What’s the saying about “the best-laid plans?” On occasion, those plans for a day of “celebrating all things Florida” are impacted for one reason or another. The day we loaded up and headed towards the St. Marks Lighthouse in Wakulla County, Mother Nature had a different idea. As the skies turned gray and it was obvious we were heading into rain, we went on to Plan B: The Museum of Florida History in Tallahassee.
Not all museums are child-friendly, but the Museum of Florida History is. Our group included my grandchildren, ages six months, three and five. Obviously, the two older ones were the ones we had to keep interested – and from the moment we arrived, they were!
Just inside the door, visitors are greeted by a mastodon, found in Wakulla Springs and one of the original exhibits from the Museum’s opening in 1977.
The Museum houses four permanent exhibits: Forever Changed: La Florida 1513 – 1821, Florida in the Civil War, World War II and Naval Ships Named Florida. Colorful displays, informational panels, and replicas of Spanish ships provide visitors with a “walk through time.”
In addition to the exhibits themselves, there are more than 45,700 artifacts on display throughout the museum. Military artifacts from the Civil War and World War II are featured prominently in the Museum, as well as jewelry and gold coins.
Many of the exhibits also offer opportunities to interact with Florida history – whether it’s picking up a six-pound shot from an iron cannon on a Spanish merchant vessel…
Or taking the helm of a river boat.
And for the older visitors, knot tying is a skill you can practice on board the Spanish ship.
Florida history truly comes to life for visitors of all ages with these fun displays.
One of the favorite hands-on exhibits is Grandma’s Attic. Imagine what it was like to walk up the stairs to the attic and finding a treasure trove of things to play with. That’s how this exhibit is set up – housing all those things Grandma didn’t want to get rid of. Games, clothes, and an old stove are just a few of the items to entertain visitors. And it’s not just for the little tykes. There is something in this attic people of all ages can remember.
Besides the permanent displays, the Museum houses temporary exhibits. The current exhibit (through July 23, 2017) is Beaches, Creatures and Cowboys: Florida Movie Posters. Representing films in Florida from the 1920s to the present, there are nearly 50 movie posters and other advertising memorabilia on display.
It’s fun to see how many of them you knew were filmed in Florida, like Apollo 13 or The Yearling, but, did you know Edward Scissorhands also has a Florida tie? You’ll even see a poster for Creature from the Black Lagoon, filmed in nearby Wakulla Springs.
Other Things to See
There is so much more to see at the Museum than just these exhibits. The Museum houses a complete collection of art from each of the 26 Florida Highwaymen, a group of African American artists who traveled the highways of south Florida selling their paintings in the 1960s and 1970s.
Even after you leave the building, the exhibits continue. Just outside the Museum is Florida’s World War II Monument. Completed in 2004, it is dedicated to the 248,000 Floridians who served in the Armed Services during the war, including the 4,600 who paid the ultimate sacrifice. The centerpiece of the memorial is a replica of Florida’s pillar at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The monument sits at the end of a path lined with markers for each of the state’s 67 counties and provides local connections and reverence for the war effort.
The Museum of Florida History is open Monday – Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday and holidays from Noon to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free. It’s a great place to spend the day – whether to get in out of the heat or in out of the Florida rain.