The Matheson History Museum is located in Gainesville, Florida. Visitors to the museum will learning the history of Florida and specifically Alachua County, through its extensive collection of postcards, stereoview cards, illustrations from famous newspapers, photos, exhibits and archives.
The Matheson History Museum commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of Alachua County Historical Society in 2017. The museum and the historical society merged when the museum was opened in 1994.The opening of the Museum marked the sesquicentennial of the Matheson House built in 1867. Sarah Hamilton Matheson was a member and former president of the Alachua County Historical Society. She founded a trust that donated the Matheson House to the Society in 1977. She was also the person who established the Matheson Historical Center later renamed Matheson History Museum.
The roots of the Museum go all the way back to the Alachua County Historical Society’s founding in 1967. Meetings of the Society were held in the homes of members and showcased programs by significant speakers before the Museum was established. The Society’s goal was to interpret and preserve the history of Florida by constructing markers, and hosting field trips and regular programs to important historical sites.
Late in the 1880s the Society worked to create the library and collections for the museum which would be housed in the American Legion Hall. The Hall would be renovated by Jay Reeve an architect. Today’s Matheson History Museum preserves and interprets Alachua County and its surroundings through preservation.
The Matheson History Museum offers tours of its various exhibits.
Timucuan Canoe- This exhibit displays a canoe that is 1,400 years old. It was unearthed in 2011 in a disappearing pond of Alachua County. The canoe was preserved through the partnership of the Matheson History Museum and the Florida Museum of Natural History. The exhibit also features mural that serves as a backdrop for the canoe that was created by Stacey Breheny.
Matheson & Company Store- This exhibit is a recreation of the original store the way it looked in the early twentieth century. The store was opened as a general store in 1867 in downtown Gainesville, but changed to specializing in leather and shoes in the 1890s.
History of Alachua County- Examines the history of the country beginning with its Timucuan Tribe who were the first people to settle the area, and ends with the early twentieth century. Visitors can discover the history that includes the visit of William Bartram in 1774, Florida’s Spanish occupation, and the University of Florida’s history.
Historic 1885 Alachua County Courthouse- This exhibit features artifacts from the courthouse from 1885. Visitors will find the Florida Coat of Arms hanging in the hall of exhibits. This coat of arms is one of the two original copper renditions that used to be at the courthouse before it was demolished in 1961. A copper lion that once adorned the courthouses doors is on loan the Matheson History Museum from the county.
Some features of the Matheson History Museum collections include more than twenty thousand Florida postcards throughout the state's history presenting each county. The collection also houses one thousand five hundred stereoview cards, a huge collection of illustrations of the state that came from various newspapers and magazines, the Bone Photo Collection which highlights photographs that were taken by Matheson resident, Elmer Bone spanning the years between the 1920s and 1950s. Local social and civic group records are also stored here.
The Museum’s library is catalogued as part of the collection of the Alachua County Library District. They can be searched on the website for the County Library.
The Museum also contains a big collection of stereoscopic views that come from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These views show different locations around Florida and capture the time in the state’s history when it went through an enormous growth in industry, tourism, agriculture, and development.
1867 Matheson House- The Matheson House is affiliated with the Matheson History Museum and offers tours for the public and private school fieldtrips. Visitors with an appreciation for architecture will enjoy the house and it’s many architectural elements.
The Museum itself is an educational opportunity. Visitor learn the history of Florida and more specifically Alachua County. Field trips are offered for all grades.
The Matheson History Museum offers temporary exhibits throughout the year.
Liberating Learning?: The Story of Desegregation in Alachua County Schools- This exhibit explores the impact desegregation had on the community and schools.
Finding the Foundation of Youth: Exploring the Myths of Florida’s Magical Waters- This exhibit explores how the story of Ponce de Leon’s journey to find the Fountain of Youth impacted and shaped Florida’s image as a land of rejuvenation, fantasy, and spring-fed magical waters.
513 East University Avenue, Gainesville, FL 32601, Phone: 352-378-2280