MIHS' Bell earns literary awards

Will Watts
Hand crafted skiff from 1940s at Marco Island Historical Museum.

The Marco Island Historical Society recently announced that their curator of collections, Austin J. Bell, has been recognized by the Florida Writers Association (FWA) Royal Palm Literary Awards (RPLA) with gold and silver awards for two of his written works that illuminate the MIHS collections.

The awards were announced at FWA’s recent remote awards ceremony. The annual competition received 422 submissions.

Marco Island Historical Museum Curator of Collections Austin Bell.

Bell received a gold award in the published blog or article category for “From Lantern Slides to Snapchat: The Key Marco Collection Rediscovered,” co-authored with Dr. Megan C. Kassabaum, Penn Museum Weingarten associate curator for North America. This piece features Marco Island’s priceless Key Marco artifacts — excavated in 1896, remarkably intact, from an oxygen free muck pit.

A number of the Key Marco artifacts, including the world-famous Key Marco Cat, are currently on exhibit at the Marco Island Historical Museum.

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Bell was recognized with a silver award in the published creative nonfiction category for his article, “A Hermit’s Handywork.” This piece tells the story of a long-forgotten wooden skiff, its reclusive maker and his difficult life as a hermit in Florida’s unforgiving Ten Thousand Islands. The skiff is on permanent display at the Marco Island Historical Museum.

“The quality of work submitted to our contest in this challenging year was simply amazing,” said William Opperman, RPLA chairperson. “To be singled out for an award is a true achievement.”

The Florida Writers Association, 1,600 members strong and growing, is a nonprofit 501(c)(6) organization that supports the state’s established and emerging writers.

Membership is open to the public. The Royal Palm Literary Awards competition is a service of the Florida Writers Association established to recognize excellence in its members’ published and unpublished works while providing objective and constructive written assessments for all entrants.

The Marco Island Historical Museum is located at 180 S. Heathwood Drive. The Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free and the site is handicapped accessible. For information, visit themihs.org.