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

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

Due to the overwhelming response to this program all attendees must register via –

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.

Lessons on the Cost of War
An Exhibit and Program Series
with the Veterans for Peace Gainesville Chapter 14 and UF’s Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Friday, March 1 – Sunday, March 3

The Chicago Veterans for Peace My Lai Memorial Exhibit is coming to the Matheson as part of the weekend-long program Lessons on the Cost of War. The exhibit and corresponding programs are sponsored by the Matheson History Museum, The Veterans for Peace Gainesville Chapter 14, and UF’s Samuel Proctor Oral History Program as part of their 50th Anniversary commemorations of the Vietnam War. Admission to the exhibit and all programs is free and will take place at the Matheson. A detailed schedule is listed below.

The My Lai Memorial Exhibit honors the Vietnamese who died in their American War. The exhibit is a strong, anti-war response to the Pentagon’s $63 million campaign commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War that attempts to glorify our unnecessary, unjust and immoral military actions in Vietnam and to promote our ongoing wars today.

Due to the graphic nature of some of the exhibit panels it is recommended that children younger than high school age not attend.



11 a.m. – 7 p.m. — My Lai Memorial Exhibit opens

7 p.m.— Screening of film Winter Soldier; Q&A with Scott Camil afterwards


11 a.m. – 4 p.m. — Exhibit open

2 p.m. — Panel discussion on the My Lai massacre moderated by Dr. Paul Ortiz, director of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program


11 a.m. – 4 p.m. — Exhibit open

2 p.m. — Panel discussion–The Cost of War

Re-Evaluating Women’s Page Journalism in the Post-World War II Era
with Kim Voss
Saturday, March 16

We are excited to welcome back Kimberly Wilmot Voss to discuss her latest book Re-Evaluating Women’s Page Journalism in the Post-World War II Era in celebration of Women’s History Month.

Re-Evaluating Women’s Page Journalism in the Post-World War II Era tells the stories of significant women’s page journalists who contributed to the women’s liberation movement and the journalism community. Previous versions of journalism history had reduced the role these women played at their newspapers and in their communities—if they were mentioned at all. For decades, the only place for women in newspapers was the women’s pages. While often dismissed as fluff by management, these sections in fact documented social changes in communities.

These women were smart, feisty and ahead of their times. They left a great legacy for today’s women journalists. This book brings these individual women together and allows for a broader understanding of women’s page journalism in the 1950s and 1960s. It details the significant roles they played in the post-World War II years, laying the foundation for a changing role for women.

The Journey Down Four Florida Roads
with James Williams
Saturday, May 11

Journalist and author James Williams will join us on May 11th to discuss his latest book Four Florida Roads.

Four Florida Roads is a narrative of these iconic roads: Bellamy Road, The Tamiami Trail, U.S. 301 and Interstate 95. The history of these four roads form “an eccentric but revealing history of the state.” In 1824 Congress appropriated $20,000,000 for the construction of a public road between St. Augustine and Pensacola. The Bellamy Road no longer exists but it was Florida’s first major federal road. The Tamiami Trail officially opened on April 25, 1928 and runs from Tampa to Miami. U.S. Highway 301 runs from Delaware to south Florida. The portion running through Florida was constructed in the late 1940s and 1950s and was the major north/south route prior to Interstate 95. The first section of Interstate 95 opened in Jacksonville in 1960. Today the interstate runs from Maine to Miami.

Cassadaga: Speaking of the Dead
with Gary Monroe
Saturday, May 18

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.”