Florida Museum of Natural History Reopened to Visitors on July 3

Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida campus in Gainesville, Florida, USA on April 30, 2020. Photo: Kyle S Lo/Shutterstock.com

Friday, July 3 marked the reopening of the Florida Museum of Natural History. The Museum, located at the University of Florida campus in Gainesville, reopened its doors again after three long months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. This reopening provides some people relief from boredom at being cooped up in the house all day for months.

The displays of animals that once existed in prehistoric times, such as the mammoth, shark jaws, giant ground sloth and weird bear/dog among them, have been spruced up. The entire place has been cleaned and the sanitizing is on-going. The butterflies are flying in the rainforest, and even the gift shop is open.

Including the “Butterfly Rainforest”, the other exhibits that will be available include: “Florida Fossils: Evolution of Life & Land”, “Fossil Plant Garden”, “Northwest Florida: Waterways & Wildlife”, “Exploring Our World”, “South Florida People & Environments” and the “Florida Wildflower & Butterfly Garden”. The Butterfly Rainforest Gift Shop will remain closed.

According to Doug Jones, Director of the Florida Museum of Natural History, in the last 100 years, the museum has grown from 50,000 objects in the collection to now more than 40 million, along with staffing from only two employees to now 350 people.

“The museum began up at Lake City Agricultural College and then that moved to Gainesville to become a part of UF in 1906, the museum was there at that time and then it grew from 1906 for the next 10 years and was recognized as a big state resource and declared it the official state museum of Florida,” Jones said.

For now, visitors are not allowed to roam at will. Instead, they must follow a path that weaves through the exhibit halls. Some areas are closed off, particularly those with interactive displays.

“We’ve missed our visitors. The mammoth has been standing in here all by itself and the butterflies have kind of been waiting for everybody to return. So it’s really nice to have people back.” says Director of Exhibits and Public Programs, Darcie MacMahon.

Exhibits that will remain closed include “Amazing Pollinators”, “Discovery Zone”, and “Our Energy Future”. The East Gallery and Children’s Gallery will also be closed, and Butterfly Spotlights, group tours and plant sales are also suspended for now.

Parking during the summer is free at the visitor’s parking lot, but not at UF decal and metered spots. 

The Florida Museum’s reopening plan has been guided by the University of Florida, with counsel from UF Health, to ensure a safe environment for all visitors. 

Please visit the Florida Museum of Natural History website to learn more about procedures when visiting. 

The Florida Museum is one of the nation’s top five natural history museums. The Department of Natural History at the Florida Museum, University of Florida, employs 28 faculty-curators and 22 collection managers who pursue great diverse scientific questions within anthropological, biological, and paleontological sciences. The Department also houses a vibrant and diverse community of over 100 graduate students. 

Faculty-curators supervise the growth and maintenance of scientific collections containing more than 40 million of modern and fossil specimens of plants, animals, and archaeological and ethnographic materials – one of the largest such university-based resources in the world.

Learn more about the facility and the museum itself at the University of Florida website.