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Museum forges collaboration with Art & History Museums – Maitland

“Fumecheliga: A History of the First Peoples of Florida” is now open. It features objects from the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum’s permanent collection. (Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum)

BIG CYPRESS — Since reopening after the pandemic, the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum has been contacted by numerous museums and institutions across Florida requesting collaborations on various projects and events. Many of these are exciting opportunities for the museum to share its mission, its collection, and the Seminole story.

One of these requests came from the Art & History Museums of Maitland, a cultural organization near Orlando that is made up of the Maitland Historical Museum, the Telephone Museum, the Waterhouse Residence & Carpentry Shop Museum, and the Maitland Art Center (the only National Historic Landmark in the greater Orlando area). A&H Maitland is also home to a variety of art classes and workshops, as well as two artist residency programs.

This past spring, A&H Maitland was planning a new exhibit which would focus on the early Indigenous populations of Florida. As it would also discuss the Seminole Wars and Seminole history from the 19th and early 20th centuries, they reached out to the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum in order to better tell these stories. A&H Maitland submitted a formal request to borrow objects from the museum’s permanent collection, and also worked with collections and exhibits staff on the text to be displayed.

A&H Maitland’s exhibitions manager, Katie Benson, traveled to the museum over the summer to meet with these staff members, view the collection and experience the unique setting of the Big Cypress Reservation. An opening date for the exhibit was then set for the end of September, and staff continued to work diligently to prepare the objects that would be on loan.

On Sept. 21, collections staff traveled to the Orlando area with these objects, including a patchwork skirt and cape, a patchwork coat, an artistic map by Guy LaBree, a palmetto sifting basket, and a historic powder horn. Additionally, A&H Maitland used copies of early 20th century postcards from the Ah-Tah-Thi- Ki Museum’s collection, along with a reproduction of the famous “Cowkeeper Letter” from 1774.

Staff from both museums carefully prepared the objects for installation, which included steaming and pinning the delicate textiles. Staff also toured the beautiful grounds and viewed the current exhibits around the property. During this time, the team from A&H Maitland expressed their sincere wish that Seminole tribal members would visit and experience this special exhibit.

The exhibit, titled “Fumecheliga: A History of the First Peoples of Florida,” opened Sept. 23 in the organization’s Maitland Historical Museum. Sadly, Hurricane Ian hit the Orlando area less than a week later. While A&H Maitland did have some fallen trees and debris around the grounds, they were fortunate to have no damage to their buildings or the artifacts housed within. They have now reopened and are ready to receive visitors.

For staff at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, it was gratifying to see that this organization was eager to tell the Seminole story as accurately as possible. Their team readily welcomed input, and this was both noticed and appreciated. While not all of the numerous requests received by Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki lead to a lasting partnership, it is the hope that a future collaborator and new friend can now be found in Maitland.

“Fumecheliga: A History of the First Peoples of Florida” is on exhibit at the Art & History Museums of Maitland until Feb. 5, 2023. For more information, visit or contact the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum’s collections division at

Collections staff from the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum prepare patchwork textiles for exhibit. (Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum)