Special events at the Florida Museum celebrate Earth Day

A 60-foot-by-20-foot photograph of manatees by nature photographer John Moran is shown being installed at the Florida Museum of Natural History. The photo is one of five large-scale images in the exhibit, “Springs Eternal: Florida’s Fragile Fountains of Youth,” which features 88 photos by Moran at the museum.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 12:05 p.m.

When John Moran was 22 years old, he pedaled a grueling 70 miles on his bike to reconnect with one of the loves of his life — the crystal blue, flowing waters of the Peacock Springs on the Suwannee River.


Earth Day at the Florida Museum

What: Special events celebrating Earth Day
When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday
Where: Florida Museum of Natural History, 3215 Hull Road
Cost: Free
Info: 846-2000, www.flmnh.ufl.edu/butterflies/plant_sales.htm

Florida springs panel discussion: John Moran, Lesley Gamble and Rick Kilby explore past history, document current threats and discuss Floridians’ role in the springs’ preservation, moderated by author Cynthia Barnett; 11 a.m. Saturday
Biobliz: Visitors can learn how items go from being collected in the field to becoming part of the museum collection and explore the UF Florida Natural Area Teaching Library; 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday
Butterfly-friendly plant sale: Annual event features more than 125 species including wild-life friendly and Florida native plants; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday through Sunday

“Springs Eternal: Florida’s Fragile Fountains of Youth”: John Moran’s 88 photographs including five large-scale images capture Florida’s springs over the years; through Dec. 15
“Finding the Fountain of Youth: Discovering Florida’s Magical Waters”: Exhibit based on upcoming book by Rick Kilby examines how the legend of Ponce De Leon’s quest for restorative waters shaped Florida’s image; through Dec. 15

This love inspired Moran to spend his life as a nature photographer, venturing out with his camera to document the beauty of Florida’s springs.

He never would have guessed almost 40 years later, however, that the same waters that sparked his passion would be choked with algae and turned murky green.

Moran captured both the beauty and the destruction of the state’s precious water sources in “Springs Eternal: Fragile Fountains of Youth,” a new exhibition of his work at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Moran’s presentation is one of two free exhibits at the Florida Museum depicting the state’s natural springs and the legends surrounding Ponce de Leon’s discovery of Florida 500 years ago.

On Saturday, artists Moran, Rick Kilby and Leslie Gamble will discuss their efforts in the two projects at a panel moderated by journalist and author Cynthia Barnett as part of a special Earth Day celebration at 11 a.m., according to Darcie MacMahon, the museum’s assistant director for exhibits.

The museum also will host its annual bioblitz from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in which visitors can learn how items go from being collected in the field to becoming part of the museum collection. And from Friday through Sunday, a butterfly-friendly plant sale is set from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The events are free and open to the public.

Moran’s “Springs Eternal” exhibit captures his fascination with Florida’s springs through 88 images, including a 20-foot-by-60-foot photograph of two manatees, four other large-scale images and other photos depicting the nature and culture surrounding these sources of water.

“I love how they are turning our central gallery into an inviting and visually interesting space,” MacMahon said. “It’s really like you need a snorkel to get into the area because you feel like you are in the water.”

Photos of oasis-like springs with lush underwater foliage and bright aqua waters fill the exhibit. However, more haunting images sit next to them and depict the reality of what many of these springs look like today — dark green waters overrun with thick algae and some not even flowing at all.

These “now and then” images of springs over the decades depict their decline caused by pollution, neglect and excessive groundwater pumping, he said. Moran hopes his work will inspire viewers to actively get involved in the preservation the state’s precious waters.

“The exhibit is a community celebration that defines the North Florida experience, just as the Everglades is a vital part of South Florida,” Moran said. “There is a lot of grief and anger that is part of this exhibit, but there is also a lot of beauty and joy worth celebrating and protecting. The springs are world class treasures that deserve world class protection, which starts with appreciation, awareness and gratitude.”

The companion exhibit, “Finding the Fountain of Youth: Discovering Florida’s Magical Waters” also will be open during the weekend. Based on a book by Rick Kilby, the display examines how the legend of Ponce de Leon’s quest for restorative waters shaped Florida’s image as a land of fantasy, rejuvenation and magical spring-fed waters.

“Many people think of Florida as a source of the fountain of youth and our springs,” MacMahon said. “Real estate developers, themed attractions and all kinds of businesses have definitely used this myth to lure people into Florida.”

Although there isn’t any historical evidence supporting Ponce de Leon’s claims, MacMahon believes the myths surrounding the discovery of “La Florida” still influence the perceptions of the state it is today. Rich in images, the exhibit features old graphics found in advertising, movie posters and other pieces of history that depict how Florida’s image was created over the years.

The museum will display both of the exhibits through Dec. 15. For more information call 846-2000 or see www.flmnh.ufl.edu/butterflies/plant_sales.htm.

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