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Matheson Museum Declines To Accept 'Old Joe' Confederate Statue

It's official: Gainesville's Matheson History Museum isn't going to accept the "Old Joe" Confederate Statue.

"It's done," said Peggy Macdonald, the museum's director.

Assistant County Manager Gina Peebles echoed the perspective of the museum not moving forward: "There's just a lot of financial commitments that [the museum has] going on at the moment, so they appreciate it — thanks-but-no-thanks kind of thing."

Efforts to move Old Joe to the museum have gone back and forth for more than a year. It has stood by the Alachua County Administration Building at the intersection of University Avenue and Main Street since 1904.

The push to have it moved comes as part of the anti-Confederate sentiment that has swept the country following the 2015 Charleston church shooting by Dylan Roof, who had admiration for the Confederacy and had racially charged views.

But others have noted such symbols' importance in history.

The county originally gave the museum a proposed agreement to take it in 2015.

Though the museum originally declined to accept the statue, it did say earlier this year that it would provide a counter proposal to the county for accepting the statue. However, when museum and county representatives met again at the end of August, they couldn't come up with an agreement, leading to the present decision of not bringing the statue in.

A main reason, Macdonald said, is that the Matheson is holding a fundraising campaign to pay for its new library archives in the old Melting Pot building across the street from the museum. So because the museum is small, it could handle only that fundraiser.

“We can’t take on fundraising also for moving the statue,” Macdonald said. “That would be the county’s responsibility.”

Old Joe would cost $9,500 to move, according to Peebles, who cited an estimation from 2015.

But Macdonald said that the cost for museum when adding in all factors — the move, insurance, maintenance, exhibit signage and other expenses — comes to $36,000.

Peebles said the county will not pay for the move because of an earlier decision made by the county commission to not use tax dollars for it.

Peebles said the funding will instead have to be made up by donations.

“It would take citizens donating money to move it from point A to point B,” she said. And with the museum declining, "point B is yet to be determined.”

County spokesman Mark Sexton agreed.

“Since the Matheson decision to not take the statue for the second time," he said, "there has been no further action."

This story has been updated to include the museum's cost figure of $36,000.

Jocelyn is a reporter for WUFT News. She can be reached at news@wuft.org or 352-392-6397.