​​​​​The Gulf: The Making of An American Sea

Book Launch 

The launch for Dr. Jack E. Davis's new book, The Gulf: The Making of An American Sea, was recorded by C-SPAN on March 19 and will appear on Book TV. The air date will be announced once the Book TV schedule is released. Signed copies of The Gulf are available at the Matheson book shop.

History Paddle Tours with Lars Andersen

Pontoon Boat Tours with Captain Erika Ritter

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 riverguide2000@yahoo.com or call (386) 454-0611. Lunch is included. Equipment rental is available.

Captain Erika Ritter will offer a pontoon boat tour on the same dates as Lars Andersen's tours for those who prefer not to paddle. The pontoon boat tours depart separately from Lars Andersen's kayak tours. On March 25 Captain Ritter, who grew up on the Ocklawaha River, will offer a pontoon boat tour on the Ocklawaha and will discuss the history of the river, including the Cross Florida Barge Canal and ongoing efforts to restore the river. On the April 22 pontoon boat tour on the St. Johns River, Captain Ritter will be joined by University of Florida Master Lecturer Steve Noll, who will discuss the history of John  and William Bartram's travels on the St. Johns. To register for one or both of these pontoon boat tours, contact Captain Erika Ritter directly at  352-546-5718 or by email at acruisingdowntheriver@gmail.com.

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.

A Writer's Life: Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Women Writers Today

​Thursday, April 13

6 p.m. – FREE

Authors Susan Cerulean and Leslie Kemp Poole and poet Lola Haskins discuss the influence of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings upon their writing and Rawlings's legacy in the 21st century. This event is part of the Friends of the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Farm's year-long celebration of the 75th anniversary of the publication of Cross Creek and Cross Creek Cookery.

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.

In John and William Bartram's Wake:

Panel Discussion with Lars Andersen, Sam Carr and Dean Campbell

​Thursday, May 18

6 p.m. – FREE​

Outdoor adventure guide and historian Lars Andersen, and Bartram Trail creators Sam Carr and Dean Campbell will discuss John and William Bartram's historic travels on the St. Johns River and how paddlers and hikers can recreate their journey on Bartram Trails in Putnam County, Alachua County and other areas the Bartrams visited and wrote about over 250 years ago. 

"Lost Springs" Film Screening and Panel Discussion with Matt Keene, Margaret Tolbert, Karen Chadwick and Lisa Rinaman

Friday, June 23

6 p.m. – FREE​

Matt Keene's new documentary, "Lost Springs," chronicles the Ocklawaha River's hidden springs that return to life every three to five years when there is a drawdown at Rodman Reservoir, which--along with the George Kirkpatrick Dam--is part of the defunct Cross Florida Barge Canal. Filmmaker Matt Keene, springs artist Margaret Tolbert, boat captain and environmental activist Karen Chadwick and St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman will share stories about the beautiful lost springs and the fight for their restoration.

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.

St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman with Captain Erika Ritter (at right) near the drowned forest of the Ocklawaha during the 2015-2016 Rodman Reservoir drawdown. Photo by Peggy Macdonald.

Artist Margaret Tolbert paints Cannon Springs on the Ocklawaha River during the 2015-2016 Rodman Reservoir drawdown. Photo by Karen Chadwick.

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 and 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. River of Dreams was funded in part by grants from Visit Gainesville, the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs and the UF Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere.

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.

Current Exhibition