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April 13, 2015

‘The Koreshans’ exhibit sheds light on local utopian sect

"The Koreshans" is on display through July 13 in Library Room 322.
“The Koreshans” is on display through July 13 in Library Room 322.

Koreshan mapThe latest exhibit in Library Archives and Special Collections delves into a late 19th-century utopian society that settled in Southwest Florida not far from the FGCU campus.

“The Koreshans” focuses on the fascinating history of the faith-based colony that set down roots in Estero in 1894 but faded away by the mid-1900s. The university collaborated with the Koreshan State Historic Site and the College of Life Foundation to produce the exhibition, which will remain on view through July 13 in Library Room 322. Viewing hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Through scholarly books, family photos, journals, furniture and other Koreshan artifacts, the exhibit illuminates facets of the pioneers’ daily lives and reflects the era in which they lived. The College of Life donated a collection of Koreshan books and ephemera to the library earlier this year, and selected photographs and furniture are on loan from the state park.

Koreshan drum“The beauty of this exhibit is that it will be the first time these materials have been shown together, providing a more well-rounded view of the Koreshans and their way of life,” says Melissa Minds VandeBurgt, Archives, Special Collections and Digital Initiatives Librarian.

Founder Cyrus Teed (later known as “Koresh,” the Hebrew translation of his name) and his followers believed that the universe existed within a giant, hollow sphere. Their utopian society began fading after Teed’s death in 1908, and in 1961 the remaining few members deeded 300 acres of their settlement to the State of Florida. This land now operates as a state park and historic site dedicated to the preservation of the remaining Koreshan structures.Koreshan show

Loaned materials from the park are being digitized and will be added to the library’s growing Koreshan Historical Collection, which is available for public use on DigitalFGCU, https://fgcu.digital.flvc.org/islandora/object/fgcu%3Aroot

The mission of the College of Life Foundation Inc. is to preserve and educate about the history and environment of South Florida with an emphasis on the communal Koreshan activities. For more information, go to http://www.collegeoflifefoundation.org.