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Celebrate Floridiana

Take a fascinating trip through Florida’s history at the Matheson Museum’s annual Floridiana Weekend on January 30.

Sponsored by Visit Gainesville and the Florida Humanities Council, Floridiana Weekend brings antique vendors to the museum hall to display and sell rare and unique collectibles, books, souvenirs and other memorabilia representative of the distinctive culture, rich history and extraordinary landscapes of the state of Florida. The day also includes a series of writing workshops offered by the award-winning faculty of the Anhinga Writers’ Studio, as well as a lecture by Florida writer and professor Maurice “Socky” O’Sullivan.

So what does “Floridiana” mean? “Floridiana means materials, culture, books and other items that document Florida, from the early days of the state to the boom of Disney and NASA,” said Carla Summers, Executive Director for the Matheson Museum, “anything that helps tell the story of Florida.” For example, postcards depicting the state’s landscape and industry became popular long before the dawn of Disney and NASA. These postcards often showed orange groves, street scenes, landscapes and trains (a popular mode of transportation in that time). People living or vacationing in Florida would often send these postcards to their northern friends and family, and they served as advertisements for the Sunshine State.

Floridiana also includes ephemera — items that were created to serve a purpose and not necessarily meant as historic items or documents. Railroad tickets are a popular form of ephemera, as are tourism brochures, pamphlets and event or attraction tickets. The personal nature of such memorabilia gives people a special connection to the past. “One of my favorite items is a railroad ticket that my grandma had,” said Summers. “I can imagine her standing on the platform as a child, clutching that ticket.”

The writing workshops, titled Writing in the Floridiana Spirit, include sessions on memoir, fiction and travel writing. “It’s for people of all levels of writing,” said author Mary Anna Evans, one of the Anhinga Writers’ Studio board members. “They don’t need to be professionals. They just have some interest in putting their thoughts on paper, or would just like to spend the day with people who do that, who love words and who love Florida.”

The day concludes with O’Sullivan’s lecture, The Florida Dozen: 12 Writers Who Shaped the Sunshine State. “With its fluid borders and constantly evolving population, Florida has always been more a state of mind than a geographic region,” said O’Sullivan, a Kenneth Curry Professor of English at Rollins College. “Florida has the oldest and most diverse literary tradition in the United States. Among the thousands of writers who have shaped the ways all of us see the Sunshine State, this baker’s dozen deserve special recognition.”

The goal of these events is to give the public a feel for the unique history of Florida, and for our town as well. “Gainesville’s a fabulous place,” said Summers. “We have art, sports, dance, music… and historical artifacts are just as much a part of the experience to tourists, visitors and residents.”

The antique show is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with O’Sullivan’s lecture at 6:30 p.m. Both are at the Matheson Museum, located at 513 E. University Avenue, and are free and open to the public. The writing workshop will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the downtown Hampton Inn & Suites, just a short walk from the museum; pre-registration is required. There is a Matheson Museum members-only preview of the antique show on Friday evening.

By Janice C. Kaplan