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Scientific Spirit Comes Alive at Gillespie Museum during Homecoming Weekend

Join the Gillespie Museum as it celebrates more than 60 years as an earth science center on Stetson University’s campus during Science Saturday on Saturday, Nov. 9, 10 a.m.-noon.

November’s free Science Saturday is occurring during Stetson’s Homecoming Weekend and will include an informal workshop for young scientists on collecting and documenting assemblages along with a rock and mineral swap and giveaway. Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult.

several people are looking in a big display case
Visitors check out one of the Gillespie Museum’s many displays. Photos by Ciara Ocasio/Stetson University

Visitors can also explore the museum’s mineral collections and earth science displays, including the “Agatized Coral and Other Silicified Fossils of Florida” exhibit, which features 140 fossil specimens, including agatized coral and silicate fossils. Agatized coral was chosen by the state legislature in 1970 as Florida’s state rock.

The stunning and diverse assemblage is from the personal collections of Florida geologists Sam Upchurch, PhD, professor emeritus of geology and former Geology Department chair at the University of South Florida, and Gary Maddox, a state hydrogeologist and co-owner of Apalachee Minerals, and provides guests with an opportunity to learn about the local origins, formation and distribution of these natural wonders.

The Gillespie Museum, which is one of the oldest natural science museums in Florida, was inaugurated on Nov. 14, 1958, and opened with a founding collection of 15,000 mineral specimens that were donated by Thomas Byrd and Nellie Parsons Gillespie of Palatka, Florida.

The museum’s mission is to present its mineral showcase, which is also one of the most significant collections in the southeast, to Central Floridians, especially young students, and to educate them about mineralogy, geology and the environment.

Museum director talks to visitors in a display room
Karen Cole, PhD, director of the Gillespie Museum, talks to visitors recently.

During the past 20 years, the Gillespie Museum has become an earth science museum in a natural setting. The museum joined forces with the Rinker Environmental Learning Center 10 years ago, which is adjacent to the museum and features a well-established native Florida plant landscape; the Volusia Sandhill Ecosystem, an urban reforestation, featuring longleaf pines, turkey oaks, persimmons and bigflower pawpaws; the Hatter Harvest organic garden; and Stetson Beekeeping.

-Sandra Carr