Matheson History Museum and Historic Haile Homestead Property Receive COVID Relief Money

Cultural organizations like the Matheson History Museum have not escaped struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they are receiving some relief from federal funds.

Alachua County issued a stay-at-home order in March 2020, as the Matheson Museum, 513 E. University Ave., prepared for its exposure “Pioneers: 150 years of women from Alachua County. “

Kaitlyn Hof-Mahoney, executive director of the museum, recalled that the lockdown went into effect around 5 p.m. on March 24, 2020. She rushed to the printer to retrieve the exhibition panels before it went into effect. of the order.

“And then they sat in the friend’s room in my apartment for a few months while I worked at home, before coming back to the museum,” Hof-Mahoney said.

Due to the sudden closure, many exhibitions had to be held online. To help organizations like the Matheson History Museum, Florida Humanities was able to award the organization $ 22,500 from the US Rescue Plan, which would be used to cover operating expenses.

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And it is just not the Matheson History Museum that has received funding; six other organizations in Alachua County were able to benefit from the funding. Statewide, Florida Humanities was able to award 129 organizations for a total of $ 1.88 million.

“This is really precious to us. We are very grateful to Florida Humanities and their distribution of funding for the US bailout. It has been very difficult years, but I think we are hopefully starting to see the flip side. of COVID, starting to rebuild and move forward in a positive direction, ”said Hof-Mahoney.

The funding requested by the museum will be used to finance its Internet service and the salaries of its employees. The money is expected to last them until July 2022.

Hof-Mahoney said their internet service was essential because during COVID-19 much of their programming was online and the museum wants to continue doing its virtual programming.

“We now have exhibits online and our programs are both in person and on Zoom, this particular utility bill is something that is critically important right now to continue serving the public,” said Hof-Mahoney.

On January 19, 2022, the museum will host the exhibit “We’re Tired of Asking, Black Thursday and Civil Rights at the University of Florida,” focusing on the 1971 protests by black students who staged a sit-in. at Tigert Salle. The Union of Black Students presented former UF president Stephen C. O’Connell with a list of demands. The protest led to the arrest of 66 students, prompting many students to withdraw citing racism.

Haile’s historic property

A guide speaks to a one-bedroom group during the annual Farm Vacation at Haile's Historic Farm in Gainesville, a vacation tradition, in 2013.

Karen Kirkman, president and historian of Historic Haile Homestead, said she discovered the Florida Humanities fundraising initiative with ARP funds through a sponsored Facebook ad.

Due to the museum’s temporary closure due to COVID-19, it lost money as it did not offer any tours and its membership had declined significantly.

It was difficult for them to keep up with the maintenance of their 38 acres of lawn and other utilities, Kirkman said.

She said lawn maintenance can cost $ 380 per month.

“We had fixed costs like that, which we still had to pay and that’s what I invested,” Kirkman said.

The Historic Haile Property, 8600 SW Archer Road, its roots go back to 1854 when Thomas Evans and Serena Chestnut Haile moved their family to Gainesville from Camden, South Carolina. The 6,200 square foot house was built by 56 slave laborers. The museum is known for the 12,500 words written on the wall.

“The house itself is a museum. We also have an (additional) museum where we have artefacts. But what we do here, which is different from a lot of other places in the South, we incorporate the stories of the people. enslaved in our tours, ”Kirkman said.

The museum also suffered from volunteers during the pandemic. Before the pandemic there were 25 to 30 volunteers and now there are only 15 to 20 left.

“We do this out of passion. I had high school volunteers. I had volunteers who were seniors (citizens) and we lost quite a few. Not that they died or anything, but they didn’t. ‘were more comfortable volunteering and greeting the public because of COVID-19. They [senior citizens] were at high risk and high school kids were busy tackling online school, ”Kirkman said.

After the stay-at-home order, the museum opened in June to begin tours one day a week, instead of two days like before the pandemic.

Kirkman said the museum is important to the community because it is one of only three plantation houses still standing in Alachua County where visitors can see the stories of former black Americans enslaved.

Here are other cultural organizations in Alachua County that have received funding:

  • Neighborhoods United for Better Alachua, received $ 1000
  • Cotton Club Museum and Cultural Center, received $ 6,000
  • The Actors’ Warehouse, Inc., received $ 7,000
  • Cedar Key Historical Society, Inc., $ 6,500
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