AIAC and Museum Happenings

Hard to believe it is mid-October already. Preparation for our 14th annual American Indian Arts Celebration (AIAC) is in full swing as the first weekend in November draws near. While excitement revs up for the event, Development continues to work to bring awareness and support to the Museum and its related events. The deft art of fundraising in stressed economic times provides the perfect learning curve for our Museum as we embark on a multi-tiered approach to expanding our membership base and other opportunities for community, corporate and philanthropic investment. Essentially a newcomer to this arena, the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki is slowly albeit dedicatedly building a platform for recognition and support.

Working closely with cultural and community partners to design programs of interest at the Museum and elsewhere, including birdwalks, archaeological days, collections workshops, traditional arts demonstrations as well as exclusive store sales, we have enhanced our profile and brought more awareness to the Museum, its mission and the importance of preserving cultural heritage.

During AIAC weekend we will be hosting an early morning Birdwalk on the Boardwalk. For the price of admission to the festival, birding enthusiasts are welcomed and will gain access to the Boardwalk before the Museum officially opens at 9am. Beyond AIAC, the Museum plans to hold these early morning Birdwalks quarterly throughout the year. So in what appears to be a successful model, specific event planning can lead to overall programming thereby broadening the Museums reach, role and recognition.

Early November is sure to bring long awaited and celebrated cooler temperatures, typically the perfect backdrop for our annual fall event. Several meet-ups have been organized for birders, bikers and photographers. This year we welcome Native American performer Kevin Locke ( and a group of Native Hawaiian dancers called the Aloha Islanders ( ; as well as the usual excitement of Seminole Stomp dancing, alligator wrestling, Critter Show, sensational Seminole and other foods. GET YOUR FRY BREAD HERE!


Expect weekend-long fun for all ages with Raffles, the Children’s Craft Tent, the Archaeology Tent and the digital Scavenger Hunt. Be sure to stop by the Museum Information tent to visit with Museum staff and learn about current and planned exhibitions, programs, events and membership opportunities.

Look for more event details on the Museum website and the AIAC Facebook Page. And remember to set those clocks back on Sunday, November 6. We wouldn’t want you to miss a thing in our exciting lineup!  See you soon.

-Dorian Lange


Membership Happenings

September Membership Blog

You can already feel the change in the weather, as the days get shorter, the sunlight turns golden and our fine feathered winter visitors (both human and birds) are on their way south.


Our Exhibits Manager Greg Palumbo was showing us the new Microsoft Surface touchtable program called Camp Life.  It’s an interactive program, geared to kindergarten – 4th grade children, that seeks to acquaint them with Seminole camp life in the 1890s.






Museum Store – New item:  generous 48″ umbrella with a clear acrylic shaft and a light-up center, just $24.95 (Museum members, take advantage of your member discount.)

Contact the Museum Store at (877) 902-1113 ext. 12224 with your questions about these items.



American Indian Arts Celebration (AIAC) – November 4-6.  Join us for a celebration of traditional and contemporary Native American art, music, and dance from across the country.   Delicious food will be available for purchase.

Friday is AIAC Youth Day, featuring crafts, animal shows and special archaeological programming. There is great programming everyday for school age children, including a “take-away craft.”

Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) will be demonstrating, providing hands on learning opportunities and daily talks about their work.

The full AIAC schedule will be posted by the middle of October. 

Current exhibits

Tools of War, looks at the changing technology of weapons and how these advancements shaped the Seminole Wars.  This exhibit features great items from our collection, including weaponry from 1817 -1858. 

From Surviving to Thriving: An Everglades Economy is also available for your viewing.  It is a chronological look at how the geographical area commonly known as the Everglades, has sustained the Seminole Tribe of Florida from the mid 1800’s to the present.  Learn how some of the deliberate attempts to change the Everglades have impacted the ecology of South Florida and how they have positively and negatively affected the Tribe.

To enhance your Museum experience we offer free tours on most days, check the calendar on our website for times and days.

Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum members are always admitted free.  If you would like Museum membership information, please email or call 954.364.5205.

I look forward to seeing you at the Museum. 



Mary Birch-Hanson

Membership Coordinator

Connecting to Collections

At last week’s Florida Association of Museum Conference an exciting new initiative was announced in relation to the nationwide Connecting to Collections initiative.  Connecting to Collections began back in 2005 with a report released by Heritage Preservation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).   The report, titled “A Public Trust at Risk: The Heritage Health Index Report on the State of America’s Collections (HHI),”, revealed that museum collections of objects, documents, and digital material are not only essential to America’s cultural health, but are imperiled and in need of swift protective action.

The study’s findings concluded that: 

  •   190 million objects held by archives, historical societies, libraries, museums, and scientific organizations in the United States are in need of conservation treatment;
  • 65 percent of collecting institutions have experienced damage to collections due to improper storage;
  • 80 percent of collecting institutions do not have an emergency plan that includes collections, with staff trained to carry it out; and
  • 40 percent of institutions have no funds allocated in their annual budgets for preservation or conservation.  

Starting in 2008 Florida museums began participating in the program with regional meetings and symposiums being held to discuss the status of collections held in the state.  Meetings continued through 2009 and now in 2011 a new initiative has been announced that will partner not only Florida museums, but also libraries, archives, and archaeological collections across the state in order to answer the demand for regional emergency response networks. 

Being in the midst of hurricane alley has made the need for emergency response of utmost importance to us here at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.  We look forward to working with other local museums to make sure these irreplaceable collections will stay with us for years to come. 


Please click here to read the full Connecting to Collections:  A Report to the Nation

“Mammoth of a Discovery by THPO”

The Tribal Historic Preservation Office’s Research Assistant, David Brownell, appears as a guest blogger in this segment. Below he talks about the amazing discovery of a fossilized mammoth tooth, along with a number of other large animal remains on the Big Cypress Reservation:


 Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Willard Steele, who made the initial discovery when he spotted the tooth protruding from spoil piles left over from recent canal dredging, estimates the bones date back around 10,000 years to the Pleistocene Era. During this time, Florida had a much drier climate, and due to lower sea levels, was actually much larger in terms of land mass than it is today, almost twice its current size. Instead of being covered in rivers, lakes, and wetlands like the Everglades, the dry climate produced a savannah covered by hardy grasses and scattered oaks, which would have looked very similar to the African savannah of today.

Mammoth Tooth

Over these vast savannahs roamed mega-fauna like the mammoth, Giant Sloth, camel, American Bison, and mastodon, another relative of the elephant that was much smaller in size. North America was inhabited by a number of mammoth species, ranging from the Imperial Mammoth, the second largest known species which stood 16 feet tall at the shoulder, to the Columbian and Jefferson Mammoths, which are argued to be the same species and were slightly smaller. Though they were herbivores, consuming an estimated 700 pounds of plant material each day to maintain their massive size, they also possessed impressive tusks to deter would-be predators. In fact, though their tusks averaged around 6.5 feet, one specimen uncovered in Texas had tusks reaching 16 feet long. The mastodons were another elephant-related family found here, but were much smaller than their mammoth cousins. Due to the warmer climate, these mammoths lacked the woolly coat of their cousins in Europe and Asia, and would have had skin similar to modern African Elephants, but with small patches of hair on their shoulders and head.


These herbivores were stalked by predators like the Dire Wolf, Saber-toothed Cat, American Lion (similar to its African counterpart but larger), and the short-faced bear, which stood up to 13 feet tall and weighed up to 1,200 pounds. Though there is no evidence that this particular mammoth was killed by humans, they did interact, and there have been multiple archaeological finds including actual kill sites that prove they were hunting mammoth in Florida. Mammoths died out between 10,000 and 5,000 years ago, with the last hold outs in northern Alaska and Russia becoming extinct between 4,000 to 2,000 years ago; though the cause of extinction is unknown, it is generally thought that a combination of shifts in global climate along with increased hunting pressure from humans led to their demise.


My First Time on the Boardwalk

I remember the first time I walked the boardwalk at the Museum. It was at my interview for the Education Coordinator position. The warmth of sun filtering through the trees, the feel of the cool wood planks beneath my feet (I had worn heels to my interview and my feet were sore). The needles from the bald cypress trees had begun to fall onto the boardwalk and were getting stuck to my trouser socks. I remember breathing in the clean Big Cypress air feeling the difference in the air quality compared to that of Detroit where I had grown up. Looking at the placards I appreciated the life giving nature of the plants around me. I wondered how many of these plants are weaved into the Seminoles’ culture.

I didn’t make it very far that day without proper footwear, but the memory has lasted and driven the way I work with the Tour Guides to give visitors a memorable experience. I have had many walks on the boardwalk since that time; each experience has given me a deeper appreciation for where I work. However, boardwalk itself isn’t how my understanding and appreciation for Seminole culture has grown; being a part of programming that takes place on it, the exchange thoughts and ideas about life and the world around us. Some days I go out talking with Tribal members, colleagues, and visitors, which left me with a feeling that we had just solved the world’s problems. Other days I walk out there to clear my head or to get in some exercise. Much of the time I’m out there, I’m working to keep the plant information fresh in my mind or am brainstorming ideas for a new program.

My advice for a person planning a trip to our Museum is to make sure you have enough time to walk the boardwalk. It’s just over a mile long so bring some water and good walking shoes. Bug spray is a must especially during the summer time. It’s hot and muggy this time of year with rain. Dry season is nice time to walk the boardwalk the humidity drops and the temperature in mild and cooler (75 to 80 degrees on average). In the wet season, with almost daily afternoon down pores, the rain gives life to the cypress dome plants that are dormant in the dry season come back to life in the wet season.

Need to take a break, about half way through the walk is our village and ceremonial grounds. It is a great place to cool off under a chickee, get a drink of water, and visit with Seminole crafters.

It’s more than just plants that come to life in the summer animals are more active, too. All staff seems to be aware that more animals are around and to keep a distance between us and them. The animals we see on a daily basis are wild and roam freely through our grounds. We see raccoons and turtles, alligators and otters, and on rare occasions a black bear will wander through. At this point many of you are thinking, “Isn’t it scary working in place with so much wild life?” Not at all. I feel safe out here knowing all the staff is trained in first aid and we have numbers on our boardwalk along with call boxes to send help quickly if something were to happen. The best part of all is we’re across the street from the police, fire, and EMT building; average response time in my experience about 5 minutes.

Maybe it’s the heat or any of the other unique experiences I just described, but we don’t get much visitor traffic during the summer time. I say, “Come prepared and you’ll have a great adventure.”

-Diana Stone, Education Coordinator