Jacksonville History Center Aims to Put Local Music Out Front

The old casket Factory and future home of the Jacksonville History Center

The Jacksonville History Center will encompass the full scope of local history, not limited just to local music, though that is certainly a big component, and its major selling point up to now.

The new museum will be housed inside the old casket factory, built in 1920 at 318 Palmetto Street, right next door to the Main offices of the Jacksonville Historical Society at 314 Palmetto. The latter building is a key part of local history, originating as Old St. Luke’s Hospital. Opened in 1878, it was Florida’s first building built specifically to be a hospital. It currently functions as a mini-museum in its own right, with two stories packed from floor to ceiling with assorted books, maps, documents, pictures etc., much of which is destined to be enshrined next door.

The museum itself won’t be ready for quite some time, but a preview of sorts was offered to supporters on Tuesday, September 12, when the Jacksonville Historical Society hosted an event at the Museum of Science and History, with whom they collaborated on a local music history exhibit there. That session offered a glimpse into the future, while a broader view was offered just a month later, when the museum’s official groundbreaking ceremony took place on Thursday, October 5. A little plot of sand with the museum’s logo behind it was set up for the photo-op. Right nearby was a table stacked with hard hats and chrome-plated shovels. 

Construction on the three-story, nearly 14,000 square foot facility is expected to take 18 to 24 months, during which time JHS staff and consultants with be working on the interior design, as well as continuing to source even more artifacts for the museum.

To get the full story of the new museum, and what it means for the city and its citizens, I spoke with Kate Hallock, Chief of Staff and Communications Director for the Jacksonville Historical Society, who’s really been the organization’s secret weapon, and one of the real unsung heroes of local culture over the last few years.

When is the museum expected to open? 

We are planning for late 2024/early 2025 to open the music, but in the meantime, we are curating small pop-up exhibits around the city. We began with an exhibit at The Beaches Museum this summer and had an exhibit at the two-day Taco and Tequila Festival over Labor Day weekend. The exhibit at The MOSH will run through the end of November. We are planning a small display within our annual Gingerbread Extravaganza in December, and then will curate the exhibit at another location in late January/early February. Each exhibit has new features which connect with the location of the exhibit.

How many employees/volunteers does the JHS currently have? 

The Jacksonville Historical Society has eight employees, half a dozen UNF interns, and about the same in regular volunteers. We also welcome seasonal volunteers for our annual Gingerbread Extravaganza.

How closely were these developments tied in with the Jax200 activities? 

The Bicentennial celebration in June 2022 included a booth on Jacksonville’s music history to share the vision.

Will the contents be arranged chronologically, or by genre, or by region? 

At this point, the initial thought is to arrange the music history music by genre and within each music genre chronologically within Duval County.

Have you encountered any particular pushback on the project? 

To the contrary, everyone with whom we have shared the vision has been very excited about it. We have supporters across the community at many levels, including those within the music industry, as well as fans, and also people who see it as having a positive economic impact on Jacksonville.

What is the estimated cost of the museum?  

The museum is part of a larger project to renovate the 103-year-old Florida Casket Company building, which we purchased in 2012. The renovations will allow for a museum space, an events space and our new archive and research library. 

How far along are you with the funding? 

We are about a quarter of the way in funding. The building renovations are about $3.2 million, with another half million or so to furnish each floor and create the museum.

Who are some of your favorite local musicians, then and now? 

I’ve only been here in Jacksonville since late 2011, so don’t have much of a “then,” but I do enjoy The Chris Thomas Band, Darren Ronan, Mama Blue, John Lumpkin, Ulysses Owens Jr., and I have to give a shout-out to 95 South, who is part of the MOSH exhibit.

Are you planning more of these preview events in different parts of the community?

Yes, to spread the word, we plan to move the music history exhibit around Duval County for the next couple of years until the museum opens. We are seeking venues which have high traffic over a long run or can draw a significant amount of traffic in a short period.

If people want to donate, or contribute items for the museum, how can they do that? 

We welcome donations of the following kinds: funding, memorabilia and artifacts, oral histories. Contact us at info@jaxhistory.org for details.

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