By John Tapley
Scuba diving institutions serve as a valuable hub for divers to congregate and learn more about their favorite sport, and in areas where diving opportunities are be limited, perform an instrumental service in encouraging people to explore the blue. One of these homebrewed institutions, the Scuba Museum of Indianapolis, shares the rich evolution of dive technology and culture through displays and exhibits that electrify the imagination while paying tribute to the past.
The Scuba Museum encompasses 1,000 square feet within Divers Supply Indy: a long-established dive center within the heart of Indianapolis. The collection boasts several thousand diverse pieces, ranging from military technology to camera equipment: 150 double and 300 single hose regulators; over 300 gauges; over 100 tanks; hundreds of diver knives. Scuba diving’s inclusion in culture – particularly through the 60s to 80s – is displayed proudly through board games, toys, miniatures, and memorabilia: examples include tanks and a knife used by 007; Sea Hunt tableaus; and more obscure findings such as vintage comic books.
The Scuba Museum first opened its doors in 2000 through the work and dedication of longtime aqua explorer and scuba diver Karl Gehring. Inspired by the fearless feats portrayed in Sea Hunt, and the splendor of the sea shared by Jacques Cousteau, Gehring developed a fascination with vintage scuba equipment; his intensity for rare, exclusive pieces came to the fore after earning his certification.
“When I got certified I wanted to try a double hose US Divers regulator,” explains Gehring. “I tried it, decided it was cool, and decided to collect all the US Divers regulators. That was the beginning of the collection: it spans from tanks from the 1930s all the way to items from the ‘80s and ‘90s – mainly stuff from pre-1975.”
With thousands of pieces to view and appreciate, even Gehring has his favorites.
“I tend to like the military gear like the double-90 aluminum tanks and the Bio Systems regulator,” he says, “which was made after US Divers quit making the double hose regulators in the mid-70s – Bio Systems only made a couple regulators for the military. I’ve recently acquired the Aqualung mentor: they made 150 pieces for the military in 2011.”
“I’ve got a few rare pieces,” he laughs.
The Indianapolis Scuba Museum is open for viewing during regular Divers Supply Indy business hours: 10 am to 7 pm Monday through Friday and 10 to 5 on Saturdays. Viewing the museum is completely free of charge, and Gehring is working on forming his collection into a non-profit entity.
“I do accept donations,” he says. “I do not sell it off to make a profit; if I do sell it, I invest it right back into the museum for something else. I’m always willing to take old scuba equipment and find a new home for it – for display here.”
Since its inception in 2000, the Scuba Museum has proudly shared its exhibits with groups and individuals: high school students; Indy 500 vacationers; local divers. Its opportunities have a broad appeal: taking visitors back in time and letting them experience the evolution of diving.
For more details on the Scuba Museum, visit www.scubamuseum.com or connect with it directly on Facebook at www.facebook.com/scubamuseum.