Before paved streets and residential blocks took its place, a maze of wetlands rife with rustling wildlife thrived in Central Florida. Such a scene is hard to imagine amid a backdrop of loud car horns, but skeptical visitors to The Brevard Museum of History and Natural Science can travel back in time and see it for themselves on a stroll through the museum’s 19.5-acre nature preserve.
This remarkable preserve joins special exhibits dedicated to regional and cultural artifacts in fulfilling the museum’s mission to keep Florida’s heritage alive in the minds of its current inhabitants. Since the nonprofit facility first opened in 1973, an influx of state and philanthropic funding has spawned further expansion. One of the most crucial add-ons, the Taylor Wing, now houses a nonstop procession of visiting exhibitions and the kid-themed Imagination Center, where young hands can touch actual fossils of mammoths and 8-track tapes. Popular ongoing exhibits include large dioramas of local ecosystems and the Windover Story exhibit, which illustrates how the residents of Brevard County lived 7,000 years ago.
From model cars to butterflies, many hobbyists have a collection of personal treasures. In the late Mel Fisher's case, his happened to consist of tons upon tons of gold, silver, and jewels. A pioneering diver, Fisher made his name in 1985 with the discovery of the 1622 wreck of the Spanish galleon Nuestra Se?ora de Atocha, felled as it was transporting 40 tons of gold and silver back to Europe. Rather than using the haul to fill his swimming pools, he set about making his discoveries known to the world while continuing to explore the ocean floor for other wrecked 17th- and 18th-century ships. Today, Mel Fisher's Treasure Museum awes visitors with a look at its namesake's remarkable life and collection.
When they enter Titanic The Experience, visitors receive a replica boarding pass. From there, they relive the ship's history from a passenger's perspective, from life onboard during its 1912 maiden voyage through to the crash. The exhibit closes with updates on modern efforts to recover its wreckage, which the museum is thoroughly part of?it's myriad artifacts were found by a team that performed seven deep-sea expeditions.
Orange County Regional History Center showcases the area's past inside a building steeped in Orange County history: the 1927 Courthouse. Today, visitors can explore the grand courtroom where the murderous Ted Bundy was allegedly arraigned. Such recent events, however, barely scratch the surface of the 12,000 years worth of history encompassed within the center's permanent exhibitions. Spanning Native American and Spanish roots to the meteoric rise of Walt Disney World, the museum illustrates Orange County's vast lineage.
The building has five floors, four of which house permanent exhibitions, temporary exhibitions and materials for traveling exhibitions that highlight Florida history throughout the country. An Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, the museum also plays host to programs for all ages, from lunchtime speaking engagements to educational programs designed to spark the imagination and satisfy curiosity. The Emporium offers one-of-a-kind gifts reflecting the cultural history of Central Florida including rare vintage photographs, quirky Florida souvenirs, and delicious Florida treats.
Almost 70 years ago, the first U.S. Navy frogmen began underwater demolitions training in the waters around Fort Pierce. Commissioned through an act of Congress and the signature of the president, the National Navy UDT–SEAL Museum now stands where these first training sessions began and documents the evolution of the first volunteers into today's Navy SEALs. Exhibits honor the predecessors to the SEAL program and display artifacts and equipment from combat, including Apollo training vehicles, a Vietnam-era ”Huey” helicopter, and the SEALs' unique water vehicles powered by hardworking seahorses. Also on display are all 10,000 pounds of the fiberglass lifeboat from the 2009 hostage rescue of Richard Phillips, captain of the Maersk Alabama following its hijacking by Somalian pirates. Visitors can also view WWII training obstacles rescued from the ocean floor or take in the names of fallen heroes as they walk on memorial bricks donated by the friends and family of former SEALs. In addition to documenting and honoring past soldiers, the National Navy UTD–SEAL Museum also reaches out to living veterans through their reunions and their partnership with the Wheelchairs for Warriors program.
Historically, women artists have often struggled to find a space to express themselves in a field dominated by men. The Florida Museum for Women Artists works to change that by offering 7,300 square feet of facilities and galleries dedicated to promoting and showcasing women artists and their work. Three different galleries allow visitors to gaze upon a selection of contemporary art in exhibitions that rotate ever 10 weeks and include juried shows, selections from collections, and traveling exhibits. Previous and upcoming exhibitions include a variety of ceramic, sculptural, and painted works, along with photographs and textiles. Past shows have even included the innovative exhibit Witness to Creativity, which allowed viewers to watch live as artists created installations over the course of a week. The facility also includes a museum shop and café and also hosts fused-glass jewelry, wineglass painting, and mosaic classes.