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  • Orange County Regional History CenterOrange County Regional History Center Orlando, Florida
    The Orange County Regional History Center opened in 1942 inside the red brick Orange County Courthouse that was constructed in 1892, and opened as a pioneer kitchen exhibit for the Central Florida Centennial Celebration. It stayed open and soon grew with public donations of photographs, books, papers, historical objects, big and little; that would eventually fill all the rooms of the old courthouse. From 1957 to 1963, the collection was put in storage, as the city took down the old courthouse and put an addition onto the 1927 courthouse that was the next to the site of the old structure. It reopened in 1963, in the courthouse annex, under the name of the Orange County Historical Commission, a new department that was created by the county commissioners in 1957 to make sure that the financial and legalities were correct and above board. In 1970, the county needed the space in the annex and the collection was moved to the second floor of the Christ Building, just a few doors down from the building on Central Boulevard. In 1971, the Orange County Historical Society, Inc. was created to raise money for a permanent building that opened in Loch Haven Park in 1976. Then, in 2000, the museum was moved back again to the now vacant 1927 courthouse, that was renovated to hold the new Orange County Regional History Center, and the Orange County Historical Society was renamed the Historical Society of Central Florida, Inc. and ran the history center in cooperation with the Orange County Board of County Commissioners. The center is the repository for the immense collections of the Historical Society of Central Florida, Inc., with three floors of permanent displays and often hosts nationally acclaimed limited run exhibitions. In 2006, it was added as an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution and also accredited by the American Association of Museums. The center will transport visitors to another time over 12,000 years ago where interactive exhibits will give you the excitement and education, as well as fun, that the center has to offer on five filled floors. One of the first examples of history memorabilia is the area's marvelous flora, rock formations, fauna and Winter Park's famous sinkhole that would swallow up an entire city block, numerous autos and a whole house. Visit the first people exhibit that takes you back to the time of Native Americans that lived, hunted, farmed and roamed the jungles and swamps of the pre-European Florida. Then visit the first contact display that shows how the arriving of the Spanish would change the lives of those people forever, as well as changing the landscape of the region. Then visit a pioneer Cracker House that was built in the 19th century and try out the many utensils and unique household relics like a butter churn. After that you will explore the destination of Florida that looks at a century of tourism before the big mouse; Disney. The Aviation exhibit shows you a copy of a WWII B-17 bomber, John Young's space trip, the Orlando air base, Kennedy Space Center and the rest of the history of Central Florida. In Courtroom B, you can view the grand examples of a 1927 courtroom that is said to have arraigned Ted Bundy. In the Walt Disney World exhibit, you can see the incredible changes that occurred in Central Florida as the area transformed from a small town coziness to one of the world's premier destinations, after Disney World arrived. A wonderful display tells of the influence and effects that the African American had in the area, including the triumphs and tragedies. Perhaps the last exhibit is the best as Orlando is Remembered, that informs the visitors of the many memorable people, places and things that continue to change in this magical environment.  The Highwaymen was a group of African American artists that went against all odds in the 1950s and 1960s that somehow were able to sell their beautiful paintings in the segregated south during those years. One of the most unusual of these found a way to make paintings quicker than normal and soon had another 25 artists that would create some 200,000 of these magnificent paintings over the next 30 years. This exhibit isn't here for long, but is one of the many traveling exhibitions that the center now has, but you can go to the center and learn about their exciting and wonderful story, plus view 64 of their awesome paintings. 

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  • John F. Kennedy Space CenterJohn F. Kennedy Space Merritt Island, Florida
    The John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is the government installation that oversees the nation's astronaut launch facilities, and is where our three space shuttles are housed. The NASA center also launches unmanned space flights from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station next to it, that is run by the 45th Space Wing. The space center has been the launch site for every United States human space flight since 1968, and the huge Vehicle Assembly Building is the fourth biggest structure in the world, by volume. It is located in Merritt Island, Florida, northwest of Cape Canaveral, sitting right next to the Atlantic Ocean, considered halfway between Jacksonville and Miami. The island is 34 miles long, and about 6 miles wide, measuring some 219 square miles, and by 2008, has employed 13,500 people. The launch operations are done at Launch complex 39, and it is here that the components are placed together or stacked, the orbiter, external fuel tank and booster rockets; then checked inside the VAB and finally moved to Pad 39A for launching. Shuttles had been using the launch pad on 39B, until 2007, when the pad had to be modified so that it could handle the launches of the new Ares I-X launch. Both of these pads are located next to the ocean, some 3 miles east of the VAB, which means the capsules have to be moved along a long stretch of track that takes a long time to get done. The shuttle landing facility, one of the longest runways in the world, is located just a little north. During the years from 1969 to 1972, LC-39 was where the first six Apollo manned lunar landing missions left from, that used the Saturn V, the biggest and most powerful operational launch vehicle in history. The Kennedy center industrial area, where most of the support facilities are set, is 5 miles from the LC-39 and includes; the Operations and Checkout building, the Headquarters building and the Central Instrumentation Facility. It is also where the Merritt Island Spaceflight Tracking and Data Network station (MILA), the main radio communications and spacecraft tracking complex is found. The center has its own short line railroad that takes the shuttle to the launchpad. The visitor center and public tour office has become one of the main tourist attractions in the region, although the majority of the installation is off limits and less than 10% of the land is developed. Thus it has become an important wildlife sanctuary containing the Mosquito Lagoon, Canaveral National Seashore, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and the Indian River. The workers here often come across alligators, bald eagles, panthers and rattlesnakes, as well as manatees. It is one of the ten main NASA field centers and has many facilities that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

January 11, 2011