After earning his history degree at FGCU, Matt Johnson was hired as educator-historian at the Southwest Florida Museum of History in 2001. With his return to that cherished Fort Myers institution, Johnson’s career path now comes full-circle, yet signals an exciting new beginning.
After many years of planning, the Museum of History is finally located under the same roof as the Imaginarium Science Center. As executive director of the newly merged museum, Johnson will work with its board to envision a future for history and science that puts them on equal footing to tell the story of Southwest Florida.
Attendees at the Night at the Museum gala fundraiser on March 4 will enjoy the big reveal of a refreshed brand, conceptual plans for expansion, and the strategic vision for the combined museum. In the meantime, staff, board members and volunteers are busily ushering in a transformation under the famous blue water tower on Cranford Avenue, which represents a homecoming of its own for Johnson.
A year after his former history professor tapped him for the educator-historian position at the Museum of History, she left as its director, leaving Johnson in charge. Later, the Imaginarium had a similar vacancy, which he took on concurrently. He got pulled away to oversee Harborside Event Center as its interim manager in 2013 and was again the go-to to serve as interim assistant city manager in 2015, and interim community development director in 2016, which he did until the end of this January.
When it came time to bring science and history together, Johnson was the natural choice to execute on that objective. “There was nothing natural about the separation,” Johnson said. “History and science are lenses through which we view and understand our world. They are trying to tell the same story – about how the world works, where and why cultures are established, and how we can use that understanding to create positive change.”
Visit i-sci.org for tickets to A Night at the Museum, 7 – 10 p.m. on Saturday, March 4 on the grounds of the combined Imaginarium and SWFL Museum of History, celebrating the rightful alignment of science and history. Extinct animals and colorful figures of Florida’s storied past will come to life and “Night Watchman” Ted Fitzgeorge will serve as tour guide. Enjoy cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, auctions and the excitement of a whole new museum experience for all ages. All proceeds will support the new museum.
About the Imaginarium Science Center
The Imaginarium Science Center is a family-friendly science center and aquarium offering fun interactive exhibits and a 3-D theatre. The mission is to engage guests in the exploration of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) through hands-on exhibit experiences and educational programs that further the understanding of the natural and human-made world, foster an appreciation for Southwest Florida’s unique environment and natural waterways, and nurture intellectual curiosity, discovery and innovation. For more information, visit www.i-sci.org.
About the SWFL Museum of History
The Southwest Florida Museum of History is dedicated to the collection, preservation and interpretation of history and traditions, with particular emphasis on Fort Myers and Southwest Florida. Exhibits showcase the region’s rich history, from prehistoric to modern day.
Two great museums come together!
The Imaginarium Science Center and the SWFL Museum of History have been under joint leadership for nearly a decade, but have now combined for a new museum experience. Get a sneak peek as to where that path may lead at the “A Night at the Museum” joint fundraising event. It is sure to make history and blaze new trails into the future!