First colony? First Thanksgiving? Not so fast, pilgrim.

September 11, 2015
Florida Museum of Natural History

Long before the founding of Jamestown, Spaniards, free and enslaved Africans and Native Americans crafted America’s original “melting pot” in St. Augustine, Fla. In 1565, to be precise.

Visitors at the Florida Museum of Natural History can discover the little-known history of the nation’s first enduring European settlement at the “First Colony: Our Spanish Origins” exhibit, which opens Oct. 17. The site’s archeology, history and stories of people who lived there will be featured.

“‘First Colony’ challenges the long-standing belief that the English were the first to colonize America and establishes St. Augustine as our country’s oldest enduring European settlement,” said Florida Museum exhibit developer Julie Waters. “We’re excited to bring this story to the general public in a format that we hope will both enlighten and entertain as well as correct the long-held Anglo-American bias to our country's history.”

The exhibit reveals why some Spaniards risked the demanding journey to travel by ship to Florida. “First Colony” also features more than 400 artifacts and an in-depth discussion on how archaeologists uncovered the city’s story, complete with a multimedia excavation activity.

Visitors can discover the daily lives of the Spanish settlers and their relationships with the native Timucua people, including the first Thanksgiving. Other exhibit components allow guests to test their strength with a cannonball lift, examine colonial currency and plot their family origins on a wall map.

An interactive table provides insight into St. Augustine’s planning and design based on Spanish law, while 3-D software helps visitors visualize the first settlement as they fly through the town and hear stories of its residents.

Admission is $6.50 for adults ($6 for Florida residents, seniors and college students); $4.50 for ages 3-17 and free to museum members and University of Florida students with a valid Gator 1 card.

The Florida Museum will display the exhibit through April 17, 2016. For more information, please visit lmnh.ufl.edu/firstcolony/home.

“First Colony: Our Spanish Origins” was produced by the Florida Museum of Natural History and University of Florida Historic St. Augustine Inc., and sponsored in part by the Department of State, Division of Historical Resources and the State of Florida.

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