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COCA Spotlight: Mary Margaret Fernandez “This Month, Storytime at the Grove touches on civil rights”

By: Amanda Sieradzki, COCA | February 12, 2018

When describing a house museum, historian Mary Margaret Fernandez wants to sweep away any preconceived notions of a stuffy, cobwebbed exhibition where children are asked to speak in hushed tones. When young visitors come by The Grove Museum, the first place she takes them is to the wall where former resident Roy Jr. — Gov. Le-Roy Collins’ son — scribbled on the wall complaining about his homework.

“Every generation of owners has had children in this home, whether it’s their own sons and daughters or nieces and nephews,” says Fernandez. “There’s always been kids here and I hope there will always be kids here. I want to provide a venue for children to learn and really connect with history.”

As program coordinator at the museum, Fernandez enjoys how her many responsibilities create new ventures. She’s most passionate about her work with K-12 students as she guides them through Florida history. They brighten her every day with lightbulb moments as she witnesses many young visitors asking insightful questions about some of the toughest topics in history.

She feels fortunate to be able to tell Governor Collins’ story in particular regarding his contributions to the civil rights movement, which inspired her choice of the book for February’s Storytime at the Grove event on Wednesday, Feb. 14. 

“I think children can handle so much more than adults give them credit for,” says Fernandez, who will be reading “Let The Children March” by Monica Clark-Robinson. “They are really able to look these topics in history in the eye and understand them.”

For Fernandez, history runs in the family as she followed in the footsteps of her art historian father and stepmother. Her father was dedicated to exposing Fernandez and her siblings to travel and museums, “inspiring a love of art and beauty.” The Louvre in Paris tops her list of remarkable trips as she likens seeing the art she’d learned about in classrooms to “meeting a celebrity.”

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