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Key West pirate museum debuts

Pat Croce, former president and part-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team, wielded a replica pirate's sword Wednesday for "ribbon slashing" festivities to open his pirate museum in the Florida Keys.

Now a host of the daily television reality show, Pat Croce: Moving In, part-time Key West resident Croce is a collector of pirate memorabilia who says he use a pirate's philosophy to steer his business ventures.

"It's that whole adventure attitude: go at life with an attack mode in mind, no holds barred, take no prisoners and "carpe diem' _ seize the day," Croce said. "I did it with the Sixers' business; we went from worst to first, just with that attack mode in mind."

The Pirate Soul museum features about 500 authentic artifacts, many from Croce's private collection, depicting piracy's golden age from 1690 to 1730. The 5,000-square-foot, $10-million museum uses audio-animatronic elements to explore the lives of notorious buccaneers like shipmates Anne Bonny and Mary Read, and Florida Keys pirate Black Caesar.

Croce said the museum includes one of the only two authenticated pirate flags in the world and the world's only authenticated pirate treasure chest, which experts have traced to Captain Thomas Tew.

Museum visitors also can view the original journal of Captain Kidd's last voyage, a blunderbuss owned by Blackbeard, a 1696 "wanted poster" for the dreaded Henry Every, centuries-old surgical and navigational instruments, and an assortment of rare pirate gold and weapons.