Last week in Collier County, we had to do some research to see what various county historical museums in Florida charge for admission. (Yes, unfortunately the Collier County Museum is fighting for its existence once again, which we have had to do every year.) So I did an internet search and found out some interesting things.
These are the museums that would be considered the main county historical museums. They are not always the only historical museums in those counties which sometimes have other great local and city museums. What is often a historical museum in the county fits a wide range of definitions from a room with old photos on the wall, to a whole set of buildings with a working farm. A museum by definition is a non-profit 501c(3) organization. How much control or influence a county exercises over it can vary greatly.
After coming up with this list, I can see a lot of possible road trips, and they won’t cost a lot either.
Counties with no museums:
Some of these counties have a very interesting history, and would benefit from a county museum. But it is sad that a quarter of all the counties in Florida do not have a historical museum. A few of these listed below have some type of historical or genealogical society, but we are not even sure if they have a museum open on a regular basis.
Desoto—No museum but there is a historical society.
Gadsden—West Gadsden Historical Society. They have a building, but they do not say if they are a museum or regularly open to the public as a museum. A lot of Seminole War history with this county!
Highlands. It is a big county and needs a museum.
Holmes. The county is names after a Seminole chief who lived in the area, so I would be very interested to see them have a historical museum.
Jackson. Would like to see a museum for this one!
Jefferson. Would like to see a museum for this one!
Lafayette—Lafayette County Historical Society. They have a building, but no word if it is open as a museum.
Madison. But there is a very interesting historical park with historical markers and monuments across the street from the old court house.
Marion—Marion County Museum of History. Currently closed due to the loss of their building in February 2011. We would love to see this open again if someone can help them find a home. This was the worst-case scenario of any museum where it was forced to close due to political pressure. Several county museums have been under similar threat, but this is the only one that actually did close this past year. I am really unhappy with the county because of this. Marion County is almost “ground zero” for the beginning of the 2nd Seminole War!
55 percent of the county museums in Florida are free. This even surprised me, because I did not expect the percentage to be so high. Even if they are free, I always drop a few dollars in the donation box and hope that they are around for many more years to come.
Alachua—Alachua County Historic Trust Matheson Museum.
Baker—Baker County Historical Burnsed Blockhouse. I would like to see this one; it is a house remaining from the Seminole wars with gun ports in the wall.
Broward—Broward County Historical Commission and Museum. I drove around the block looking for it, but never did find it.
Calhoun—Panhandle Pioneer Settlement. Really nice collection of historic building and cabins, but hard to find. Hidden in the back of a city park in Blountstown.
Citrus—Old Courthouse Heritage Museum.
Clay—Clay County Historical and Railroad Museum.
Collier—Collier County Museums. In my opinion, one of the best county historic museums in Florida. Also, Old Florida Festival is one of the best historic festivals.
Columbia—Lake City Columbia County Historical Museum.
Flagler—Flagler Beach Historical Museum.
Hamilton—Hamilton County Historical Museum and Old Jail.
Hernando—Hernando County Historical Museum—free/donation.
Indian River—The Heritage Center and Indian River Citrus Museum.
Lake—Lake County Historical Museum.
Leon—Museum of Florida History. This is a state museum, but it is such a good museum that I can’t neglect mentioning it.
Levy—Levy County Quilt Museum. Supposed to have some really good historical information. And don’t forget to check out Cedar Key.
Manatee—Five different historical museums; all free. I really need to visit them!
Okaloosa—Baker Block Museum.
Okeechobee—Okeechobee Historical Society and Museum.
Osceola—Osceola County Pioneer Village and Museum. I visited this about 10 years ago. A very nice pioneer village.
Palm Beach—Historical Society of Palm Beach.
Polk--Polk County Historical Museum.
Putnam—Putnam County Historical Society. The building where it resides is a former officer quarters of a Second Seminole War fort.
Suwannee—Suwannee County Museum.
Taylor—Taylor County Historical Society.
Wakulla—Wakulla County Historical Society.
Walton—Walton County Heritage Association and Museum.
Washington—Museum and Research Library.
Small admission museums:
A small number of county museums in Florida charge a small admission fee under $5. They are well worth the visit and I would willingly drop $5 in the donation box even if they were free. Unfortunately it seems that these ones often under the county parks and recreation department and always under risk of being closed even when they are quality museums.
Charlotte—Charlotte County Historical Center. I need to visit this one.
Hardee—Cracker Trail Museum. At Pioneer Park in Zolfo Springs. I was very impressed that they had labels and tags identifying the provenance of all the objects.
St. Lucie—St. Lucie County Regional History Center. $4 adults. Well worth a visit, but being under the county parks and recreation department has always made it the unwanted step-child and kept it under the risk of closure. When I did a program here in 1995, I was very impressed with what they had.
Seminole—Museum of Seminole County History. A few years ago the county put it under the parks and recreation department, at the same time laying off all the staff and started charging admission. Its future has remained uncertain. Before that time it was a good museum, but I have not been there since to see if it has changed inside.
Museum admission $5 and above:
These are also what I would classify as destination museums where you can spend at least half a day. Most of them include “discover rooms” with hands-on displays that cater to school groups. But as a destination, yes they are worth it.
Alachua—Florida Museum of Natural History. $8-$15. This is a state/university museum, but I would not want to miss it. The life-sized dioramas of the Calusa are very impressive and worth the admission.
Bay—Science and Discovery Center of Northwest Florida—$7 adults. Science or “Discovery Centers” are usually more than historical museums, so compared to other science museums, this is probably a bargain.
Brevard—Brevard Museum of History and Natural Science. $6 adults. I would like to see this one, as well as check out the headquarters of the Florida Historical Society in the county.
Duval—Museum of Science and History (Jacksonville/city). $10 adults.
Hillsborough—Tampa Bay History Center. $12 adults. The Disney-style multimedia presentations are excellent. Well worth a visit.
Lee—Southwest Florida Museum of History. $12.50 admission. I would really like to see this museum, but the admission price scares me away as one of the most expensive admission fees of any county historical museums in Florida. The Collier County Museum has pretty much the same thing but is free!
Leon—Tallahassee Museum. $9 adults. Caters to school groups, but well worth it for adults as well. It has an actual working farm with livestock.
Miami-Dade—Historical Museum of Southern Florida. $8 adults. It took me the second visit to find the right parking garage in downtown Miami.
Nassau—Amelia Island Museum of History--$7 adults. Seems a little expensive comparing what they offer as the same of other county museums that have lower fees or are free.
Orange—Orange County Regional History Center. $9 adults. In the former old county court house.
Sarasota—Crowley Museum and Nature Center. $10 adults. I definitely need to check this one out, because it combines several elements that I love about a park, with historic cabins among a natural setting with nature trails.
Volusia—Museum of Arts and Sciences. Admission $11-$13. Visited many times for some excellent travelling historical exhibits.
Museums with unknown admission fees:
When I did a search in the internet, I could not find out what the admission is for these museums. Do not let that keep you away.
Franklin—Apalachicola Maritime Museum—no admission listed.
Hendry—Labelle Heritage Museum—no admission listed.
Martin—Elliot Museum. There is an admission, but it is not listed. With a mixture of hundred-year old Seminole clothing and an antique car collection, I would say this is among one of the more interesting museums that I have visited.
Pasco—Pioneer Museum and Village. The web site does not work. It has been several years since I have been there, and should try and visit again.
These old towns combine the history of the past centuries with several museums of various admissions. These are all day visits as a destination vacation. I’ve enjoyed them all. Sometimes you can purchase a package deal that covers several of the museums or historic sites around the town.
Escambia—Historic Pensacola Village and T.T. Wentworth Museum.
Monroe—several small museums and historic sites around Key West. Where it is okay to yell, “Wreck!”
St. Johns—St. Augustine has a whole historical district. Several museums and historic sites with various admissions. I would say that this town takes several days to visit.