Current Exhibits

Gators and Beyond: A Sports History of Alachua County

August 8, 2018 – February 16, 2019

Main Exhibit Hall

From the earliest days of the East Florida Seminary up to today when the Gators dominate, sports have always been part of the fabric of Alachua County. However, there is more to the story than just the University of Florida. Gators and Beyond: A Sports History of Alachua County, examines lesser known sports teams like the G-Men baseball team and the Fighting Terriers of Lincoln High School alongside stories like the first female cheerleader at UF.

This exhibit was made possible by a gift from Rick and Barbara Anderson.

Finding the Fountain of Youth: Exploring the Myth of Florida’s Magical Waters

Mary Ann Cofrin Exhibit Hall

This exhibit is based upon Rick Kilby’s award-winning book, Finding the Fountain of Youth: Ponce de Leon and Florida’s Magical Waters. The former traveling exhibit was created by the Florida Museum of Natural History and was donated to the Matheson by author Rick Kilby. The exhibit examines how the legend of Ponce de Leon’s quest for restorative waters shaped the Sunshine State’s image as a land of fantasy, rejuvenation and magical spring-fed waters.

Featured Image (above) – 1949 Lincoln High School football team – courtesy of the Matheson History Museum collection

Upcoming Programs

10 Foods that Define Florida
with Gary Mormino
Saturday, January 12

What are the most iconic foods that define the Sunshine State? Caldo gallego, gazpacho, or black bean soup? Key Lime or sweet potato pie? Was the Cuban sandwich invented in Tampa but perfected in Miami? How does one explain the rise of the grouper sandwich? What has happened to our once vaunted oyster industry? Did Georgia, the Carolinas, and Texas simply export its barbecue into Florida or does the Sunshine State have its own BBQ heritage? Gary Mormino teaches a class in food history at the University of South Florida and is writing a book on Florida foodways.

This program is a part of the Florida Humanities Speakers Series “Weird, Wild, Wonderful Florida.”

An African American History of Alachua County
with Lizzie P. R. B. Jenkins
Thursday, February 7, 2019

We are honored to welcome author and historian Lizzie P.R.B. Jenkins to share about the storied history of African Americans in Alachua County.

Alachua County’s African American ancestry contributed significantly to the area’s history. Once enslaved pioneers Richard and Juliann Sams settled in Archer as early as 1839. They were former slaves of James M. Parchman, who journeyed through the wilderness from Parchman, Mississippi. They and others shaped the county’s history through inventions, education, and a work ethic based on spirituality. Lizzie Jenkin’s book, Alachua County, Florida (Black America Series), shows people working together from the early 1800s rural farm life, when racial violence was routine, until African Americans broke the chains of injustice and started organizing and controlling civic affairs.

A book signing will follow her presentation.

Cypress Gardens: America’s Tropical Waterland
with Lu Vickers
Saturday, February 9

When Dick Pope transformed the swampland on the edge of Lake Eloise in Winter Haven into Cypress Gardens, he created an attraction that would become world famous, and in the process, cemented Florida’s reputation as the land of sun and fun. He achieved these feats with the unlikely combination of flowers, water skiers and Southern Belles. Lu Vickers’ talk on Cypress Gardens will feature a slide show of vintage photographs from the Garden’s archives that will take the audience on a journey through Cypress Garden’s history from the 1930s to 2009 when it was sold to Legoland. Vickers will discuss the creation of the world famous waterski show, the Gardens, and the iconic Southern Belles, and will explain how Dick Pope, Cypress Garden’s flamboyant owner, became known as the “Man who Invented Florida.”

This program is a part of the Florida Humanities Speakers Series “Weird, Wild, Wonderful Florida.”

Oh, Florida!
with Craig Pittman
Saturday, February 23

To some people, Florida is a paradise; to others, a punch line. As Oh, Florida! shows, it’s both of these and, more important, it’s a Petri dish, producing trends that end up influencing the rest of the country. To outsiders, Florida seems baffling. It’s a state where the voters went for Barack Obama twice, yet elected a Tea Party candidate as governor. Florida is touted as a carefree paradise, yet it’s also known for its perils―alligators, sinkholes, pythons, hurricanes, and sharks, to name a few. It attracts 90 million visitors a year, some drawn by its impressive natural beauty, others bewitched by its manmade fantasies.

Oh, Florida! explores those contradictions and shows how they fit together to make this the most interesting state. It is the first book to explore the reasons why Florida is so wild and weird―and why that’s okay. But there is far more to Florida than its sideshow freakiness. Oh, Florida! explains how Florida secretly, subtly influences all the other states in the Union, both for good and for ill.

Author and journalist Craig Pittman will share from his wealth of Oh, Florida! stories. A book signing will follow his presentation. This program is a part of the Florida Humanities Speakers Series “Weird, Wild, Wonderful Florida.”

Land of La Chua
Dance Alive National Ballet
at UF’s Phillips Center
Friday, March 1
$15 – $45

Celebrate Gainesville’s Birthday! Indian life, the beautiful springs, our town through the ages. It’s all there, with contributions from the Matheson History Museum, artist Margaret Tolbert, poet Lola Haskins, composer Stella Sung, Will McLean’s ‘Black Hat Troubadour’ songs, and much more. Created by choreographers Kim Tuttle and Judy Skinner. Click here to purchase tickets.

Cassadaga: Speaking of the Dead
with Gary Monroe
Saturday, April 6

Author and photographer Gary Monroe was allowed unrestricted access to Cassadaga, the Spiritualist community that was founded in central Florida more than a century ago on the principle of continuous life, the idea that spirits of the dead commune with the living. Though the founders of Cassadaga have passed on to the “spirit plane,” the quaint Victorian town remains the oldest continuously active center of the religion in the South. Gary Monroe’s visual presentation looks at the people, place and practices that exemplify Spiritualism–the Camp’s distinctive architecture, ritual life, core beliefs, séances, and healing work.

A book signing will follow his presentation. This program is a part of the Florida Humanities Council Speaker Series “Weird, Wild, Wonderful Florida.”