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‘South Florida Museum’ in Bradenton is no more. Here’s what they plan next

Formerly the South Florida Museum, it’s now ‘The Bishop’

The South Florida Museum in Bradenton has been renamed The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature.
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The South Florida Museum in Bradenton has been renamed The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature.

It’s been the South Florida Museum since 1946 when Manatee County was more identified as being part of “South Florida,” than it is today.

After 73 years of maintaining the same name, from its original location on Bradenton’s Memorial Pier to its current location near the Green Bridge, the South Florida Museum is changing its name and identity to the Bishop Museum of Science and Nature, museum officials announced Wednesday.

“Right now our full name has been the South Florida Museum and Bishop Planetarium so we are taking the Bishop name and putting it all under one umbrella,” museum CEO Brynne Anne Besio said. “The Bishop family were philanthropists in town and have maintained a crucial relationship with the museum in all of these 70 years.”

Besio said the name change has been in the works for some time.

“I’ve been here almost 12 years, just after the strategic plan was adopted and it shared in that plan to review our identity and look at a name change,” Besio said. “As we began planning of the master campus, we talked about what we need to do to go forward to stay relevant, and that included more visibility with the name. The transition actually started in 2015 and we worked with professionals in market research and reviewed those findings.”

The Bishop family has been in the area since before the turn of the 20th century. The family was instrumental in getting the museum off the ground and ensuring its survivability over the decades.

Two rescued manatees have a new home at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton. Tannebaum and O’Neil became the 34th and 35th manatees to be treated at the aquarium when they arrived on Tuesday, March 27, 2018.

“Locals know us as Bishop, so it will be familiar to them and for those who don’t know much about us, adding the science and nature really describes us now,” Besio said. “We needed to describe who we are, and what we’ve found out is we’ve been kind of invisible. This is a step to honor the Bishop family and tell our community and visitors who we are and what we do every day.”

Besio said the name change will better separate the museum’s future goals and address the misconception of location when it comes to an online presence.

“I’ve gotten vendor bills from other museums in South Florida and I have tell them it’s not us,” she said. “With today’s technology, we’ll be able to be unique with our online presence with a new identity and description of what people get when they come. All of what we do won’t change, it’s just a new look and a new name.”

Besio said during audience research “nobody knew who we were outside of the local area.” The name, she said, would make a difference.

In January 2018, the museum broke ground on the first phase of a $12 million renovation and expansion project. Phase one is the Mosaic Backyard Universe and north education center, which is expected to open by summer.

The expansion to the South Florida Museum, which includes the North Education Center and the Mosaic Backyard Universe, is expected to be completed in June. Museum officials gave media a sneak-peek Wednesday.

The Mosaic Backyard Universe will offer a unique educational experience in both an indoor and outdoor setting. Jeanie Kirkpatrick, board of trustees president, said at the groundbreaking that the new facilities “will help connect our museum visitors to the world around them like never before.”

The name change is not something the Bishop family asked the museum to do.

“It’s their legacy,” said Remi Gonzalez, director of communications and brand.

“The family has shown unwavering support for the museum for over 70 years,” Besio added. “It truly honors that they have been committed to us and we would not be here without the Bishop family.”

The Parker Manatee Rehabilitation Aquarium has been part of the museum since its inception, but today’s aquarium wasn’t planned until the late 1970s to accommodate the aquarium’s most notable resident, Snooty, who died as the world’s oldest manatee two days after his 69th birthday in July 2017.

Snooty swam into a maintenance access tunnel when the door came ajar and could not turn around. He drowned and the community that loved him mourned.

Highlights of South Florida Museum's press conference on taking responsibility for the drowning of Snooty the manatee.

The aquarium was built in 1993 and was named after Mary Parker, a member of the Bishop family and long-time board member and patron. Parker is 107 years old and her foundation has provided the museum with more than $5 million in the past decade.

“The is the right feel,” Besio said. “From administration to staff, we are the Bishops. We are all excited about the new identity. For us, we are becoming a little more contemporary and by capturing the science and nature aspect, we want people to know they will come and get a new and vibrant experience and know we have something new here for them all the time.”

DJ Stout, a partner at Pentagram, the design firm that created the museum’s new logo, said he fell in love with the museum and Bradenton the first time he visited.

“This museum offers so much variety of subject matter,” Stout said. “When we were thinking about the identity, it was hard to come up with just one logo. Just one thing that would represent everything this museum was about because it’s about how everything’s connected.”

What they created was the “Bishop B,” a design based on an “impossible object” or optical illusion.

“Now, it represents Bishop and Bradenton,” Stout said.

How the designers of the new logo for the Bishop Museum of Science and Nature, formerly the South Florida Museum, created what is called the “Bishop B.”

Bradenton Herald reporter Sara Nealeigh contributed to this report.

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