Following early retirement, he consulted with small and mid-sized businesses. Mr. Saylor now works as a Realtor, property manager and accountant for his wife’s vacation rental and sales business, Keys Holiday Rentals, Inc. He has lived in Islamorada since 2003 and serves a treasurer for Palm Condominium, is a member of the Islamorada Chamber of Commerce and is past president and treasurer of the Upper Keys Sailing Club.
- Phyllis Mitchell, secretary
Ms. Mitchell has lived in Islamorada since 2000, and was a member of the Matecumbe Historical Trust for four years. She is actively involved with Voices for Florida Keys Children and a Guardian ad Litem volunteer. She is vice chair for Friends of the Islamorada Area State Parks, a Master Gardener volunteer, and chairman of the Village of Islamorada Landscape Committee. She is a graduate of Leadership Monroe County, Class XV, and a former teacher at Florida Keys Community College and computer science teacher for middle school, high school, and college (Barry University) in Miami- Dade. She authored the National Science Foundation’s curriculum “Teaching the History of Science and Technology” at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
- Mary Barley
Ms. Barley, an Islamorada resident and long-time conservationist, is a founding Board member of the Everglades Foundation, serving seven years as chairperson. She also serves as chairperson of the Everglades Trust, and serves on numerous other conservation-related national boards. Ms. Barley earned several honors for her work, including being named Time Magazine’s Hero for the Planet in 1999 and being recognized in the U.S. Congressional Record during Women’s History Month in 2013. She is an honorary Miccosukee and an honorary Conch.
- Henry Rosenthal
Mr. Rosenthal is the former owner/operator of Green Turtle Inn restaurant, seafood market and cannery, and Whale Harbor Inn. He is past president of the Islamorada Chamber of Commerce, member of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce, and chairman of the Monroe County Advertising Commission. He is supportive of numerous charities in the community, including the Florida Keys Children’s Shelter, Island Christian School and Coral Shores High School, by performing his special brand of mental magic under the name “BASTILLE”.
- Cale Smith
Mr. Smith is managing partner of Islamorada Investment Management, was previously the managing director of Hawk Associates in Key Largo, and the director of research for the firm’s AMI Research division. Prior to joining Hawk, he was lead equity analyst for an independent research provider near Washington, D.C., and provided analysis for a hedge fund. He has held management positions in several telecommunications companies, including the world’s first commercial Internet service provider and an international radio frequency engineering firm. He competed in the 2000 Olympic rowing trials as a single sculler. An honors graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, he majored in management. While on active duty in the U.S. Coast Guard, Mr. Smith served as a deck watch officer on a buoy tender in Honolulu and also served as a lead instructor at the National Aids to Navigation School in southeast Virginia. In 1998, he earned a MBA from the College of William & Mary, and holds an executive certificate in financial planning from Georgetown University.
- Frank Hawkins
Mr. Hawkins is CEO of Hawk Associates and founder of Hibiscus Marketing. A former case officer in clandestine collection operations for the Defense Intelligence Agency in Germany, he later became a foreign and war correspondent for The Associated Press, international businessman, senior corporate executive and president of the Access Asia Group in Hong Kong. He has lived in eight countries and is fluent in German. He graduated from Cornell University and the Defense Language Institute. He authored “Ritter’s Gold,” an adventure novel published in several languages by the New American Library. Mr. Hawkins is a lifetime member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers and the Audubon Society, is listed in Who’s Who in America, and Who’s Who in the World. He is past president and active member of the Upper Keys Rotary Club as well as serves on the board of the Florida Keys Electric Cooperative and several other boards of private and publicly traded companies.
- Robert J. Lodge
Robert (Bob) J. Lodge held a long career in the manufacturing of apparel, including time with JC Penney Co. in New York, and as the founder and CEO of Ivory International beginning in 1976. A long-time resident of Miami Shores, he served on the city’s council and served as mayor. Mr. Lodge also founded additional companies: Lodge Enterprises, a company that owns and develops real estate, and Lodge Consultants, which advises garment manufacturers. He became a part-time Upper Keys resident in 1977. Mr. Lodge served as the president of the Islamorada Fishing Club for five years and is a current director emeritus. He also is active with the Islamorada Moose and the Elks Club in Tavernier. He is an avid hunter and fisherman. He lives in Islamorada with Patty, his wife of more than 40 years. They have three children and seven grandchildren.
- Jerry Wilkinson, Emeritus Member
Mr. Wilkinson first came to the Keys in 1947. The president of the Historical Preservation Society of the Upper Key, he has collected and preserved Upper Keys history since the 1970s. He is a mentor to our curator Brad Bertelli. He lives in Tavernier at the site of the original Planter settlement.
- Buddy Pinder, Emeritus Member
Mr. Pinder also is a member of one of the Florida Keys founding families and owns Buddy’s Drilling Service. He is a Realtor with H.D. Jacoby Real Estate, as well as a consultant/advisor to Marine Studios, in Marineland, FL, and Atlanta, and to the Jacoby Group, Atlanta. He serves on the Board of the Coral Restoration Foundation, and is vice chair of the Village of Islamorada Historic Preservation Board. In addition, he serves as board member and traveling participant of multiple international missions organizations.
- Michael P. Crosby, Ph.D.
Michael P. Crosby, Ph.D., president and CEO of Mote Marine Laboratory (Mote). Crosby was appointed to the leadership position of Mote, based in Sarasota, Fla., in May 2013, after spending three years as Mote’s Senior Vice President of Research. Mote is an independent research institution that has been a leader in marine research for 60 years. Previously Crosby spent time Associate Vice President for Research at George Mason University and Vice Chancellor for Research at University of Hawaii-Hilo, and he held several positions with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Crosby has led major national and international multi-discipline, multi-year research projects, and has published more than 50 articles in professional and scientific trade journals. He received his Ph.D. from University of Maryland, and his B.S., M.S. from Old Dominion University.
- Erin (Dunn) Muir
Erin Muir is a founding co-chair of Flagler’s Folly Society (FFS), a member organization of the Foundation, formed in 2015 to promote the mission to preserve and share the history of the Upper Keys. The membership is geared toward young professionals and those interested in a part philanthropic/part social member organization. A graduate of Coral Shores High School, Muir serves as legislative aide to State Rep. Holly Raschein since 2012. Prior to returning home to Tavernier where she grew up, Muir worked in the not-for-profit field. In addition to the FFS, she is the chair of the Florida Keys Healthy Start Coalition, an advisory member with the Florida Keys Council of the Arts, founding board member of Elite Dance of the Keys, a trustee of the Historical Preservation Society of the Upper Keys, and a member of the Mariners Hospital Young Philanthropists of Baptist Health. She also is a graduate of Leadership Monroe, Class XXIII. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the Honors College at the University of Florida. Continuing her education at UF, she received a master’s degree in public affairs in 2009. She lives in Tavernier with husband Sam Muir, a nuclear engineer at Turkey Point, and their baby Violet.
- Frank Derfler
Frank Derfler is a 20-year resident of Islamorada and a career U.S. Air Force officer who retired in 1987 in the active duty grade of Lieutenant Colonel. He spent decades in information technology and network publishing, writing hundreds of articles and columns, and serving as an expert speaking across the country. He worked for PC Magazine as a senior editor and served as vice president of Ziff Davis Media. In addition to his magazine publications, Derfler has written 22 published books on networks and information systems acquisition, as well as two novels. A long-time member of the Rotary Club of the Upper Keys, he currently serves as president of the organization. Derfler also is a Board member with the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center.
- Click to see directors bios
- Jill Miranda Baker, Executive Director
A native of South Florida, Jill began her career as a reporter for the Deerfield Beach Observer before joining the South Florida Newspaper Network. She spent several years working for State Representative Rick Minton, Jr. before joining Mariners Hospital/Baptist Health South Florida in 1997 as manager, marketing and public relations. She became manager, medical staff services in 2005.
She has received numerous awards including various Mark of Excellence awards from the Florida Society of Healthcare Public Relations and Marketing. In 2002, she was named Woman of the Year by the Upper Keys Business & Professional Women’s group. In 2011, she received the Certified Green Business Award from Keys GLEE for Mariners’ activities, commitment and practice for a sustainable environment.
She is incoming president of the Rotary Club of the Upper Keys and is an ambassador of the Islamorada Chamber of Commerce. She has held board level positions with the Good Health Clinic, Treasure Village Montessori Charter School, the Florida Keys Area Health Education Center, the Rural Health Network of Monroe County and the Upper Keys Business & Professional Women. She is a 1999 graduate of Leadership Monroe.
Jill is married to long-time backcountry fishing guide Duane Baker, who recently finished his term as the Commodore of the Florida Keys Fishing Guides Association. They have two children. She is a graduate of Lynchburg College with degrees in communications/journalism and sociology, and has a Master of Management Degree from the University of Phoenix.
- Brad Bertelli, Curator/Historian
Born in Southern California, Brad Bertelli moved to Southwest Florida in 1989. Brad moved to the Florida Keys after earning his Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Miami in 2001. Brad is a Florida Keys historian specializing in Upper Keys history and has written four books about Florida and Keys history. Snorkeling Florida (2008) and Snorkeling the Florida Keys (2013) were published by University Press of Florida. Key Largo (2011) and Islamorada (2013) were published by Arcadia Publishing. He also co-wrote A Locals Guide to Bloodline: 50 Famous Film Locations in the Florida Keys. Brad’s column Notes on Keys History appears bi-weekly in The Reporter. Brad is the curator and historian at the Upper Keys museum, Keys History & Discovery Center.