Journey back to the beginning of Southwest Florida's unique past in the Museum's exhibit hall. Artifact displays, audio-visual programs and three-dimensional dioramas take visitors on a self-guided tour of local history and explain the people, places and events that have shaped and reshaped Florida's last frontier.
Stalk prehistoric mastodons with Florida's first big-game hunters, or travel even further back in time, when colossal sharks cruised the warm tropical seas that once covered Southwest Florida. See ancient shell tools and ceremonial masks and dig up the facts about the Calusa Indian civilization that flourished here centuries before European explorers first set foot on the Gulf coast. Trace America's little-known wars in South Florida, the heroic journey of the Seminole people, and the origins behind traditional crafts like patchwork, once laboriously stitched together on hand-cranked sewing machines.
Experience the daily lives - and utter isolation - of the first settlers and their families as they arrived on this watery frontier a hundred years ago, and share in the vision of a self-made multi-millionaire who dreamed of taming a wilderness swampland the size of Delaware. Along the way, this museum will introduce you to the hardy and colorful folk - the cattlemen, clam diggers, trail blazers, plume hunters, hermits, loggers, railroaders, rum runners, Crackers and Indian traders - who wrote the pioneer history of Collier County.
Nestled on five acres of native Florida landscaping, the flagship museum at the County Government center in Naples offers newly created exhibits and galleries that capture the full panorama of local history. Pack a picnic and linger a while in the museum's shady backyard. Then do a little exploring on your own in the native gardens, restored Naples cottages, the archaeology lab, and the Seminole village or Calusa Indian camp.
Established in 1978, the Collier County Museums offer a rich sampling of the people, places and events that make Southwest Florida's history and heritage worth exploring. Explore 5 fascinating locations: Collier County Museum in the Collier County Government Center, Naples Depot Museum, Museum of the Everglades, Immokalee Pioneer Museum at Roberts Ranch and The Marco Island Historical Museum.
Once numbering in the tens of thousands, the powerful Calusa Indians ruled the southern tip of Florida from coast to coast for centuries. The Calusa may have been the descendants of Palaeo Era people who inhabited Southwest Florida about 12,000 years ago. The ancestors of the Calusa are said to have survived by hunting prehistoric animals such as woolly mammoths and giant tortoises, and collecting fruits and other edible plants. At some point of time in their history, this tribe discovered that there was a wealth of fish in the waters, and began to exploit this resource. Fishing was a less time-consuming means of obtaining food than hunting and gathering, so the Calusa were able to devote more time to other pursuits, such as the establishment of a system of government. When the Spanish arrived in Florida in the early 16th century, the Calusa were already in possession of a complex centralized government.
As Seminole Indians moved deeper into South Florida during the early 1800s, they adopted these open-sided, cypress pole huts or chickees to cope with the heat and humidity. Different styles were built for living, cooking and storage. These authentic palm-thatched chickees were a gift from the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
Although military action here during the Seminole Wars was relatively minor, at least five forts were built by the army in present-day Collier County. This log stockade would have served as a staging and supply area for patrols searching the Big Cypress Swamp for Seminole strongholds.
PLAN YOUR VISIT
Collier County Museum
3331 Tamiami Trail E, Naples, FL 34112
PHONE: (239) 252-8476
Monday - Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Closed National and County Holidays
MUSEUM GIFT SHOP:
The museum's gift shop is operated by the Friends of the Collier County Museum. For more about them visit, www.foccm.com
page information credit: Collier County Museums, Friends of the Collier County Museum, Florida Museum of Natural History, Ancient Origins
photos from the sources listed above, as well as publicly posted online sites with thanks to the contributors