Current Exhibitions

Trailblazers: 150 Years of Alachua County Women

Main Exhibit Hall

Please click on the image below to view an online version of this exhibition.

Click on image to view online exhibition

This year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in the United States. As a part of that celebration we are opening an original exhibition entitled Trailblazers: 150 Years of Alachua County Women. This exhibition highlights the lives and accomplishments of eleven women from cities throughout Alachua County. We will tell their stories, some for the first time, to call attention to the oft forgotten contributions of women in our history and in the history of Alachua County. While we are unable to call attention to every woman who has made an impact on the county, these eleven women represent various backgrounds, experiences, and fields of work, all of which are significant to the past and present success of Alachua County.

The eleven women featured in the exhibition are: Sarah Hamilton Matheson, Dr. Sarah Lucretia Robb, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Marjorie Harris Carr, Vivian Washington Filer, Daphne Duval Williams, Judith Brown, Margaret Tebeau, Clara Floyd Gehan, Mary Etta Cubberly, and Emmaline Buchholz.

McCarthy Moment: The Johns Committee in Florida

Mary Ann Cofrin Exhibit Hall

Please click on the image below to view an online version of this exhibition.

“Have you ever been engaged in any homosexual activities here in Gainesville?”

This question forever altered dozens of lives at the University of Florida between 1958 and 1959.

In 1956, State Senator Charley Eugene Johns created the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee. Better known as the Johns Committee, it tried to uncover subversive activity in Florida.

Their first target was the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The Committee used Communists as an excuse to prevent integration in public schools. The NAACP’s members and lawyers proved too hard for the Committee to beat.  Soon an embarrassed Johns looked for easier victims.

At this time, Americans thought being gay was a shameful mental disorder. It was something to hide and keep secret. It was also illegal in Florida. This secrecy made gay people more vulnerable to the persecution of the Johns Committee. Committee members threatened people with exposure and prison if they did not cooperate. This reign of terror led to dozens of professors and students leaving the university. Although we will never know everyone the Committee hurt, this exhibition seeks to tell their stories.

**The “McCarthy Moment” exhibition does contain sensitive information, including self-harm, sexual acts, and persecution of the LGBTQ+ community. Museum staff is available if any visitor would like more information before entering the exhibition.

When Johnny Came Marching Home: Some Gave All – All Gave Some

by Ken McGurn and Matthew Pollard

Outdoor Exhibition – located on the west side of the main Matheson building behind the set of flag poles along Sweetwater Branch

This sculpture was designed by Ken McGurn and fabricated by Matthew Pollard. In partnership with the Matheson, the City of Gainesville and Ken McGurn the artwork will remain here for a year or more. Next time you’re downtown spend a few minutes viewing the artwork and remembering those who came home from war with both physical and mental wounds.

McGurn: “We honor the dead, but often ignore the wounds, both physical and mental, carried by those who returned. I did this to remind people that war leaves wounds and to heal some of my own memories. The first represents the soldier in his shiny new uniform marching off to war, rifle over his shoulder. The second is unfinished, rusting brown representing the soldier as he patrols in the jungle, rifle across his chest in the ready position. The third is the soldier home from war. The ‘rifle’ is now a crutch where his missing a leg. The material is steel representing the soldier’s strength.”

Ken McGurn served in the Army and Army Reserves from 1963 to 1979. He was deployed to Vietnam in 1965 and Germany from 1968-1970. We honor all of those who served.

Lights of Conversation

by Sylvi Herrick and Janessa Martin

Outdoor Exhibition – located on the front of the Matheson History Museum and Matheson Library & Archives buildings

Installed outside of buildings, in public space weaving luminous colorful lights with poetry by Janessa Martin, artist Sylvi Herrick’s ‘Lights of Conversation,’ builds on the current activism and discussions about racism and inequalities in America and hopes to evoke enduring new discussions and clarity about underlying prejudices, how they impact us all, how we must respect and learn from each other to create and nurture a new and equal future for everyone.

There is still power in the written and spoken word. The conceptual elements in the work will leverage opening up real time conversations and aid in the transformation of fears and misinformation, spread compassion and hopefully nudge hearts towards the fight for solutions.

A call and response, on opposite sides of the street/buildings/walls. Common ground in public space. A pair of neon poetry panels displaying texts from Janessa Martin’s poems, “fear of crows (and blackness)” and “a crow’s message.” Flashing back and forth mimicking dialogue.

The two neon verses face each other and represent a conversation which requires more than one person. Creating a brave, inclusive, contemplative, encouraging peace. People activate the work by being in the delicate meeting place in between while their perception/discussions become the soul of the work. Passersby, the community, are in it, part of it, expanding on it, an opportunity to address the why.

COVID-19 Community Archive

Online Exhibition

Please click on the image below to view an online version of this exhibition.

This exhibition was created with the help of our community members. We are one of the primary organizations dedicated to Alachua County history. As we conduct research, we often wish that we had more photographs, narratives, and documentation from the past. Living through the COVID-19 pandemic gives us all a unique opportunity to create and collect these primary sources for the future. We will continue to add images and personal narratives to the COVID-19 Community Archive exhibition as they are received, so check back weekly!

Featured image (above) – One of the two pieces of the “Lights of Conversation” artwork created by Sylvi Herrick