The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature is the largest natural and cultural history museum on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Founded in 1946 by community leaders, the South Florida Museum opened in 1947 on Bradenton’s Memorial Pier with the Montague Tallant collection of Florida’s First Peoples pre- and immediate post-contact archaeological material as well as collections relating to the scientific and cultural history of southwest Florida and Manatee County. In 1966, the museum moved to its present site and added the Bishop Planetarium. This addition afforded museum visitors an expanded opportunity to learn about history in the making with programming which coincided with early space exploration. Now the all-digital Bishop Planetarium Theater is in its 51st year, and is the Gulf Coast's premier astronomy education facility, outfitted with a state-of-the-art Planetarium and projection system with spectacular multimedia capabilities.
Today, known as The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature, it offers engaging exhibits as well as educational programs which interpret the scientific and cultural knowledge of Florida, the world, and our universe. In addition to the permanent exhibits, The Bishop features a constantly changing lineup of temporary exhibitions – offering something new to discover with each visit. Featuring fossil evidence of Florida’s earliest animal inhabitants and archaeological materials representing Paleo-Indian, Archaic, and pre-contact cultures, as well as local history and creative exhibitions, visitors of all ages will find something to love.
The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature will be an innovative regional center of education in natural science and history, and has a mission to engage and inspire learners of all ages; we protect, interpret and communicate scientific and cultural knowledge of Florida, the world, and our universe.
The first floor highlights include fossil evidence of Florida’s earliest mammals and marine species and the Montague Tallant collection of artifacts. The archaeological materials on display represent and interpret paleoindian, archaic and pre-contact cultures. You will find the Great Hall, Land of Change, Fabulous Florida Seas, Archaic Peoples and the Tallant Gallery brimming with information and objects that reflect the prehistory of Gulf Coast Florida. The museum interprets the region from the Pleistocene to the present.
The dramatic architecture of the central courtyard revisits the elegance of another time: picturesque columns and arches, ornate wrought-iron gates, chandeliers and lamp posts, and a beautiful fountain. In 1980 the expanded Spanish Plaza opened, emphasizing the area's Spanish heritage with a full-scale replica of Hernando de Soto's home in Barcarrota, Spain, a 16th-century chapel, and a fountain with a bronze sculpture of De Soto on horseback. This area is an ideal venue for weddings and parties, and is available to rent.
The archaeological artifacts collected throughout Florida by Montague Tallant, a Bradenton furniture store owner, established the foundation for the South Florida Museum (today's Bishop Museum of Science and Nature). His frequent pottery hunting activities led to the accumulation of a sizable collection of aboriginal pottery, stone and shell tools, and European material from the early Spanish exploration and settlement of Florida. In the 1930s, Matthew Stirling, the director of the Smithsonian's archeological digs in Florida, became Tallant's friend and mentor. Stirling exhibited and interpreted locally collected Smithsonian artifacts at Bradenton Memorial Pier in 1934, and Tallant followed suit with his own collection in 1935 under the auspices of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce.
Tallant's exhibits were popular with both the community and tourists. With the success of the 1939 DeSoto Celebration (marking the 400th anniversary of DeSoto's landing in Florida) and an increase in tourism as the country recovered from the Great Depression, Tallant began to think seriously about exhibiting his collections to a wider audience in a museum setting. In 1941 he opened a museum in the second floor space of his furniture store and called it the Manatee County Museum. The cost of maintaining the collection and the space, combined with Tallant's interest in future projects, lead him to entertain purchase offers in the late 1940s. He wanted the collection to remain in the local region, so he ultimately sold it to the Bradenton Junior Chamber of Commerce and in 1948, the collection became part of the newly formed museum.
Much of the collection remains in this museum today, and is the foundation for the Museum's cultural and anthropological exhibitions.
page information credit: The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature, Visit Florida, Wikipedia, Must Do, Bradenton Herald,
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