Long famous for its Key Marco Cat -- one of the most remarkable and influential discoveries in North American archaeology -- the new Marco Island Historical Museum explores Southwest Florida’s Calusa Indians and brings this vanished civilization to life with informative displays and an exciting recreated village scene.
PRESERVING THE HISTORY AND HERITAGE OF THE MARCO ISLAND COMMUNITY
The Marco Island Historical Society was founded in 1994 and is dedicated to discovery, research, acquisition and preservation of the multi-faceted history of the Marco Island-Goodland region. This museum complex gives the Society a physical place to fulfill their goal of educating and informing the community and visitors of our dynamic heritage. The museum campus uses a unique motif in its exploration of Marco Island’s history from the life of the Calusa Indians and the pioneer days of the white settlement to what it has become today.
The 2010 birth of the Marco Island Historical Museum and complex brings to life a long held dream of the Marco Island Historical Society. Created through a partnership with the MIHS and Collier County Museums, this newest addition to the museum system explores Southwest Florida’s Calusa Indians and features colorful, exciting and informative displays to bring this vanished civilization to life. One whole room is dedicated to a replica of a Calusa village and its inhabitants going about their daily lives.
The grounds of the Museum complex are landscaped with ponds, waterfalls and native, tropical plantings. These peaceful surroundings set off this gem, and include an inviting gazebo where one can take a few moments to enjoy its ambiance, including a large bronze replica of the “Key Marco Cat.”
Within the museum is a traveling exhibits gallery, showcasing the work of artists from around the world illustrating, through various mediums, the local flora, fauna and the history of the area. Each new exhibit is celebrated with an opening reception to which the public is invited. The Museum Gift Store offers artwork, jewelry, clothing, local and regional historical books, and many gift items. The museum complex is further enriched by the beautiful Rose History Auditorium, a multi-functional facility that is available for rent for a variety of private and public functions and celebrations.
The Marco Island Historical Society (MIHS) celebrates its 25th Anniversary and the realization of a 25-year quest to bring “home” on loan the world-famous Key Marco Cat and other rare Pre-Columbian Native American artifacts discovered on Marco Island, Florida in 1896.
Several of the most significant Key Marco artifacts are together again on Marco Island at the Marco Island Historical Museum for the first time since their discovery by anthropologist Frank Hamilton Cushing more than 100 years ago. The exhibit runs now until April 3, 2021.
The Key Marco Cat is one of the finest pieces of Pre-Columbian Native American art ever discovered in North America. At only six inches tall and carved from native hardwood, the Key Marco Cat is a charismatic anthropomorphic feline statuette that has captured the public’s imagination for more than a century. Other important pieces in the exhibition include a ceremonial mask, alligator figurehead, painted human figure and sea turtle figurehead.
The MIHS has mounted the exhibit in collaboration with Collier County Museums, the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.
Paradise Found – 6,000 Years of People On Marco Island chronicles the oldest-known residents of Marco Island through interactive displays and artifacts.
Included is a life-size diorama of a Calusa village of the period.
This exhibition engages, inspires, and educates visitors about the remarkably complex Native American people who called Marco Island home for more than 6,000 years. In addition to original artwork, replicas, and research, the exhibit showcases more than 200 pre-Columbian artifacts from Marco Island and its surrounding community. These artifacts comprise a small fraction of the collections being preserved in perpetuity by the MIHS. Frank Hamilton Cushing’s 1896 discovery of wooden masks, figurines, and implements – many with original paint still visible – remain some of the most spectacular examples of pre-Columbian Native American artistry ever discovered. The objects, now at the Smithsonian Institution, Florida Museum of Natural History, and University of Pennsylvania, are so stunning that they often overshadow the fascinating people that made them.
Marco Island Historical Museum has both permanent and traveling exhibits for your education and enjoyment. Some of the items on display are possibly thousands of years old and have been found on Marco Island on the sites of Calusa Indian villages and mounds. A recreated village allows visitors to see how these Indigenous People lived.
Spanish chroniclers in the sixteenth century, called the natives they encountered in Southwest Florida, “Calusa.” This was thought to mean “the Fierce Ones” (Willingess, 1984). They were described as “tall of stature, great archers and men of strength.” Also, they “had no gold, no silver, and less clothing. They go naked, the men in a small loin cloth woven of palm fiber, the women in a skirt of a grass that grows on trees, and looks like silk.” For two hundred years the Calusa held the Spaniards at bay, until they finally succumbed to European introduced diseases, such as smallpox and measles, in addition to warfare and slavery from raiding tribes to the north. Therefore, our knowledge about their remarkable culture must be gleaned from scarce reports by undaunted missionaries and the results of modern archaeological excavations.
page information credit: MIHS, Collier County Museums,
photos from the sources listed above, as well as publicly posted online sites with thanks to the contributors