Thousands of antique medical-related items were donated to The Matheson History Museum to show the distinct characteristics of past commodities compared to today's medical items. Many of these donations were made by retired cardiologist Dr. Mark Barrow, who had been collecting items for over a decade. (Mariana Riquezes/WUFT News)

Museum Exhibit Explores Alachua County’s Medical Past


A Gainesville museum is showing visitors a glimpse into Alachua’s medical history with its new, free exhibit – Medical Milestones: Transitions in Health and Wellness in Alachua County, Florida.

“Well, it’s one of Gainesville’s strengths,” said Peggy Macdonald, executive director of the Matheson History Museum. “People come from around the state and beyond to Gainesville for medical treatment.”

The exhibit observes several facets of the county’s extensive history in the medical field.

It teaches visitors about Alachua County’s first husband and wife doctor team, Dr. Robert Robb and Dr. Sarah Robb, and how they started their own practice in Gainesville in the 1880s.

The exhibit also touches on the northerners who migrated to Alachua County in search of springs and their sacred waters, believing they had recuperative and restorative powers.

“Many springs have high quantities of minerals,” said Rick Kilby, who received a bronze Florida Book Award for his book “Finding the Fountain of Youth: Ponce de Leon and Florida’s Magical Waters”.

“It is believed that soaking in, or sometimes drinking this water, would cure a variety of ailments.”

Kilby will be one of several speakers at the museum during the course of the exhibit.

The museum further explores Alachua’s medical past by remembering the county’s first community hospital, Alachua General Hospital. AGH closed its doors Nov. 1 2009, and Shands Hospital became the county’s main medical center.

“I used to work at AGH,” said Karen Braseth, a nurse in the emergency room unit at UF Health Shands Hospital. “I have a lot of sentimental feelings towards AGH, so I try and go to anything that involves it.”

Braseth said she also visited the exhibit to observe the women’s health and midwifery portion, topics she is particularly interested in.

The exhibit will be displayed from Sept. 13 until Dec. 23. The Matheson History Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.

About Mariana Riquezes

Mariana is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing

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