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The mission of the Mulberry Phosphate Museum is to exhibit and interpret the Phosphate Industry and its impact on Polk County, Central Florida, and the state of Florida. Also to collect and preserve, exhibit, and interpret the marine and land plant and animal remains of the various Eras of Earth's history.
As you walk through our museum, you will experience the Earth's past, viewing the remains of various types of marine life as well as reptiles and mammals dating back millions of years. Your visit will be an introduction to the relationship of animal remains with the modern Phosphate Industry.
Florida has evolved dramatically over the last 65 million years. From volcanic island to lush tropical landscape, the land teemed with plant and animal life from the sea and from the land. Your museum visit begins almost 250 million years ago. The sea covered the land which would one day become Florida. Shells, coral, fish, and plants as well as sharks, whales, and turtles, dominated the sea floor. Some of the sea life could grow to enormous sizes. Slowly, over millions of years, the sea bottom continued to build up. About 65 million years ago, a volcanic island emerged from the primeval sea. Soon animals like the alligator, horse, crocodile, mastodon, wooly mammoth, camel, and rhinoceros dominated the landscape. With the coming of the "Great Ice Age", the animal population increased. The fossil record shows Florida to be a melting pot for many different types of animals and plants.
At least 10 million years ago, the ocean flooded the area now called Florida. As the waters washed the state, billions of phosphate particles were deposited on the land. These particles, along with sand and clay, settled into strata. The retreating water eventually buried these phosphate beds under tons of sandy soil, mostly in Central Florida. This area became known as the Bone Valley because of the bones and fossilized remains of prehistoric animals that are common to phosphate deposits.
The Phosphate Gallery, located in the first set of boxcars, is designed to inform visitors of the various areas of phosphate and the industry. You will learn where phosphate is found, how it is mined and processed, and how we use it in our everyday lives.
The Historic Railroad Gallery, located in the second set of boxcars, provides historic photos and information on the City of Mulberry, Polk County, the Railroad Industry and the Phosphate Industry. This room doubles as a spacious meeting room, accommodating nearly 50 people, for local businesses and schools to rent out for private meetings and lectures.
The Fossil Gallery is located in the historic train depot. Originally built by the H.B. Platt railroad company as the freight depot for the city in 1899, the depot remained as an active freight station well into the 1950's. Due to the fall off in rail transportation to the city shortly thereafter, the depot was declared of no use to the rail line and deeded to the City of Mulberry. In 1985, the depot was used to house the prehistoric Fossil Collection which had been acquired from the Bone Valley Fossil Collection in Bradley, Florida, through the efforts of then Mulberry City Commissioner Sam Montgomery. It was then opened as the Mulberry Phosphate Museum in August of 1986. Today, the depot still holds this collection and is set to go through a restoration project in the Spring and Summer of 2011.
The museum's outdoor exhibit includes a 44 yard Dragline bucket once used to dig the phosphate rock out of the ground. The bucket is set in the middle of a pile of rock. Museum visitors can try their luck at finding shark teeth and other prehistoric animal remains.
The Mulberry Phosphate Museum is one of the Florida attractions that should be on everyone's "Must See" list. Admission is free and donations are gladly accepted. The museum is located one block south of State Highway 60 on State Highway 37 in downtown Mulberry and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Special tours are available by calling the museum at (863) 425-2823.
- Jessie Ward
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