Did you know that we live in an area that was inhabited by ancient people (pre-Calusa) who settled here some 6,000 years ago and formed what is considered to be the one of the oldest known permanent civilizations in North America?
Did you know that later, in the 1870s, pioneers who migrated and settled in this area established three villages – Caxambas, Marco, and Goodland – together comprising what was known as Marco Island at the time?
All of this rich history and much more is brought to you by the Marco Island Historical Society (MIHS) and Museum. The MIHS was started by a passionate group of citizens who understood the importance of preserving this rich Marco area history. Early volunteers of MIHS worked tirelessly to start and build the museum. Now, a few professional staff members create and maintain wonderful world-class exhibits and operate this state-of-the-art facility in a successful public/private partnership with Collier County Museums.
The exhibit called “Paradise Found: 6000 Years of People on Marco Island,” is dedicated to the ancient people, including the Calusa, who called Marco Island home. It currently features rare Pre-Columbian artifacts discovered on Marco Island in 1896 – including the most famous, the “Key Marco Cat.” These artifacts are here on temporary loan from the Smithsonian Institution and University of Pennsylvania Museum.
So, what has all this to do with Goodland? Well, one of the elements of the Paradise Found exhibit is a stylized “Midden Wall.” What exactly is a “midden,” you may ask? Frankly, it is a trash dump. Pieces of shell, rock, plant life, and everyday refuse make up a “midden.” Goodland was built on a midden, an ancient trash heap complete with piles of rock, shell mounds, and plant life, left by our ancestors more than 6,000 years ago. When John Roberts first named the village “Good Land,” he did so because of the fertile soil he found. Little did he know that underneath it lay so many years of history.
The entire Paradise Found exhibit (including the Midden Wall and several other fantastic exhibit elements) is the result of years of planning and execution. The MIHS worked with Creative Arts Unlimited to design, construct, and install the exhibit. The MIHS bore this construction cost in order to have it completed in preparation for the artifact loans.
As the museum is open to the public, free of charge, and as MIHS is a non-profit 501(c)(3), fundraising efforts to sponsor all the various exhibit elements have been underway for the last year. Goodlanders have an exciting opportunity to make a historical impact together by sponsoring the replica “Midden Wall.”
It all started when an anonymous Goodland resident expressed interest in helping to sponsor the Midden Wall. This person believed that since Goodland was built on a midden, the donor recognition plaque should read “Village of Goodland” as a proper tribute to Goodland and its residents. How truly exciting it would be to get the whole community involved in sponsoring an exhibit that perfectly portrays its roots. “If we could somehow get the Goodland community involved in this, then Goodland could go down in history for collectively funding such an integral part of its history,” exclaimed Theresa Morgan, current MIHS treasurer and Goodland resident.
Morgan, along with Goodlanders Chris Willets and Sherri Morrison are charging ahead with this formidable task; drumming up enough money so that the Midden Wall can become Goodland’s Gift to the thousands of museum visitors every year. “We are hoping to raise at least thirty thousand dollars ($30,000) by May 1,” said Morgan. “We would love for every Goodlander to participate – even a little. All amounts donated are of course confidential.” The MIHS is so pleased that a whole village would come together in support of their mission to preserve and share history.
“We installed all of the exhibit elements because we wanted to maximize the experience for the visitors. Having all the elements in place, for people young and old, from all over, to visit and learn. Everyone worked so hard to build-out the museum so that it would meet the criteria for preserving and displaying the artifacts on loan, and so that the surrounding elements would enhance their understanding. This was a massive undertaking that had to happen before the artifacts could be transferred into our care. And it cost a lot of money. We needed to bring this exhibit here, so people can learn our rich history and experience some of the most important Pre-Columbian artifacts ever found,” explained Morgan.
If you would like to be a part or learn more, visit www.themihs.org.