We were really pleased with this museum, housed in the old Orange County courthouse. Central Florida feels as though it has no history or culture, so the first task of a museum such as this one is to convince us that there is history worth studying. With the building and decor, I was disposed to learn about the roots of an area that seems not to have roots if you cruise I-Drive or OBT.
Displays about native peoples and the Seminole Wars, and the Florida "crackers" were helpful to this transplant. There was a "here" here before the mouse came along and transformed the area. And there was tourism before 1971 as well. Orlando's first phase as a real city came alongside the development of Apopka, Sanford, and Kissimmee as steamboats and railroads took cattle and citrus from and brought tourists to the area.
Aviation brought the next phase in Orlando's urban development, even before Kennedy Space Center. The role of several bases in the area during WWII brought the Martin Company, later Martin Marietta and today Lockheed Martin, to the area. Eventually the importance of aerospace to the area led to the founding of what is today called the University of Central Florida.
The opening of Disney World in 1971 began the transformation of the area to the theme park capital of the world. But even then, the area continues to change and search for a permanent identity. The dramatic expansion of UCF in the 1990s has happened alongside a diversification in the economy of the area that is still in motion.
I did not know most of this when we first visited the museum. I learned a lot. The displays are well-designed, everything was working when we were there, and the displays caught the right balance between too much information and not enough.
My only complaint, worth half a star if that were possible, is the small gift shop. I wanted to find more resources to learn more.
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