Museums, Living Collections, and Historic Sites
From art and anthropology to butterflies to history to a zoo, Gainesville is home to world-class museums that provide fun and education for the whole family.
The Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, located on the campus of the University of Florida, has the largest collection of Asian art in the Southeast. Other collections include African art, ancient American art, contemporary art, modern art, Oceanic art, photography, and prints and drawings done before 1850. The new David A. Cofrin Asian Art Wing, complete with a Japanese-inspired garden, opened in 2012. The museum offers docent tours, regular programs that complement the collections and exhibitions, activities for members and supporters, an art study center, gift shop, and a popular café.
Next door to the Harn Museum are the Florida Museum of Natural History and Butterfly Rainforest, a 6400-square-foot screened outdoor enclosure with subtropical plants and hundreds of living butterflies. Inside the museum, visitors can view thousands of butterfly and moth specimens on the “Wall of Wings” and watch scientists working in the Rearing Lab and other research areas.
The Florida Museum of Natural History was established as a unit of the University of Florida in 1917 and is Florida’s premier natural history facility, with collections in anthropology, archaeology, and ethnography; botany; ecology; herpetology; ichthyology (fishes); paleontology (fossils); malacology (shells); mammalogy; ornithology; and paleobotany. Museum staff members perform ongoing research in each of these areas. Visitors can walk through a reconstructed Florida cave, view ancient dugout canoes that were part of the largest such find in history, and learn about the flora and fauna that characterize Florida’s different ecosystems.
History lovers will gravitate to the Matheson Museum, the Micanopy Historical Society Museum, and Dudley Farm and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Parks. Located near downtown Gainesville, the Matheson Museum maintains collections and offers exhibitions about the history of Gainesville and Alachua County. Approximately 10 miles south of Gainesville, the Micanopy Historical Society Museum welcomes visitors to Florida’s oldest inland city, where 39 sites are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
More than a museum, Dudley Farm Historic State Park near Newberry has been called the best-documented pioneer family farm in America. Here, park staff and volunteers in period dress still plow, plant, and harvest heirloom crops in traditional ways, including grinding sugar cane with the help of a mule. The farmhouse and outbuildings are all original, and the farm is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
At Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park in Cross Creek, visitors can tour the author’s home, stroll through the orange grove, rest under the shade of the reconstructed barn and spend some time on the porch of the servants’ quarters.
The Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo trains zookeepers for work in jobs across the United States. Students in the program offer regular tours to visitors, and the zoo holds special events throughout the year including the popular “Boo at the Zoo” on Halloween.
Other museums and museum-type attractions include Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, Morningside Nature Center, the Lubee Bat Conservancy, the Thomas Center (art), Focus Gallery and the University Galleries (University of Florida Fine Arts), and the Archer Historical Society (Town of Archer).
We hope you’ll enjoy our museum scene as much as we do!