At the Orange County Regional History Center, you can roam across 14,000 years right in the heart of downtown Orlando. In one gallery, immerse yourself in the days when 12-foot-tall mammoths roamed Florida. In others, revisit such varied topics as the space race, citrus culture, Civil Rights history, the Black community, the coming of Disney, Orlando’s alternative rock music scene, and much more. There’s truly something for all ages and interests in the museum’s exhibits about the richly diverse folks who created Central Florida and have called it home.
Even the museum’s location is historic. Its distinguished home — the restored 1927 Orange County Courthouse — was designed by Murry S. King, Florida’s first registered architect. In its four floors of galleries, the award-winning museum hosts both permanent and special exhibitions from the Smithsonian Institution and other prestigious museums that bring America’s stories to Central Florida.
Year-round History Center programs for the whole family range from trivia nights to talks by experts to “Sensory Sundays,” in partnership with the Autism Society of Greater Orlando. Family programs combine cool educational content with hands-on activities — also a feature of the History Center’s summer camp program. Fun weekend brunches sport titles such as “Mermaids and Mimosas,” rounding out a wide variety of events that make the museum an ideal destination for affordable dates, family outings, and school field trips.
Each year brings fresh opportunities for new, exciting things to see and do, linked to special exhibitions. The latest, Figurehead: Music & Mayhem in Orlando’s Underground, focuses on Orlando’s rock scene in the 1980s and ’90s, a period when eye-catching, innovative concert posters plastered downtown windows and captured the energy and drive of the era.
Central Floridians can read about such exhibitions and other wide-ranging topics in the History Center’s magazine, Reflections from Central Florida, which also highlights the archival collections of the museum’s Brechner Research Center, a rich resource for researchers from students to scholars.
The History Center is an Affiliate of the Smithsonian, an honor achieved by only about 200 organizations across the nation, and is accredited by the American Association of Museums, the highest honor a museum can receive. It has become a national leader in collecting and preserving history as it happens by documenting events including the Pulse nightclub tragedy and Central Florida’s response to the COVID pandemic.
“We work hard to be Central Florida’s premier history museum, and we’re grateful for the national awards those efforts have brought us,” says the History Center’s executive director, Pam Schwartz. “But we’re even more proud to have the support of our visitors and members. Donations, of any size, are crucial in fulfilling the History Center’s mission to serve as a gateway for community engagement, education, and inspiration.”
You can learn more about the Orange County Regional History Center at TheHistoryCenter.org, or become a member to receive loads of great perks and to become a part of preserving local history.