I'm very proud of my first published for pay article. Somehow it feels better to have been paid, though the first time I saw my name in a publiccation for simply "honorable mention:, my heart soared! The following was written for Senior Life of Florida, a monthly newspaper.
Pioneering WomenTakeCenter Stage
For the first time in its 30 year history, the Brevard Museum of History and Natural Science remains open on the Fourth of July. In addition to the permanent exhibits, and special events including patriotic music, a petting zoo, special food, and rides, museum visitors will find a unique exhibit which will only be on display until September 30th. This exhibit honors the strength and pioneer spirit of Selina Mole Roberts, whose diary inspired the exhibit.
Visitors can see for themselves what life was like in 19th Century Brevard County, when men earned 50 cents a day for their hard labor, and women struggled to stretch and supplement the family income. The staff and creative volunteers at the Brevard Museum of History and Natural Science have used Mrs. Roberts' memoirs, some family heirlooms, and their love for history to recreate the story of life in a Turpentine and Mineral Spirits Camp, an early citrus grove, and even a portion of the family home which still stands near Titusville.
The special exhibit honoring the courage and ingenuity of Selina Roberts and all pioneering women is only part of what makes this Museum a remarkable and memorable place to visit. As a teenager, Selina Mole worked in London as governess for a wealthy family and she was beloved by her prosperous farming family. When she was 21 years old, Selina married Harry Roberts and together they moved from New York to Florida in 1874.
Selina and Harry lived in what her English family would have considered a shack and she had to wash dishes for the crude and unkempt workers of the Turpentine Camp her brother-in-law ran. The harsh life and strange foods made the young bride homesick for England. Harry worked in grueling conditions from sunrise to sunset to bring home less than a dollar a day. Although she was raised on a farm, the young woman had never had to face the hostile environment of Central Florida, and she wrote of her sadness, despair, and determination in her diary. Selina and Harry dealt with wild beasts, snakes, and hordes of mosquitoes, but they planned for a future life of luxury and planted an orange grove to help fulfill that dream.
Unfortunately, they had staked out their homestead on someone else's property and had to move and start all over. Thirteen years after their marriage, they completed their home near Titusville, and started taking in boarders for $5 a week.
Their daughters became successful as teachers, and their son became the first banker of Titusville. Lillian Carver of Mims is Selina Mole Roberts' granddaughter and she inherited the memoirs her grandmother wrote at the age of 72. These memoirs were recently presented to the Brevard Museum of History and Natural Science, and are the basis for its very special exhibit which is a tribute to the early pioneer women of BrevardCounty.
The Brevard Museum of History and Natural Science portrays life in BrevardCounty with permanent displays which take visitors from the first settler through history to the first Space Shuttle launch. The museum has a special Discovery Room for children where touching and exploring are highly encouraged. Although visitors may want to explore the displays for hours, the museum is not confined to the building. An enchanting butterfly garden graces the building; three Nature trails across 22 acres and a Pavilion complete the museum experience.
The BrevardMuseum is an exciting place to visit, and many visitors return frequently to work as volunteers as the museum has grown over the years. The museum is currently seeking volunteers of all ages who are interested in laughing while learning, and having fun while providing a valuable service. JaNeen Smith, the museum's Executive Director said, "We are expecting many tour buses this summer, and we are in need of more docents to help guide the tours." She then explained that docents are volunteer tour guides who are trained by the museum staff and are very important to the museum. The Brevard Museum of History and Science needs storytellers, readers, docents/ tour guides, researchers, gardeners, historians, and people who would prefer to stay in the background to clean the collections. Mrs. Smith also said, "We really need someone who would like to work with our younger visitors in the Discovery Room. We'd love to get a retired teacher to volunteer some time on Saturdays." Volunteers can be shy or outgoing, young or old, and can work any hours they choose. The museum has two volunteer training sessions scheduled for August where museum staff will give an overview of the museum and BrevardCounty's history and help the volunteers find their niche. "We would never ask someone to do something he or she might not be comfortable doing," Mrs. Smith said. "We want our volunteers to be happy here with us. We have one couple who has volunteered with the museum for 18 years. That's because they enjoy what they are doing here." Mrs. Smith stressed that volunteers do not need to know anything about museums or Brevard County before signing up to help, and that those who want to learn more, will have access to the resources they would need.
Connie Rodda is an artist who volunteers at the BrevardMuseum. Along with several other volunteers, she spends time planning, designing, and building sets and exhibits. Every four months they begin creating a new exhibit. Connie painted many of the background murals for the Pioneer Women exhibit. She said, "Where else can you paint all day for a week with all the paints and materials given to you?" It took her about a week to paint the landscape background for the turpentine tree exhibit. "I did it for the satisfaction," she said proudly.
In addition to the sociable docents and volunteers who work behind the scenes painting and setting up exhibits or keeping the many collections clean and dust-free, is the Museum Guild. The members of the guild help with fund raising and special events. Assistant Director, Odalys Smith said, "I can't tell you how much we appreciate our Museum Guild. They provide a very valuable service to us."
The Brevard Museum of History and Science in Cocoa is open seven days a week. The hours on Monday through Saturday are - 4:00 pm, and on Sundays the museum is open from until . If you would like to learn more about volunteering or about the museum and its exhibits, or how to reserve the Pavilion, call 321-632-1830.
The Brevard Museum of History and Science is located at 2201 Michigan Avenue in Cocoa, Florida, and is sponsoring two unique raffles this summer. Visitors can purchase raffle tickets for a gourmet and historical book basket or a 1985 Jaguar XJ6. Raffle tickets are tax deductible and all proceeds benefit the museum.