The Osceola County Historical Society is moving forward on a major expansion project. (Photo by Steve Schwartz).

KISSIMMEE – In the midst of winter, history is being made every day in Osceola County. Just ask Tawnie McMorrow, the executive assistant of the Osceola County Historical Museum, which is now just months away from completing a major expansion project.
“As of right now, we are in the process of building a new Osceola County History Museum and Welcome Center,” McMorrow said of the project being funded by the Osceola County commissioners, with the new facility being built at 4155 W. Vine St. (U.S. 192) near Kissimmee.
“That’s scheduled to open in the summer of 2012,” she said. “It will be a welcome center along with being a museum of our history and nature in Osceola County.”
In the meantime, as the staff continues to collect artifacts for the five exhibit spaces planned at the new museum, the staff is doing what they do best – reflecting back on the county’s rich history, through the publication of the Osceola County Historical Society’s new History magazine – an online periodical featuring articles about the county’s historic figures and events, updates on what’s new at the museum, and details about the ongoing expansion project.
“I am very excited to be launching this fantastic publication that has come about through a great deal of hard work and dedication by our volunteers and staff alike,” said Donnita Dampier, executive director of the Historical Society. “History really is happening right now.”
The HISTORY magazine was launched last fall, as a way to help connect county residents to a better understanding of how Osceola County became what it is today, and to give the community a better sense of what the Historical Society’s mission is today, McMorrow said.
“We do it quarterly,” she said. “This is our second issue. Our first issue went out in November of last year, and this one is our winter issue. We put in different articles about history, like the articles about the history of St. Cloud and Kissimmee. In this issue, we also did a highlight on the Highwaymen because it’s Black History Month.”
The Florida Highwaymen were a group of 26 landscape artists who sold their art directly to the public rather than through galleries and art agents. Their paintings were rediscovered in the mid-1990s by art historian Jim Fitch, and today are recognized as an important part of American folk history.
The magazine also has articles about “Soldiers of Osceola County” – residents who fought in the Civil War.
“We’ve been covering the Civil War because it’s the 150-year history,” said McMorrow, who is also the associate editor of the magazine.
The magazine, she added, may also hopefully inspire lifelong residents of Osceola County to contribute historic items to the society, allowing them to continue building up an expanded collection of the county’s rich artifacts.
“That’s what we do, we preserve the county’s history,” she said.
In the meantime, the society has plenty of work to do in preparation for the grand opening this summer for their new building, which will be replacing their current location at 750 N. Bass Road in Kissimmee. They’ve spent a considerable amount of time collecting historic artifacts for the new exhibit space at the 4,000 square foot building now under construction. AMong the items the staff has collected: a 1750s Seminole Indian canoe found near Reedy Creek, orange picking baskets that are believed to date back to the late 1800s, and tools once used in the county’s turpentine industries.
“We have most everything collected, and we’re in the process now of getting the museum built,” McMorrow said. “There will be a big ceremony when we have the grand opening.”
To learn more about the Historical Society, its online magazine, or the ongoing expansion project, call 407-396-8644.

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