Downtown Pensacola’s T.T. Wentworth Museum is one step closer to a new name, after receiving the state’s blessing to change it.
The Florida Historical Commission approved changing the museum’s name to the Pensacola Museum of History at the University of West Florida.
“The board voted to authorize me to reach out to the state Historic Preservation officer, to see if we could get before the Florida Historical Commission to request the name be changed, that happened,” said Rob Overton, who oversees the UWF Historic Trust.
The change comes after records were uncovered revealing T.T. Wentworth was a former cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s.
“I drafted the letter, and the Historical Commission met Friday, Feb. 5,” Overton said. “I participated in that meeting; it was an agenda item that they had [under] new business. They stated our request, fielded some questions, a good bit of discussion, and the Historical Commission approved our request.”
Next up, an official letter from the State Historic Preservation Officer confirming same. Then UWF Historic Trust forwards that letter to the Internal Improvement Trust Fund – the board that manages state properties.
“I’m waiting on the written report from the [State Historic Preservation Office], and as soon as we get that we’ll get our packet together, Overton said. “In the meantime, the university’s Board of Trustees – in their March meeting – it should go before the board for them to actually weigh in on this before we send our packet in.”
The proposed name — Pensacola Museum of History at the University of West Florida — falls into line with some of the other museums managed by the UWF Historic Trust.
“Like the Pensacola Museum of Art; Pensacola Children’s Museum, [and] the Museum of Commerce,” said Overton. “It’s a descriptive name so that people, local, but even the visitors coming in they know what the museum is, and what they can expect to see when they go in there.”
Aside from the new signage, Overton says no real changes are expected to be made either outside or inside – including display of the thousands of pieces of memorabilia donated by T.T. Wentworth, who collected them over a span of decades.
“The collection that was donated by Mr. Wentworth pre-dated the actual opening of the museum and the naming [of] if,” said Overton. “We will still house the collection. It was a gift; he’s the person that gave it to us, so if we do credit where the collection came from it will have to be ‘The Wentworth Collection.’ I can’t change those facts.”
There’s no set time line for the change just yet, but there’s other activity on tap for the museum in the coming months including, what Overton considers, an important continued discussion of the KKK in Pensacola.
“One of the Historical Commission’s concerns was that we were going to change the name and not talk about this period in our history,” Overton said. “I think what this creates is an opportunity to talk about the Ku Klux Klan in Pensacola and juxtapose that with what was going on in the rest of the nation – and what does that tell us about the past, but also help us understand about what’s going on today.”
In continuing the dialogue about Pensacola’s Klan history, many believe that will help avoid the words of American philosopher George Santayana: “those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.”