History buffs and nature lovers can easily find a mutual interest in visiting the South Florida Museum in Bradenton, FL. This cultural venue is one of the biggest attractions in Manatee County and a feast for the eyes of anyone who is passionate about archaeology, natural sciences, and astronomy.
If you are traveling on the Florida Gulf Coast, you surely need to make a stop at the South Florida Museum and visit the permanent galleries as well as the temporary exhibits. Here are some interesting facts about the attractions at one of the most important natural history museums in the Southern states!
A brief history of the South Florida Museum
The present-day museum was founded in 1946 by community leaders as a collection of artifacts, photographs, and documents that celebrated the scientific and cultural history of southwest Florida and Manatee County. For almost two decades it served as an educational center for students from all over the state who could take part in learning activities and field trips organized by the facility.
The South Florida Museum expanded in 1966 by adding an aquarium pool as well as a Spanish Courtyard and planetarium to its premises. In 1980, it hosted a life-size replica of Hernando DeSoto’s home in Barcarrota, Spain, which became a permanent exhibit. Later additions include additional art galleries, a bronze sculpture of DeSoto and a large outdoor fountain.
In 2001 a fire destroyed the planetarium and one of the museum’s main wings that hosted the educational center and the administrative offices. Rehabilitation works followed and continued until 2006 when the museum added new galleries, a new storage room, and additional exhibits.
The Tallant Collection
One of the most important people in the history of the South Florida Museum is Montague Tallant, who helped with the initial establishment of the scientific and history center.
The furniture store owner was a native of Bradenton, FL and he dedicated most of his life to acquiring aboriginal pottery, stone and shell tools from the early Spanish exploration and settlement of present-day Florida. His efforts helped the museum build a large collection of exhibits that you can now admire in the wing dedicated to the rich history of the state.
The Bishop Planetarium
Another important local figure that helped with the development of the South Florida Museum is W.D. Sugg who proposed and financed the construction of a planetarium in 1966. His vision of a large astronomy study center that also included an auditorium came into effect in the following years. The 2001 fire destroyed most of it, but the $4.5 million renovations that ended in 2005 reestablished the spectacular attraction.
The Parker Manatee Aquarium
The South Florida Museum is home to a sanctuary and a learning center dedicated to manatees – the much beloved marine animal that gives its name to the nearby river and the entire county. Visitors can discover more about this mysterious species and even witness the behavior of the three manatees that live on the premises.