Founded in 1989 by the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners, the History Center opened its new, 60,000 square-foot facility on Tampa’s Riverwalk in 2009. Accredited in 2015 by the American Alliance of Museums and a Smithsonian Affiliate museum since 2012, the History Center includes three floors of permanent and temporary exhibition galleries focusing on 12,000 years of Florida’s history.
With more than 100,000 annual visitors, the History Center is one of Tampa’s premier cultural venues, and an anchor of the city’s cultural arts district. The History Center’s hands-on exhibit galleries, educational programs and community events offer a fun, entertaining and educational experience for visitors and locals of all ages.
Beginning with a look at Florida’s first peoples, who inhabited the peninsula some 10,000 years ago, and the arrival of European explorers in the 1500s, to Tampa Bay’s modern role as a port city, industrial capital of west central Florida and a draw for tourists and visitors the world over, the History Center tells the story of Tampa Bay’s and Florida’s history, heritage and culture. It is also home to the Touchton Map Library/Florida Center for Cartographic Education. The only cartographic research center of its kind in the state, the TML/FCCE is houses one of the most comprehensive collections of Florida cartography in the world, with holdings spanning five centuries.
The Florida's First People exhibit features original and replica artifacts from pre-European contact ranging from the Paleoindian Period (12,000 B.C.-6,000 B.C.) through the Mississippian Period (1,000 A.D.-1,600 A.D.). Tools, weapons, and pottery are displayed, along with original artwork by artists Theodore Morris, Mike Reagan, and Christopher Still. Engage in the European Exploration Story by using an oversized map of the Atlantic Ocean. This exhibit details the arrival of Spanish and French explorers who landed in Florida at the beginning the 16th Century. Artifacts are related to Spanish exploration, including period clothing, weapons, and tools. Immerse yourself in the Seminole and Miccosukee Story in The Charles L. Knight Gallery, which features a collection of Seminole and Miccosukee artifacts, including clothing, patchwork, jewelry, baskets, tools, and weapons. Visitors can enjoy a multisensory theater experience, Coacoochee’s Story, and view a replica chickee—a structure made of palmetto thatch over a cypress log frame. See their website for a list of other exciting exhibits.
Visitors to the Tampa History Center can dine in the Columbia Cafe, a branch of the world-famous Columbia Restaurant, featuring signature Spanish-Cuban cuisine, a staple of Tampa’s iconic immigrant community of Ybor City. The History Center also includes a Museum Store, classrooms, temporary exhibition galleries and event rental spaces.
page information credit: Tampa Bay History Center
photos from the sources listed above, as well as publicly posted online sites with thanks to the contributors