By: Jen Russon
Before it was the city with everything under the sun, Coral Springs was a haven for horseback riders — open fields as far as the eye could see and with less than a third the population it has now.
“In the early 60s, no one wanted to live here. They thought it was the middle of nowhere. Fifty-eight years later, look at how we’ve grown,” said Kelli Matonak.
Matonak is the historian and marketing coordinator of the Museum of Coral Springs History located at 10000 NW 29th St and can recite the collage of old news clippings covering one wall, nearly word for word.
The museum opened in 1977, closing for repairs in 2005, and again in 2019. They were also closed during the pandemic.
On Thursday, Matonak was on-site to give an exclusive tour of the renovated space and the first look at a new cutting-edge exhibit designed by Juliana Newman and Claudia Gonzalez.
The pair created “Sunny,” a custom, hands-on touch screen that functions like a docent — or guide — at a world-class museum.
Visitors tap the screen to play trivia games and access detailed maps of every neighborhood in the city, just as they appeared in decades spanning the 1950s through 2020.
They can also learn all about city namesakes for well-known schools and roads. There’s even a coloring book for younger visitors, inviting them to paint scenes from old Coral Springs with their fingertips.
“We wanted to make an interactive experience that’s easy for people of all ages to use — something very intuitive,” said Gonzalez, who is a videographer and UI UX Designer.
Newman, a graphic artist, pieced together Polaroids of city founders; J.P. Taravella, James S. Hunt, and Lewis Mullins and animated them. The city founders’ heads move, inviting visitors to tap the screen, to learn more about their contributions to the city.
“We’re really looking forward to residents coming out and helping us celebrate our 58th birthday on July 10,” said Matonak, adding she would be there to give personal tours.
She knows kids from the third grade and up will really appreciate the museum’s authentic mailroom and activities she personally designed.
“We go into the history of the Lyons family and how they sold green beans,” she said, pointing out novelty keychains of peas in a pod that goes home with the youngsters.
Matonak said it’s teens and students of history who will want to learn as much as they can about their city, which was not much more than a covered bridge, Thunderbird Villas, and the Westinghouse Home Center in 1964.
Models of the city’s oldest communities are waiting under glass for visitors to take in. One of the exhibits is of original fixtures from the first city hall, including its bank vault.
An encyclopedia when it comes to Coral Springs, Matonak said on the city’s birthday, there will be storytellers recreating the city of old as they sit on the iconic, white picket fences that used to be ubiquitous in Coral Springs.
But that’s hardly all.
“Of course, there will also be horses and ice cream. This is Coral Springs we’re talking about,” she said.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony is also planned for the 58th-anniversary celebration at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 10. Until then, museum hours are by appointment only.
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- Jen Russon has been a staff writer for Talk Media since 2018. She is also a novelist, copywriter and editor at Swallow Publishing, LLC.
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