Our Founders

Drs. Joe and Sally Bauer

During their respective medical careers, the Drs. Joe and Sally Bauer pursued avocations as marine biologists, SCUBA divers and diving historians. Their passion was to learn the evolution and history of man’s entry into the sea, and to share this largely untold story with others. Their focus and expertise is on the early history of diving and technology, prior to the development of SCUBA. After authoring the Diving Helmet chapter in The Pictorial History of Diving, they were founding members of the International Historical Diving Society of both the United Kingdom and the United States. The Bauers have published articles on diving history, based on their basic research of original documents in libraries throughout the world. They have discovered new links in the early progress of diving, which had previously been unrecognized. They have extensively studied ”open bottom” or shallow water diving helmets that were the most significant contribution of South Florida and the Keys to the worldwide history of diving, helmets that fostered the beginnings of modern marine biology and treasure salvage, underwater photography and sports diving.

Museum History

Over a span of forty years, the Bauers have acquired the world’s largest collection of diving helmets, hand-operated air pumps, armored suits, lights and other accessory gear, plus memorabilia, prints, photographs, books, film and video. Their passion took them to virtually every corner of the world and the Museum’s collection now represents the contributions of more than 30 countries to diving history.

As their research evolved and collections grew, the Bauers were inspired by the idea of using their collection—which had become the largest and most comprehensive in the world—as the basis for a museum to share their knowledge and passion for diving history with the public. Following the Bauers’ retirement, they moved permanently from Cleveland, Ohio to the Florida Keys, the perfect location to establish what became The History of Diving Museum.

The History of Diving Museum was first incorporated in 2000 and opened to the public on a part-time basis in September 2005.  For the next twelve months, the museum installed a new exhibit monthly, opening each exhibit with a lecture and tour. The museum began full-time operation  in September 2006.

Sadly, the museum suffered a tragic setback in early 2007. The unexpected death of Dr. Joseph Bauer left a large void in the overall organization and in historical documentation. Although, the museum took some time to recover, to its credit, it has managed to overcome and adapt.  Dr. Joseph Bauer’s legacy is a major theme at the museum and inspires its continued development.  Dr. Sally Bauer exemplifies the fortitude of the museum, and also serves a reminder of the original vision and purpose.