Levy art in state museum

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By Carolyn Ten Broeck, Editor

 The Tallahassee Museum of History and Natural Science has accepted into its collection four miniature replicas of Old Florida homes crafted by late Levy County resident, Murrel Watson. The replicas were donated by Murrel’s son, Franklin Watson, who inherited them after his death is 2004.

 “I had been searching for a way that my father’s creations could be preserved and shared with future generations,” said Watson. “When I learned of the Early Childhood Education program at the Museum, I thought the replicas could contribute to the classroom activities or to the Museum’s “Farm Day” event.

 Murrel Watson was a local Levy County carpenter in the late 1990s.  He and his wife of more than 50 years, Lillie Mae, lived their entire married lives in Levy County – in Otter Creek, then Usher and lastly in Chiefland. When Lillie Mae died suddenly in 2001, Murrel needed something to keep his hands and mind busy, so he dusted off several of his stored carpentry tools and began to craft miniature replicas of houses from his childhood and carpentry experiences.

“Nighttime was the hardest part of coping with mom’s passing, so he would often get up and go out to work on the replicas in the middle of the night when he couldn’t sleep,” said Watson.

 The set, constructed over four years, features a variety Old Florida-style homes that Murrel built from memory, including his childhood home and barn, complete with a cane juice cooking vat chimney made from rocks he collected from his childhood home site located near Ellzey, Fla. The replicas were built so the roofs could be removed, revealing many of his hand-crafted furniture pieces and other miniature furnishings that were purchased from hobby shops in Gainesville.

“Through the wonderful generosity of the Watson family who donated miniatures of a farm similar to the Big Bend Farm here at the museum, the Big Bend Farm experience may now be put literally in the hands of the youngest learners at the museum,” said Karen Gay, Museum Preschool Manager. “The miniatures allow the children of our preschool to visit the farm while in the classroom, and allow them to experience the farm through dramatic play.”

 “The replicas will also be used in the Discovery Center in the years to come to allow for guests to gain an understanding of the architecture of the structures, as well as the attention to craftsmanship by their maker,” said Natasha N. Hartsfield, Director of Education at the Museum. “These miniatures provide a wonderful teaching opportunity that includes art, math, history and culture. We thank the Watson family for sharing their legacy with the Tallahassee Museum and with Big Bend communit