The Museum of Science & History has been a local institution along the Southbank since the late 1960s, now routinely welcoming guests of all ages. But did you know that it originated as a small children’s museum in Riverside almost eighty years ago?
MOSH was first chartered in 1941 by the Association for Childhood Education as “Jacksonville Children’s Museum.” The newly-formed museum didn’t have a lot of funding – or even its own building. Most of its early exhibits were located in space set aside for it within the Barnett Bank building downtown.
In 1948, the museum acquired a Victorian mansion at 1061 Riverside Avenue, aided in part by funding from Junior League of Jacksonville which also facilitated adding a full-time curator.
The Jacksonville Children’s Museum in Riverside was free to the public, despite operating on a shoestring budget. Among its features was a planetarium fashioned from a canvas tent. Its exhibits featured historical and cultural items such as displays exploring Native American culture and historic artifacts.
As it grew over the years, it became a particularly popular destination for school field trips. In 1961, the museum recorded 649 class trips; that same year, it also welcomed over 54,000 visitors.
By that point, it was clear that the museum’s building – though relatively large – wasn’t going to be adequate for much longer. The organization began developing a new location along the Southbank, adjacent to the newly-built Friendship Fountain. Designed by architect William Morgan and again aided in funding by Junior League, the new Jacksonville Children’s Museum facility opened in 1969.
Its old building in Riverside, meanwhile, was torn down to make room for a new office building.
The museum operated for more than half a decade before opting to rebrand, first as the Jacksonville Museum of Arts and Sciences in the late ‘70s, then as MOSH in the ‘80s.
Today, MOSH continues to be a popular destination for kids and school field trips, while also accommodating a more grown-up audience. But folks who grew up in Jax during the ‘50s and ‘60s likely still have fond memories of the old Jacksonville Children’s Museum.