From Brooksville it is just an hour and a half drive to Gainesville and this is one place everyone should visit, the Florida Museum of Natural History.
The museum began in 1891 by a professor of natural science from Florida Agricultural College in Lake City, Frank Pickel. Pickel purchased research materials and collections from minerals to human anatomy models as teaching aids. In 1905 the Florida Agricultural College was demolished and the museum became a part of the University of Florida. As the collection grew, so did the museum and in 2017 the Florida Museum celebrated its 100th anniversary.
“With being an older institution we have a wealth of knowledge to share with the public,” Nikhil Srinivasan said. Srinivasan is the Marketing Assistant for the Florida Museum of Natural History. “I feel we have events and exhibits that appeal to anyone regardless of age group and where you live.”
Learning about Florida’s history is important for everyone, whether you are young or in those wonderful years of retirement.
“Anyone that enjoys learning it’s a great place,” Srinivasan said. “We offer a lot more than just to Alachua County, because our information goes on to the history of Florida as a state, that is one of our exhibits.”
Exhibits | Learning about Florida
There are quite a few exhibits that are featured year round: Northwest Florida: Waterways and Wildlife, South Florida People & Environments, Exploring Our World, Florida Fossils: Evolution of Life and Land as well as many other fascinating exhibits.
Each one of these exhibits showcases valuable educational materials for those that hold interest in learning more about Florida. From the life size displays placed on staging platforms to amazing replicas hanging from above provide a truly remarkable experience.
The Discovery Zone | A place for the kids… okay and the adults too.
Greeted by Marti Berger, a Florida Museum volunteer a Florida Museum volunteer for over 11 years, loves the interaction she has with the kids and parents.
“Anything the children are interested in, I will break apart and teach them,” Berger said. “There are so many things to see and feel.”
Collection tables throughout the zone offers valuable learning tools that include a great selection of insects, fossils and bones as well as interactive and hands-on experiences. All this cool stuff awaits those that enter the “Discovery Zone.”
The Butterfly Rainforest Exhibit
For butterfly lovers, this is the place to be. Florida has its own beautiful variety of butterfly species, but here, visitors have the opportunity to see butterflies from all over the world.
“We have the most extensive collection of butterflies in the world,” Srinivasan said.
The Florida Museum built a 6,400-square-foot screened exhibit in 2004, that could successfully provide a sustainable environment for a variety of butterfly species from around the world. There is a 4600 square foot exhibit gallery and 31,000 square feet devoted to collection space and research labs. The Florida Museum has over 10 million specimens, making it one of the world’s largest Lepidoptera collections.
Keith Curry-Pochy helps maintain the live butterfly exhibit and is a knowledgeable Lepidopterist. He also has an extensive knowledge on plantings needed to sustain the butterfly species.
“I do a lot of the planting,” Curry-Pochy said. “To keep up with the butterflies we have to keep up with the food sources. We pull out plants and put in plants to ensure there is enough nectar for them.”
Tailed Jay (Asia), Tree Nymph (Philippines), Blue Morpho (Mexico to American Basin), Leopard Lacewing (Southeast Asia) and many other species of butterflies fly freely within this 6,400-square-foot exhibit, however butterflies are not the only species you will see, Chinese Painted Quails and Cordon Bleu Finches are seen darting about.
“You are going to see butterflies that you are not going to see in Florida,” Curry-Pochy said. “We have butterflies from around the world and when you are here, you’re going to see stuff you can’t see anywhere else, it’s a unique experience.”
“People don’t realize that Florida has a very rich history, a lot of things happen here that impacted the rest of the U.S and you can learn about it here,” Curry-Pochy said.
If you go, be sure to have plenty of time to really enjoy the museum. There is a lot to experience and don’t forget to explore outside the museum, the fossil garden exhibit and teaching lab trails.
“We are constantly keeping things fresh, so if even if anyone from Hernando County has visited last year, it is not going to be the same,” Srinivasan said. “I feel we always have something new to offer people, regardless of what their interest may be.”
Florida Museum of Natural History
3215 Hull Rd, Gainesville, FL 32611
Hours: Sunday 1pm to 5pm, Monday-Saturday 10am – 5pm
General Admission is Free for permanent exhibits
Butterfly Rainforest: Adult $13 Child $6
Masters of the Night: Adult $7.50 Child $5
Upcoming event at the museum: Butterfly Fest October 13 from 10am to 4pm
More information: https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/event/butterflyfest/