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Collections

The State of Florida has collected and preserved historical artifacts since 1917. Gathered initially by the Florida State Museum in Gainesville, an assemblage of 22,000 items was transferred to the Museum of Florida History's burgeoning collections in the early 1980s when the former institution shifted its focus to natural history and ethnology. Today, more than 45,700 artifacts, dating mainly from the mid-19th century to the present, reflect the state's many cultural and ethnic groups, geographical areas, and varied activities and occupations. All objects in the collections are available for study and research, and many are available for exhibition and loans to other museums.

Collections Highlights

The Museum's collections support the institution's overarching mission to preserve evidence of social, political, and economic trends; historical events; daily life; and notable and ordinary individuals in Florida's past. For example, the collections include clothing, furniture, and other domestic items; campaign ephemera, portraits, and editorial cartoons; currency, coins, and records; artifacts relating to commerce, agriculture, and industry; and flags, uniforms, and equipment that testify to Florida's participation in national and international events. In addition, several categories of artifacts have received special attention because of their unique ties to the state.


Civil War Flags of Florida, 1861-1865; 21 examples

This historically significant assemblage contains most of the surviving battle flags carried by Confederate troops from the State of Florida. Bearing different decorative patterns, some of the flags were uncaptured, and others were captured from Florida units and returned many years later.

Florida in the Civil War


Roxcy Bolton Collection

Roxcy Bolton has worked to improve the lives of Florida women since the 1960s. Among her many achievements was the establishment, in 1972, of Women in Distress, a nonprofit agency providing services to women in crisis. She was inducted into the Florida Women's Hall of Fame in 1984, in recognition of her accomplishments as a pioneer in the cause of women's rights.

Roxcy Bolton Collection
Red Cross Gray Ladies uniform, ca. 1960
Roxcy Bolton Collection
Wool suit with silk blouse, 1981
Roxcy Bolton Collection
Pink dress, 1999

The Roxcy Bolton collection numbers more than fifty artifacts. Included in the collection are a variety of materials that advocate women's rights and document Bolton's career as a feminist pioneer. Many of the objects relate to Bolton's involvement with the National Organization for Women and her support of the Equal Rights Amendment. Notable personal objects that Ms. Bolton donated include her American Red Cross Gray Ladies uniform, a red suit, and a pink dress. Bolton wore the Red Cross uniform while volunteering at the U.S. Naval Air Station in Atsugi, Japan, in the early 1960s. She wore the red suit in 1981 to the swearing-in ceremony of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Conner. Her most recent donation was the pink dress that she wore in 1999 to the dedication of her Coral Gables home as a Florida Heritage Site.

Roxcy Bolton Collection
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Conner (far left) greets Roxcy Bolton (far right), 1981. Bolton later donated to the Museum the red suit she wore that day.
Roxcy Bolton Collection
Roxcy Bolton is pictured beside her Coral Gables home on the day it was dedicated as a Florida Heritage Site in 1999. She later donated the dress she wore to the event (shown).

For additional information on Roxcy Bolton, see the Florida Memory Project Online Classroom at http://www.floridamemory.com/OnlineClassroom/RoxcyBolton/index.cfm


Florida Quilts, 1845-present; approx. 50 examples

Spanning Florida's history from the time of statehood to the present, this collection represents a wide variety of quilt designs and techniques. Highlights include an applique quilt made around 1845; a 1930s friendship quilt made by a citrus packinghouse crew; and a U.S. Bicentennial quilt made by Florida Extension Homemakers. The Museum also maintains files on more than 5,000 quilts registered by the Florida Quilt Heritage Project.

Florida Quilt Collection


Cigar Box Labels, 1900s-1950s; more than 2,000 examples

The diversity of brand-name paper labels used on the inside lids of cigar boxes is clearly reflected in this collection. Not only do they exhibit the detailed lithography and artistic patterns of the day, but they also serve to tie the cigar-making industry of Tampa to the local Cuban American community.


Florida Paper Currency, 1838-1865; approx. 100 examples

Early examples in this artifact set date from the financially turbulent territorial period, when private banks issued their own currency, often without sound backing. Later examples include bank bills from the statehood period through the Civil War.


Florida Citrus Labels, 1920s-1960s;
approx. 2,000 examples

Citrus growers and shippers glued colorful and distinctive brand-name labels to the ends of wooden shipping crates as a form of product identification. This large collection covers many of the brands used in Florida's important citrus industry.


Military Artifacts, 1830s-present

The Museum's collection of military items extends from the Seminole Wars to Desert Storm. A few significant items exist from the Civil War and Spanish-American War periods; however, the majority the majority of the uniforms, insignia, and equipment date to Florida's involvement in the two World Wars.


Florida Basketry, late 1800s-1980s;
approx. 200 examples

From baskets collected by a Confederate general to a Seminole sifting basket, Florida's long and diverse basket-making tradition, derived from the skills of many of America's new inhabitants, is exemplified by this collection. Many of the items do not conform to typical basket designs—for example, book stops, belts, purses, table mats, fans, and pin cushions.


Florida Tourist Memorabilia, 1890s-present

When Florida became a popular tourist destination in the late 19th century, visitors bought souvenirs to remember their visit. The Museum's collection of these period pieces include fine citrus-motif china, miniature hand-painted jewelry bearing Florida scenes, silver spoons, postcards, and promotional material.


Florida Governors' Portraits, 1821-present;
45 examples

Beginning in the 1890s, every chief executive of Florida has had an official portrait painted and hung in the state capitol building. In the mid-1950s, the state legislature commissioned Tallahassee artist Clarabel Jett to create oil-enhanced photographs of all Florida governors whose portraits were not yet in the state collection. In 1986, the legislature transferred custody of the portrait collection to the Museum of Florida History.

Governor's Portraits

Florida Movies Collection, 1921-present;
approx. 250 examples

For nearly a century, the film industry has taken advantage of Florida's scenic landscapes, sunny climate, and other unique features to provide backdrops for movies and homes for production companies. To mark this milestone, the Museum has established a collection of artifacts related to films that were made in the state. A few props and nearly 250 colorful posters, lobby cards, and other advertising memorabilia have been collected from such Florida classics as The Yearling, The Greatest Show on Earth, and Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Florida Movie Posters

Donations to the Collections

Additions to the collections must conform to the Museum's mission statement, and thus must have been made, purchased, or used in Florida. They must be useful for exhibition or study, and their acquisition and care cannot place undue burdens on conservation, storage, or staff resources. They also must be donated free and clear of restrictions regarding their use. When a donation is offered, the collections and research staff evaluates the item relative to current holdings and the Museum's long-range exhibit and collections plans.

As part of this process, curators and researchers gather as much information as possible about the artifact's history and its potential contribution to related holdings. Once accepted, the item is accessioned, catalogued, and documented according to the Museum's collections policy, which conforms to professional standards.