Museum Gets Makeover; Amelia: Oral History Site to Add Exhibits during $500,000 Renovation

Article excerpt

Byline: Amelia A. Hart, Nassau Neighbors staff writer

The Amelia Island Museum of History is no stranger to transformation and it's closing its doors today to prepare for another one.

The museum was started as the "Fernandina Historical Museum" in 1975, when the Duncan Lamont Clinch Historical Society decided to develop a museum of local history.

The museum has had three names and two homes since. The old Nassau County Jail in Fernandina Beach became its home in 1979 and it's still there. Its current name was adopted in 1989.

Now, the oral history museum is transforming itself again, adding permanent exhibits that visitors can guide themselves through.

The $500,000 renovation will be done in two phases to reduce the time the museum has to close, said Director David Mallery.

While the museum will be closed in December, docent-led walking tours around Fernandina Beach will continue.

When the museum reopens in January, a currently unused room will be the new location for the museum's hallmark oral history tour, in which volunteer docents walk visitors through 4,000 years of history.

Instead of the free-standing displays hung with photos, maps and the eight flags that have flown over Amelia Island, museum docents will make their presentations before three stages with a changing backdrop of the Fernandina harbor.

Visitors will move from sitting on fiberglass tree stumps on a floor that looks like sand to a Victorian store complete with benches and a pot-bellied stove.

Maps and photographs will move up and down as docents make their presentations. The displays also will have ambient sounds and smells, like the creak of ship's rigging and the salty tang of the ocean.

"We want to immerse people in the experience. We want to do our best to take you there," Mallery said.

The second phase of the renovation, slated to be completed in April, will add permanent displays that paint Amelia Island's history without the need for a docent.

The 40 people who volunteer to give onsite tours are the keys that unlock the museum right now. …


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