Editor’s Note: This article was inspired by a question submitted from Miami Herald reader Steven Boyd through Curious305, our community-powered reporting series that solicits questions from readers about Miami-Dade, Broward, the Florida Keys and the rest of the Sunshine State. Submit your question here or scroll down to fill out our form.
Hey, Curious305: There used to be a beautiful revolving globe in the lobby of the Miami Science Museum and Space Transit Planetarium. What happened to that fabulous Miami landmark? Where is it now? What will happen to it?
“The 6,500-pound, painted steel Pan Am globe was a memorable highlight for generations of patrons who visited the former Coconut Grove location. Due to the complexity and the cost of relocating the globe from its position in the museum lobby, Frost Science identified a local partner who took ownership of the globe in 2020,” said Joseph Quiñones, the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science’s vice president of marketing.
That partner’s identity will be revealed later this year when the globe’s unveiling will be dedicated at a public space in downtown Miami a few blocks away from the Frost Science museum.
What’s happened to the globe?
In January 2021, the painted steel Pan Am globe was put aboard a flatbed truck and removed from its storage space to a temporary location for what Quiñones calls an “extensive restoration” process.
Restoration was initially scheduled to be completed this March with a formal announcement and unveiling to be scheduled afterward.
Restoration is still moving along nicely and that unveiling of the Pan Am globe is still on tap to happen in 2022.
But given the recent spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 omicron variant, the restoration process and the installation are taking longer. The completion is now extended beyond March, according to both Quiñones and the Miami publicity firm that is handling the unveiling announcement.
According to the agency, the placement of the globe will be in a place that protects the historic globe from the elements. The new location of the globe around Biscayne Boulevard, and whether it will be inside or outside, has not been revealed yet.
History of the globe
Now that we know the globe is apparently well and bound to make its public bow again, let’s take a look back at its history.
The painted steel rotating globe greeted visitors at the old Miami Museum of Science for 55 years until the museum’s closing in 2015. The globe, manufactured by Rand McNally, was originally commissioned in the 1930s by Pan American Airways to serve as the centerpiece of its Dinner Key airboat terminal, “an iconic reminder of its halcyon early days of international flight,” the Miami Herald reported in 2015.
Before it became a museum piece, the globe — with a circumference of 31 feet, five inches — was initially installed in the center of Pan Am’s Art Deco terminal that opened in 1934 at Dinner Key. Pan Am, at the time, provided what was then a novel service — regular commercial passenger flights to Cuba and the Bahamas. That building eventually became Miami City Hall.
The globe is adorned with country names, geographical features, ocean depths and political boundaries that were then in existence, plus existing air routes, the Herald reported in 2015.
This is not the first time the unforgettable globe has been tucked away, out of sight, in storage.
The Pan Am globe had a more ignoble fate before it was rescued by museum patrons from a leaky storage shed where it sat rusting for a decade after the now defunct Pan Am moved to Miami International Airport.
In 1960, the then-restored globe was hoisted into its longtime South Miami Avenue home while the former space and science museum was under construction. The hefty globe settled into its lobby space there before the roof was attached.
The coming reveal
Though Frost is no longer the globe’s owner, “It was important to the museum to ensure that the community can continue to enjoy this local icon,” Quiñones said.
The new owner and the publicity firm handling the announcement will be revealed later this year.
The globe did make a public appearance in the interim, however. Unannounced.
A spokeswoman for the publicity agency said that when it was being transported on that flatbed truck in January 2021 it passed by City Hall’s front entrance in Coconut Grove.
But, as Jimmy Buffett said in the title of his iconic, made-in-Miami live album of yesteryear, “you had to be there.”