For decades, the massive Pan American Airways Globe was a fixture at the old Miami Museum of Science.
Now, a renovated version will soon be on display at the Miami Worldcenter in Downtown Miami. But not without controversy as history collides with current events.
The world looked much different in 1934. The Nazi Party controlled Germany. The State of Israel didn’t yet exist. Much of Asia and Africa was carved up by European powers. The borders of the U.S.S.R, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, included what’s now the country of Ukraine.
Natella and Kevin O’Bryant live in the Miami Worldcenter and to them, the art installation will be a painful reminder of current events.
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“I have relatives in Ukraine, and I don’t know if they’re dead or alive,” said Natella O’Bryant, who is from Ukraine.
Russia invaded Ukraine earlier this year, in part to reconquer its former soviet boundaries.
“It is painful," Natella said. "At this point, there is war in Ukraine, and this is the map that Russia and Putin want to see on the globe."
The couple showed NBC 6 where the renovated Pan American Airways Globe will be placed beginning July 14, above where they walk to and from their home every day.
“It’s great in a museum. Every history book should have these historical political maps. You can’t understand history without it. But this isn’t a museum either of history or art. This is a place of honor in our community,” said Kevin.
The globe is an important historical artifact in South Florida. The 31-foot-5-inch, 6,500-pound globe started in the former Pan American terminal on Dinner Key, which it’s now Miami City Hall.
For more than 50 years, it was in the lobby of the old Miami Museum of Science. At some point, the map on the globe was changed to only show topographical features but in 2012, the original 1930’s era map was returned.
It was too complicated to move to the new building at the Frost Museum so beginning in 2020, the Miami Worldcenter began investing $700,000 to restore and weatherproof the globe with its original “circa 1934” era lines.
NBC 6 shared the couple’s concerns with the Miami Worldcenter.
A spokesperson sent a statement, writing in part: “The Pan-Am globe is an iconic piece of Miami history which dates back to the 1930s when it was originally displayed at the airline’s terminal at Dinner Key. After calling the former Miami Science Museum home for more than 50 years, the future of the globe was at risk. Presented with the opportunity to preserve the globe and make it available for public viewing, Miami Worldcenter worked with HistoryMiami and Frost Science to conserve and pay tribute to this historical artifact.”
She went on to say “The Pan-Am globe depicts the world at a critical point in history – prior to World War II and when Miami was first realizing its position as a gateway for tourism and transportation.”
The Miami Worldcenter is going to be a 27-acre, $4 billion mixed-use development in Downtown Miami. The Miami Wordcenter’s spokesperson told NBC 6 that the globe is planned to be the focal point.
Earlier this year, the electronic message on top of the Miami Worldcenter was changed to the “World’s Tallest Digital Ukrainian Flag” to show solidarity with the people of Ukraine after the Russian invasion.
The president and CEO of the Frost Museum, Frank Steslow, wrote NBC 6, “It was important to the museum to find a partner that would care for this historic piece and ensure that the community can continue to enjoy this local icon.”
Natella and Kevin O’Bryant say the globe is historic and it is art; but they wish it was a current-day map recognized by the United Nations, instead of one based on the past.
“Maybe Ukrainian diaspora is not that large here but it’s no less painful,” Natella said.