By the eighth grade, Cynthia Cardona she knew she wanted to work in a museum.
“I like the interpretation of it more than the actual study of it,” the new executive director of the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation said of her love of history. “Beyond the study and the characters that history provides us, it was taking it and interpreting it and sharing it. … When I was a teenager I was really drawn to museum work. I loved to be able to go there and not just read about it but interpret how different museums interpreted the history and displayed it.”
She became the new face of the organization after Kay Cappleman retired from her longtime position in the spring. Cardona oversees the administration and operations of the foundation, which includes the Heritage Museum, Central Florida Railroad Museum and the new History Research and Education Center.
Cardona, an Orlando resident, moved to St. Cloud as a child when her father took a job with Walt Disney World in 1982. She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history, both from the University of Central Florida. Through the history department, she obtained an internship at the Orange County Regional History Center. After graduation, she stayed, eventually becoming the curator of collections.
Before coming to Winter Garden, she spent two years as director of operations at Art and History Museums – Maitland.
Hired in March, Cardona was already familiar with the WGHF and some of its current and previous employees, including program director Jim Crescitelli, who managed the Urban Think Bookstore in Orlando, and former museum director Rod Reeves, who donated some of his sketches to the county history center.
She also consulted with Cappleman on a conservation assessment project in 2011.
When it came time to hire her replacement this year, Cappleman called the county’s history center and eventually reconnected with Cardona.
“My role now at the foundation is to build on the great work it has already done of preserving its history,” Cardona said.
She envisions programs and cultural experiences that will promote the diversity of the city’s history.
“Because the community is getting big, and the people who are moving here aren't from around here, and maybe they might not be interested in the citrus history, (but) they might still be interested in hearing a historian speak or hear a children's author speak,” she said. “Or maybe the brewmaster comes here and makes a presentation.
She is looking at the possibility of a holiday historic homes tour, as suggested by her WGHF team.
Future plans include a build-out of the courtyard as an extension of the research center. Winter Garden artist Mary Keating is creating a tile mosaic that will depict the history of Winter Garden.
“Part of my vision is to provide programming and cultural events for the community so it doesn't feel like it has to go to Winter Park or Orlando to do something really cool and exciting,” Cardona said. “What is happening here and what the foundation is doing here is really unique. And coupled with offering great historical experiences here, I think that's what we will do best. We have theater with the Garden Theater, and we have art with SoBo, and we have history with the heritage foundation. We have great theater, great art and great history all within a mile of each other.”
Contact Amy Quesinberry Rhode at [email protected].