TARPON SPRINGS — At 11 a.m. today, the public will be able to once again visit the Heritage Museum, which has been closed for several months while workers updated one area and repaired another that was damaged from an electrical fire last winter.
Although it continues to be a place inviting visitors to celebrate the history, culture and environment of the city, one portion of the museum reopens with major changes. The area formerly known as the Ecology Wing will now be called the Gen Haley Ecology Wing, dedicated to the longtime city employee who was shot by her husband in a murder-suicide in 2014.
Haley, who worked in the cultural and civic services department for many years, was known for her commitment to wildlife and founded the city's Manatee Festival.
"We've gone through tragedy, and we see this as a new era, and at the same time, we wanted to remember her," said Kathleen Monahan, who was Haley's supervisor.
Artist Christopher Still, whose art graces the chamber of Florida's House of Representatives, donated 10 oversized prints of some of his most well-known work for the reopening. It will be displayed with the help of a new track lighting system.
As a longtime resident of Tarpon Springs, Still stressed that the museum is an important part of the city, calling it a little place on the bayou "with a big heart."
He added that Haley brought attention to the local environment.
"The tragedy of Gen Haley took us all by surprise, and I wanted to help with that effort too," Still said.'
Along with the Still collection, another piece of art celebrating the life of Haley will now grace the entry of the museum. It is a mermaid sculpture made by Haley's mother, artist June Fox.
"I started the mermaid before Gen died, and I felt it should be here," said Fox, who was surprised by the announcement of the new name for the wing. "And having them name the wing for her means everything."
Contact Piper Castillo at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @Florida_PBJC.