TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – From pirates to cigars to the Columbia Café, the Tampa Bay History Center offers interactive experiences for guests to dive into our area’s history.
While the center changes some exhibits throughout the year to keep things fresh and exciting, there are a few main stables throughout the three floors that history buffs should check out.
One of those exhibits is the “Cigar City Gallery,” which is a replica of what a store in Ybor City would have looked like in the 1910s and 1920s.
It features original cigar marketing material from those times.
“Cigar factories and cigar manufacturers were some of the first to employ the techniques of advertising and marketing,” said Manny Leto, the director of marketing and communications for the Tampa Bay History Center.
“You see all these really great cigar labels, these, again, promotional materials like putting their logo and their name on ashtrays and cigar cutters and those kinds of giveaways or promotional materials,” Leto added. “We think that that’s new but really it goes back quite a long way and it goes back to the cigar industry.”
On the same floor as the Cigar City Gallery, you’ll learn more about the Seminole Indian tribe.
The History Center has a vast collection of artifacts.
“And it features original Seminole patchwork clothing, tools, ceremonial items, things that Seminole Indians would have used during their celebrations,” Leto said. “Seminole patchwork is very unique, not only to Florida but unique to each of the different families who wore it. So each piece of patchwork is identified with a different family or clan and is unique to that family. And we just have this really great collection of these really colorful skirts, long shirts, jackets.”
The center even has a Rolodex of different patchwork styles.
The interactive part of this exhibit is a theater that tells the story of the Seminole Indians from both the side of the U.S. Army and from the side of Cooachachee, a Seminole leader who led his people during the second Seminole War in the 1830s.
A neat, interactive exhibit that may be great for kids involves a lesser-known part of Florida history: cattle ranching. The History Center talks about that in their “Cowman and Crackers” exhibit, where folks can actually hop on a saddle and ride along with a Florida cattle drive.
The movie shown in this part of the center involves an actual cattle ranching family in Florida, who has been here since the late 1700s.
Of course, you can’t talk about Tampa Bay history without thinking of pirates.
The History Center features a gallery all about pirates, privateers and life on the ocean.
“So the whole gallery is built around this 18th-century sailing sloop, or a pirate ship, if you will. And it’s about the size of a ship that a sailor or a pirate or a privateer would’ve actually been on during this time,” Leto explained. “You can walk through the ship and learn a little bit about life at sea in the age of Discovery. And so life at sea as a pirate, as a privateer in the 17, 18, 1900s. And you really get a sense of the technology that they used, the actual life aboard the ship.”
The gallery has artifacts recovered from Florida waters on display, including navigational tools, weapons and gold and silver, as well as common things such as utensils and jewelry dating back 400 years.
The Tampa Bay History Center is a great location to learn about history from across the region, not just the City of Tampa.
“The history center is really telling the story of the Tampa Bay area, the Tampa Bay region and historic Hillsborough County. And that means we’re not just a Tampa museum, we’re a museum about the Tampa Bay area. So we tell stories that are all the way down south to Sarasota and all the way north to Tarpon Springs, so we are telling that full story and certainly the story of west-central Florida and really Florida in general,” Leto said.
Here is some information to help you plan your next visit to the Tampa Bay History Center.
Adults – $14.95
Seniors (60+) – $12.95
Youth (7-17) – $10.95
Children (6 & under) – Free
Military, first responders, students (with ID) – $12.95
Members – Free
Travel time to the Tampa Bay History Center (links will update to current traffic conditions, weekday afternoon conditions listed):
– From Brandon: 19 minutes
– From New Port Richey: 54 minutes
– From Lakeland: 42 minutes
– From Bradenton: 53 minutes
– From Sarasota: 1 hour
– From Orlando: 1 hour, 23 minutes
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