(Last of three parts)











One of the unexpected discoveries on any visit to Daytona Beach, Fla., is the Museum of Arts and Sciences.





It is a stellar museum with a mind-boggling diversity of exhibitions and one of only three museums in the Southeast devoted to art, science and history.





Affiliated with the Smithsonian Institute, the museum has more than 12 galleries, themed by subject. While the one titled "Center for Florida History" may seem a bit off putting, it's dominated by a 13-foot-tall skeleton of a giant ground sloth excavated in 1975 in a Pleistocene fossil site known as the Daytona Bone Bed. The beast is estimated to have weighed between three and five tons and to have eaten 300 pounds of plant food daily. It is an impressive beginning to even more exciting things beyond.





With one of the largest collections of African art in Florida, the museum features more than 147 ceremonial and everyday objects of the sub-Saharan tribes. Enhancing the artifacts are 130 rare, Ashante gold ornaments that complement the gallery's masks, weaponry and decorative arts.





Another wing has one of the largest collections of Cuban art outside Cuba, with holdings that include extremely rare 18th, 19th and early 20th century maps, documents, lithographs, paintings, furniture, sculpture and ceramics. Their presence is explained by the fact that ex-president Fulgencia Batista maintained a home in Daytona Beach, and many of the items found in his house were later donated to the museum.





Starting with Pilgrim furniture, portraiture, original oil paintings by American masters and rare antique furniture, the museum's Dow Gallery has one of the best collections of American art in the Southeast.





Elsewhere, the Root Wing opened in October 2001 as a tribute to 20th century American life. Designers and manufacturers of the Coca-Cola bottle, the Chapman Root family includes Coke memorabilia in the exhibits, including the mold for the original bottle, a series of early Coke vending machines and a 1922 Ford delivery truck.





The wing is also home to Florida's largest collection of Teddy bears (800 of them), a 100-year-old, fully stocked apothecary from Pennsylvania and an impressive array of decorative arts, china, silverware and glasses collected from 85 of the nation's railroads, hotels and restaurants.





The museum also sports Chinese and French decorative art galleries, a Planetarium and a 2.5-acre sculpture garden outdoors.



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