Current Exhibition

Florida Founder William P. DuVal:

Frontier Bon Vivant

Thursday, February 2

6:00 p.m. – FREE

Dr. James M. Denham, Professor of History and Director of the Lawton M. Chiles Jr. Center for Florida History at Florida Southern College, will discuss his book, Florida Founder William P. DuVal: Frontier Bon Vivant, which examines the life of William Pope DuVal, who served as the Florida Territory's first civil governor. Appointed first by President James Monroe and subsequently by Presidents John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, DuVal founded Tallahassee and presided over the territory's first twelve territorial legislative sessions. A book signing will follow.

Remembering Paradise Park:

​Tourism and Segregation at Silver Springs

Saturday, February 11

2:00 p.m. – FREE

Lu Vickers and Cynthia Wilson-Graham will discuss their book, Remembering Paradise Park: Tourism and Segregation at Silver Springs, which chronicles the history of Silver Springs' sister park for African American patrons during the Jim Crow era. Lu Vickers is the author of Cypress Gardens, America's Tropical Wonderland: How Dick Pope Invented Florida and coauthor of Weeki Wachee Mermaids: Thirty Years of Underwater Photography. Cynthia Wilson-Graham is an educator and lecturer whose advocacy was instrumental to the installation of a historical marker by the Bureau of Historic Preservation at the former entrance to Paradise Park.

Stamped from the Beginning:

The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
Saturday, February 25
2 p.m. – FREE

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, University of Florida Assistant Professor of African American History and winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction, will discuss his new book, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. A book signing will follow his presentation. 

The Gulf: The Making of An American Sea

Book Launch 
Sunday, March 19 
2 p.m. – FREE

Dr. Jack E. Davis, award-winning author and Professor of Environmental History at the University of Florida, launches his new book, The Gulf: The Making of An American Sea. A book signing will follow Dr. Davis's talk. Davis is the author of the Florida Book Award-winning book, An Everglades Providence: Marjory Stoneman Douglas and the American  Environmental Century, and has written and co-edited several other books on Florida, environmental, race and gender history, including Paradise Lost?: The Environmental History of Florida and Making Waves: Female Activists in Twentieth-Century Florida.

History Paddle Tours with Lars Andersen

Saturday, March 25 – Ocklawaha River

Saturday, April 22 – St. Johns River

Lars Andersen, a High Springs-based nature guide and author of Paynes Prairie – The Great Savanna: A History and Guide, leads history-filled kayak tours on the Ocklawaha River (March 25) and the St. Johns (April 22). The Ocklawaha tour includes a discussion of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, William Bartram and the Cross Florida barge Canal. The St. Johns tour features the history of William Bartram's travels. To register for one or both of these river tours, contact Lars directly at or call (386) 454-0611. Lunch is included. Equipment rental is available.

Fake News, The Gainesville Sun and the Cuban War of Independence

Thursday, April 6

6 p.m. – FREE

Paul S. Losch, Head Librarian of the George A. Smathers Latin American and Caribbean Collection at the University of Florida, shares a gem of fake news from the pages of The Gainesville Sun, tracing Gainesville's connection to the Cuban War of Independence.

​American Heritage River:

Images from the St. Johns Region

Saturday, April 8

4 p.m. – FREE

Gary Monroe and Mallory O'Connor discuss their book, American Heritage River: Images from the St. Johns Region. The mighty St. Johns River flows from its headwaters near Lake Okeechobee north through central Florida to Jacksonville. The river and its tributaries have been part of the cultural landscape of the peninsula for thousands of years. From the Native Americans who first settled along its banks to the French, Spanish, British and American settlers who followed, it has been a source of food, water, transportation, industry, agriculture, and recreation. In 1998 the St. Johns was declared an American Heritage River, the only one in Florida and one of only fourteen in the country to be so designated. Mallory M. O'Connor is professor emerita of art history at Santa Fe College. Gary Monroe is professor of fine arts and photography at Daytona State College.

River of Lakes:

A Journey on Florida's St. Johns River

Saturday, April 29

4 p.m. – FREE​

Florida Book Award-winning author Bill Belleville gives a multimedia presentation about his book, "River of Lakes: A Journey on Florida's St. Johns River." First explored by naturalist William Bartram in the 1760s, the St. Johns River stretches 310 miles along Florida's east coast, making it the longest river in the state. The first "highway" through the once wild interior of Florida, the St. Johns may appear ordinary, but within its banks are some of the most fascinating natural phenomena and historic mysteries in the state. River of Lakes weaves together the biological, cultural, anthropological, archaeological and ecological aspects of the St. Johns, capturing the essence of its remarkable history and intrinsic value as a natural wonder.

Magnesia Springs In Alachua County, Florida:

Then and Now

​Saturday, May 13

2 p.m. – FREE​

Robert F. Moore, a fourth generation Hawthorne resident and member of the Alachua County Historical Commission and President of the Hawthorne Area Historical Society, will discuss his new book, Magnesia Springs In Alachua County: Then and Now. A popular recreation site in the 20th century, Magnesia Springs was once valued for its healing properties. Mr. Moore traces the fascinating history of this Alachua County swimming hole. A book signing will follow his talk.

Parking is available on the east side of the museum, at the Law Offices of Attorneys Folds & Walker, and the Kirby Smith Administration Building.

Passengers board a steamer in Palatka, ca. 1900. Image from the Matheson Postcard Collection.

Swimmers at Paradise Park, Silver Springs' sister park for African American patrons. Photo courtesy of Bruce Mozert.

Bathing beauties adorn the Paradise Park sign in the Jim Crow era. Photo courtesy of Bruce Mozert.

513 E University Avenue Gainesville FL 32601 US
Hours:      11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., Tuesday - Saturday

The museum also holds special events at night and on the weekends. Please see our events page for updated information. The Matheson History Museum is free and open to the public (donations are encouraged).

Phone: (352) 378-2280

The Matheson History Museum's exhibitions and programs are supported in part by funding from Visit Gainesville

​​​​​​​​​​River of Dreams:

The St. Johns and its Springs

January 21 - June 24, 2017 - FREE

This original exhibition examines Floridians' past, present and future relationship with the St. Johns River and its springs. Dr. Briley Rasmussen, Director of Museum Studies at the University of Florida, is the lead curator of the exhibition. Guest curators include Dr. Whitney Sanford, Professor of Religion at the University of Florida, and Ms. Florence Turcotte, Literary Collections Archivist at George A. Smathers Libraries. University of Florida museum studies, religion and sustainability graduate and undergraduate students assisted with exhibition research and installation.

The exhibition includes original work by photographers Anne Ledbetter and Bruce Mozert; artifacts from Kingsley Plantation; a model of the Silver Glen Springs shell mound; documents and images on loan from the University of Florida George A. Smathers Library, Special & Area Studies Collections, and the Florida and Puerto Rico Digital Newspaper project; and images of the St. Johns River, Ocklawaha River and Silver Springs from the Matheson's photographic, stereographic and postcard collections.

UF religion professor Whitney Sanford talks about the spiritual connection people feel to Florida's waters, including the St. Johns and its springs, in the latest issue of Our Town Magazine. According to historian and adventure guide Lars Andersen, the first Floridians considered water sacred.

This postcard was printed before 1907, when it was illegal to write on the back of the card. Image ca. 1900, from the Matheson Postcard Collection.

"St. Johns River, Florida," detail. Date unknown. Image from the Matheson Stereographic Collection.


A Hart Line steamer travels along the Ocklawaha River, 1911. Image from the Matheson Postcard Collection.