The Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville is a Smithsonian affiliate museum that has been open since 1908. It’s known for its extensive collections of fossils, minerals, and gems from the state.

The florida museum of natural history collections is a museum located in Gainesville, Florida. It has been collecting specimens since 1883.

A Florida Museum Looks West

Laura Hine, the museum’s director, turned an existing structure into a world-class museum. (Photo courtesy of the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art)

Despite the fact that Florida forts previously housed tribe captives during the Indian wars, few people associate the state with the American West. The new 80,000-square-foot James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art (with 26,000 square feet of exhibition space) opened in St. Petersburg in 2018, and its executive director has a strong Old West connection. Pat Garrett, the New Mexico sheriff who shot and killed Billy the Kid in 1881, was Laura Hine’s great-grandfather. Hine even gave her youngest kid the name Garrett, despite the fact that she downplays the familial connection. “I named him after my mother,” she explains, “who also happens to be Pat Garrett’s granddaughter.”

While a Western museum in the South may seem improbable, Hine’s route to become director does as well. She studied aeronautical engineering at the United States Navy Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, then served as a naval surface warfare officer for six years before becoming a certified general contractor in her hometown. She met and married Hank Hine, the director of the Dal Museum in St. Petersburg, and via him, she met Tom and Mary James, art collectors with a large collection of Western and animal art. Tom James hired contractor Hine to create the structure and its galleries after the couple chose to donate the collection to the St. Petersburg community. Hine describes the project as a “radical restoration of an old structure that was basically a parking garage.” “How are you going to convert it into a world-class museum?” says the narrator.

A Florida Museum Looks West

Among the numerous masterworks is Harry Jackson’s dramatic bronze “Two Champs” from 1978. (Photo courtesy of the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art)

Visitors now enter the museum via the Introductory exhibit, which features a variety of Western artworks and sculptures. Following that, the Early West gallery has masterpieces like Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell. The Native Life gallery is next, where you may learn about the history and culture of American Indian tribes. Native Artists and Jewel Box, which are connected, feature modern Indian art and jewelry, respectively. The Frontier collection focuses on fur merchants, cowboys, and other “newcomers.” For a worldwide perspective on conservation problems, the Wildlife gallery goes beyond Western animal life. Finally, the New West exhibition examines the area through the lenses of pop, cubism, surrealism, and other contemporary art forms.

A Florida Museum Looks West

The Native Artists exhibit features works by Indian artists (James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art)

Tom James encouraged Hine to take over as director in 2019. She remembers him telling her, “You have excellent business knowledge, you have good common sense, and you’re good with people.” “Our mission is to be a thought-provoking and impactful museum that inspires all visitors. That’s a huge picture. I believe that our exhibits over the next several years will show that we are moving in that direction.”

“Warhol’s West” (Oct. 2, 2023–Jan. 9, 2023); “Away From Home: American Indian Boarding School Stories” (Jan. 28–March 16, 2023); “Ansel Adams: The Masterworks” and “Clyde Butcher: America the Beautiful” (April 30–June 31, 2023); and “Black Pioneers: Legacy in the American West” (Sept. 3, 2023–Jan. 8, 2023); and “Ansel Adams: The Master

“There is so much possibility here,” Hine adds, “and I am very excited about it.” WW

This story appeared in the October 2023 issue of Wild West.

The west palm beach museum is a Florida Museum that looks west. It was built in the early 1900s, and is now home to many different exhibits.

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