Current Exhibits

Liberating Learning?: The Story of Desegregation in Alachua County Schools

Main Exhibit Hall

The story of desegregation of schools in Alachua County is one of people from different backgrounds coming together to make a difficult time as painless as possible. There were some bumps in the road, such as the boycott of Lincoln High School in November of 1969 and the riot at Gainesville High School in March of 1970, but overall the black and white schools came together as smoothly as could be expected. On February 6, 1970 Alachua County had its first full day of desegregated classrooms, seven months earlier than they had planned. This “Fruitbasket Turnover” required closing Lincoln High School, a pillar of the black community, and transferring all of its students and staff to formerly white schools. This loss is one that is still felt today.

The exhibition includes images from Lincoln High School and Gainesville High School yearbooks and images on loan from the Lincoln High School Alumni Association.

Featured image – Gainesville High School cheerleaders, 1971 Hurricane

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.

Upcoming Program

Idylwild Cowgirls
with Debra Segal
Thursday, November 16
6 p.m. – FREE

The Matheson History Museum is excited to welcome local author Debra Segal to discuss her young adult adventure novel, Idylwild Cowgirls. A book signing will follow her presentation.

Set in 1973, the book follows a group of adventurous young cowgirls through their many escapades along the roads and trails of rural south Gainesville.  The story straddles the line between fiction and nonfiction.  Most of the adventures are based on true stories from an authentic group of girls who lived in the Idylwild neighborhood. Paynes Prairie, with its unimaginable number of snakes and alligators, plays prominently in the book.

Lincoln High School: Its History and Legacy
with Albert E. White
Thursday, November 30
6 p.m.
FREE (pre-registration via Eventbrite required)

We are honored to welcome author Albert E. White, current president of the Lincoln High School Alumni Association, to speak about his book, “Lincoln High School: Its History and Legacy.” Opened in 1923, Lincoln High School (LHS) replaced Union Academy, the premier school for African American students in Alachua County. Lincoln High School was accredited in 1926, only the second African-American high school in the state to do so. For over 40 years LHS was an integral part of the African-American community and protests were staged in 1969 when the school board decided to close it rather than integrate it. A book signing with co-author Dr. Kevin McCarthy will follow Mr. White’s presentation.

Space is limited for this free program. Please RSVP via Eventbrite.

Desegregation in Alachua County
with Michael Gengler
Thursday, December 7
6 p.m.
FREE (pre-registration via Eventbrite required)

The 1960s and 1970s were decades of turmoil and great change in the United States. Court-ordered desegregation of schools and public spaces was one of those much-needed changes. Michael Gengler’s research on the desegregation of public schools in Alachua County will be published sometime next year. In the meantime, we look forward to hearing him speak about his research. Mr. Gengler graduated from Gainesville High School in 1962. Space is limited for this FREE program so attendees must RSVP via Eventbrite.

What the Lions Saw Book Launch
with Mae Clark and Justine Andersen
Thursday, December 14
6 p.m. – FREE

We are thrilled to partner with the Sequential Artists Workshop (SAW) to bring to life the beautiful book, What the Lions Saw. Written by Matheson board member Mae Clark and illustrated by master illustrator Justine Andersen, What the Lions Saw relates Alachua County’s history through the eyes of the twin copper lions that used to sit atop the north and south entrances of the 1885 Alachua County Courthouse. Readers will learn about everything from visits from celebrities such as Babe Ruth and Booker T. Washington to famous court cases held in the historic courthouse.

The History of Tacachale
with Steve Noll
Thursday, January 25, 2018
6 p.m.
FREE (pre-registration via Eventbrite required)

The Matheson History Museum is honored to welcome author and historian Steve Noll to share the history of Tacachale and discuss his book, “Feeble-Minded in Our Midst: Institutions for the Mentally Retarded in the South, 1900-1940.” A book signing will follow his presentation. Space is limited for this FREE program. Please RSVP via Eventbrite. (Registration starts Dec. 1.)

Originally named the Florida Farm Colony for the Feeble Minded and Epileptic, Tacachale opened in November 1921 on 3,000 acres and was the first state-funded program for residents with developmental challenges. Today it is one of two such institutions in the state and is run by the state Agency for Persons with Disabilities. In his book, Steve Noll traces the history and development of institutions for the ‘feeble-minded,’ such as Tacachale, in the South between 1900 and 1940. He examines the influences of gender, race, and class in the institutionalization process and relates policies in the South to those in the North and Midwest, regions that had established similar institutions much earlier. At the center of the story is the debate between the humanitarians, who advocated institutionalization as a way of protecting and ministering to the mentally deficient, and public policy adherents, who were primarily interested in controlling and isolating perceived deviants.