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Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Matheson Museum declines hosting controversial confederate statue

Matheson Museum Board of Directors voted 9-2 Tuesday evening against accepting a controversial confederate statue as a museum exhibit.

“We had a somewhat spirited discussion about accepting the statue and ultimately the decision was to refuse the statue,” said Bob Ackerman, a member of the board.

Ackerman said the members discussed the benefits and drawbacks of the museum accepting the statue, but decided against it for a variety of reasons.

“We had a fairly unattractive draft agreement that was sent over by the county,” he said. In addition, he added, the museum was worried about having to raise the funds to move the statue and “that the museum would probably be obligated to contextualize the statue… (by) adding some more statues or exhibits or something that would broaden the historical perspective.”

In September, the county commission voted 3-2 to relocate the statue — currently located in downtown Gainesville — to the museum using public funds. The museum, however, never agreed to accept the statue.

Jesse Arost, a 29-year-old UF alumnus who helped push the movement to relocate the statue said he was surprised by the museum's decision.

“Oh my,” he said when informed of the board’s decision. “I guess all I can say is it’s frustrating”

Alachua County Commissioner Charles Chestnut laughed when he was informed of the decision after coming out of a commission meeting. “I don’t know what to say.”

“If they don’t want to accept it, I guess the commission will have to bring it back up and deal with it at a later date,” Chestnut added.

In the meantime, the statue will remain where it currently stands.

Steven Ingram, the Public Affairs Officer for the Florida League of the South, said he was against the commission's decision to relocate the statue.

“It's obvious that they not only want to replace us as a specific and distinct people but our history as well,” Ingram said.

Contact Hunter Wiilliamson at hwilliamson@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @hunterewilliam

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