Southwest Florida is filled with much history given its rather recent progress (historically speaking) in becoming a modern city. This is even more true in Marco Island, where there had been lots of human activity ever since the prehistorical times and its history goes on in pre and post European colonial occupation. From the prehistoric peoples, to the Calusa tribe and the Spanish missionaries, most of these historical knowledge could have easily been eroded with time but thanks to the Marco Island Historical Museum, we get the chance to learn all about life in Marco Island long before it became the tourist and hotel capital that it is today.
Despite the small space, the Marco Island Historical Museum was able to back almost 5000 years of human history in Marco Island. The museum is run by the Marco Island Historical Society that was established in 1994 as an offshoot from the Collier County Historical Society. the Marco Island Historical Society has a simple mission and that is to preserve the history and heritage of Marco Island.
Thanks to the society’s efforts we now have a pretty clear picture of what life was like during the time when the Calusa dominated and thrived in these lands. And the museum has a lot of amazing was to showcase what life was like back then through old photographs, artifact exhibits, short movies, and even a life size model of a small village, complete with human-like models and figures. The musem really maximized the space they had because for every step along the way, you will learn something new.
The highlight of the museum has got to be one of the most important artifacts ever excavated from the region – The Marco Key Cat. This is a 6 inch wooden statue was excavated in 1896 by archaeologist Frank Hamilton Cushing and his team. The statue is an anthropomorphized cat with the body of a human. This statue was found along with 1,000 other wooden artifacts and shells in Marco Key a small pond within the area. The most exciting part about this is that these finds date way back five to six thousand years ago, literally in prehistorical times. The Marco Key Cat is so old, nobody could say for sure who were the people who made it and what their culture was like. The cat statue is under the care of the Smithsonian museum but it was loaned for an exhibit in the Marco Island Historical Museum in April of 2018 as a part of a temporary tour. There is, however, a replica bronze statue sitting outside the Museum grounds.
Aside from the Calusa, the museum also tracks the historical development of the land during the pioneering period in the 1800’s. The Calusa were around during this time and so were the new settlers from the north and even pirates to the southern seas. You can view the history unfold before your eyes by trailing down a diorama of the events with life-like and life-sized statues depicting everyday life during those dangerous times.
Finally, you can go over their gift shop to bring some of that history with you back home to serve as little remembrance. There are books, bags, clothes and even small decorative paintings that give you that authentic Marco feel. Visit the Marco Island Historical Museum next time you’re in town!