Permanent Exhibits

A Road Trip through Florida Archaeology

With 500 years of European history and more than 10,000 years of Native American prehistory, Florida is host to an array of cultural landmark sites. Archaeological sites across the state have helped shed the light on our past. In this exhibit you will journey through the eight different regions of Florida and visit significant archaeological sites along the way. These include prehistoric mounds, shipwrecks, forts and Spanish missions, battlefields, and museums. Throughout the exhibit you can interact with digital displays and get a chance to touch real artifacts from a few of these sites. The best part about the sites featured in the exhibit- you can visit them in person and we can show you how to get there!

Rotating Exhibits

Florida Heritage at RiskCurrently on Display

In 1647, the Dutch West India Company vessel Groeningen anchored off the coast of Ghana, Africa, near Elmina Castle. Trade between Europeans and Africans in the region during that time was mainly carried out using ships like Groeningen and local African watercraft. When it arrived at the “Gold Coast” Groeningen fired five shots as a customary salute. On its fifth shot, a cannon exploded and the ship sank. Over 350 years later, underwater archaeologists located a shipwreck off the coast of Ghana. Called the Elmina Wreck, the ship provided archaeologists a snapshot of the trade and Atlantic world connections between Africans and Europeans centuries ago. Based on several years of field work and research, archaeologists believe the Elmina Wreck may be the remains of Groeningen.

This exhibit is the story of this wreck and its recovery by underwater archaeologists from the University of West Florida and Syracuse University.

Elmina Wreck

Florida Heritage at RiskAvailable to Travel

Florida’s 8,436 miles of coastline are already experiencing an increase of sea level rise and storm surge events. Today many people live on or near the coast, just as people have for thousands of years. Places where people lived in the past are now recorded as archaeological sites. A one meter rise in sea level could impact over 16,000 heritage sites including cemeteries, historic buildings, and archaeological remains. As these sites disappear due to development for Florida’s growing population, as well as through processes like erosion, it is important to preserve information about them through observation and documentation. There is still time for us to learn from and enjoy these important resources before they are lost to rising seas. This exhibit examines the threat sea level rise poses to sites, and what we can do about it before its too late.

Florida Heritage at Risk

Lest We ForgetAvailable to Travel

When 1,000 Federal soldiers marched through the St. Marks region at the end of the Civil War they threatened to capture the capital of Florida. The climactic Battle of Natural Bridge that resulted was fought within miles of Tallahassee in March of 1865. Much of the site is now the Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park. During the 150th anniversary of this Civil War battle a metal detector survey was conducted by archaeologists with the help of a wide range of volunteers and community stakeholders. This collaborative project is providing new insights into the Battle of Natural Bridge.

Guest curator: Janene Johnston

Lest We Forget

Journey Into The DarkAvailable to Travel

They are dark, damp, and sometimes dangerous. And people have used them for thousands of years. From homes to recreation, the human use of Florida’s caves is scattered in front of their entrances and deep inside their passageways. By mapping and excavating these caves, archaeologists are shedding new light into these dark areas of Florida’s past. View Archaeology in 3 - Caves on YouTube

Guest curator: Gregg Harding

Journey Into The Dark

Lost Virtue Available to Travel

During the Gilded Age (1870-1910), prostitution was seen as a necessary evil. According to popular belief at the time men had insatiable sexual appetites that needed to be channeled towards “appropriate avenues.” This often meant lower-class women, minorities, and especially prostitutes.

Cities like Pensacola sought to keep prostitution out of sight and their communities safer by segregating working girls into red light districts.

While the women who worked in Pensacola’s red light district left few written records behind, archaeology is finally helping to tell their story. Several artifacts associated with the women who worked in Pensacola’s red light district during the late 1800s and early 1900s uncovered through archaeology will be on display for the first time. View exhibit trailer on YouTube.

Guest curator: Jacqueline Rodgers

Flyer for Lost Virtue exhibit

Talking Smack Available to Travel

The end of the American Civil War offered almost limitless possibilities for northerners looking to bring business south. Pensacola, Florida, was one of the many southern port cities to bloom in the years following the war. The growth of the red snapper fishing industry in Pensacola contributed prominently to the city’s worldly and unique nature at the beginning of the 20th century.

Due to the huge boom in Pensacola, fish houses were established throughout Northwest Florida to partake in the lucrative red snapper market. While overfishing and international economic regulations largely ended commercial red snapper fishing from the area by the mid-20th century, the industry left an indelible mark on modern Northwest Florida.

The exhibit features artifacts on display from the shipwrecks of two fishing smacks excavated by University of West Florida archaeologists.

Guest curator: Nicole Grinnan

Fishing industry

Mahogany and Iron Available to Travel

In the late 1990s underwater archaeologists from the University of West Florida uncovered the remarkably well-preserved 17th century Spanish shipwreck of Nuestra Señora del Rosario y Santiago Apostal. Rosario was built in 1696 as a powerful warship for the Spanish navy. As part of the Windward Fleet, she protected convoys of ships loaded with valuable goods traveling between Spain and its New World colonies.

Throughout her career the ship performed many duties including hunting pirates and supplying far-flung settlements. The ship was lost in 1705 while resupplying the colony at Pensacola, then known as Presidio Santa María de Galve. This exhibit examines the excavation of this shipwreck and the clues archaeologists are uncovering about its construction currently under research. Several artifacts from the wreck are on display.

Guest curator: Kad Henderson

Mahogany and Iron Flyer

Rebel Guns Available to Travel

During the Civil War in Florida waterways were vital to the movement of troops and supplies. In the South, the Apalachicola River led straight to the manufacturing heart of the Confederacy in Columbus, Georgia. Controlling it meant victory or defeat. The Confederacy built obstacles in the river and gun emplacements, or batteries, at strategic points along the river edge to prevent the Union from passing upriver.

In 2010 a team of archaeologists from the University of West Florida and Florida Public Archaeology Network meticulously removed layers of earth in Florida’s Torreya State Park along the banks of the Apalachicola River. Here they uncovered a part of history from the American Civil War. This exhibit is the story of this site as it was revealed through archaeological investigations.

Guest curator: Brian Mabelitini

Rebel Guns Flyer

Florida’s Fishing Ranchos: Legacy of Cuban Trade Available to Travel

Before the Marxist inspired revolution of 1959, trade between Cuba and the land of Florida lasted for hundreds of years. Fishermen from Cuba found the waters on Florida’s southwest coast productive and markets in Havana made trade opportunities between them profitable. By the 19th century Cuban fishing ranchos on Florida’s Gulf coast were occupied year round and they formed deep connections with other cultural groups living in the state. This exhibit is about this legacy of trade and the fishermen who formed these unique communities. The exhibit features interpretive panels and artifacts.

Guest curator: Jeff Moates

Florida's Fishing Ranchos Flyer