513 East University Avenue, Gainesville, FL 32601
Upcoming Museum Closure: Tuesday-Saturday, June 26-30
All exhibits and programs are located in the main Matheson History Museum building, as well as the museum’s gift shop and offices. The museum is housed in the former American Legion Hall, which was built in 1932. Prior to the American Legion Hall the Florida Winter Bible College Tabernacle (seen below) was located on this spot. Traveling Chautauquas were held in the Tabernacle into the early 1930s. Learn more about the Chaqutauqua Movement in this Florida Revealed post.
The exhibit hall has expanded! The former research library was converted into the Mary Ann Cofrin Exhibit Hall in honor of a long-time supporter of the museum. It provides additional space for temporary and permanent exhibits on local and Florida history.
The Matheson’s speaker series takes place throughout the year and features local and Florida authors and historians. The museum’s gift shops carries signed copies of dozens of Florida authors who have participated in the series. Visit our Events page to find out who will be speaking next.
Tours of the current temporary exhibit are available free of charge. To schedule a tour please contact Peggy Macdonald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 352-378-2280.
Timucuan Canoe – The 1,400 year old canoe was discovered in 2011 in a receding pond in Alachua County. The Matheson partnered with the Florida Museum of Natural History to preserve the canoe. The exhibit also includes a mural backdrop painted by artist Stacey Breheny.
Matheson & Company Store – The museum houses a re-creation of the Matheson & Company Store as it would have looked at the turn of the 20th century. Opened in 1867 on the courthouse square in downtown Gainesville, it began life as a general store but by the 1890s specialized in shoes and leather. Read more about the store’s history in this Florida Revealed post.
History of Alachua County – This exhibit explores the fascinating history of Alachua County from its first settlers, the Timucuan tribe, to the turn of the 20th century. Visitors will learn about everything from William Bartram’s visit in 1784, to the Spanish occupation of Florida, and the history of the University of Florida.
Historic 1885 Alachua County Courthouse – The museum is honored to house artifacts from the 1885 county courthouse, which was torn down in 1961. Located above the fireplace in the exhibit hall is one of the two copper Florida Coat of Arms, which used to be located above the north and south doors. A copper lion was also located above each door and the museum has one on loan from the county for the next two years. After a public contest he was named “General Gaines” in honor of the city’s namesake, General Edmund P. Gaines. Located in front of the Tison Tool Barn is one of the horse troughs from the courthouse. Keeping watch over the 1867 Matheson House is a 1913 city street lamp that was saved by Sarah Hamilton Matheson during World War II from being melted down for scrap. It is similar to the ones that were located around the courthouse square.
Past Temporary Exhibits
- River of Dreams: The St. Johns and Its Springs – Spring/Summer 2017
- Medical Milestones: Transitions in Health and Wellness in Alachua County, Florida – Fall 2016
- Liquid Gold: The Rise and Fall of Florida Citrus – Summer 2016
- Long Road to Freedom: The Florida Black Heritage Trail – Spring 2016
- Wings & Wild Spaces: WWII Training in Florida – Winter 2015
- Florida Girls & Boys & Their Toys – Winter 2015
- Saving the Sunshine State: Women Leaders in the Twentieth Century – Fall 2015
- Florida’s Global Kitchen – Summer 2015