Tampa Bay History Center

Watch our tour of the Tampa Bay History Center in Tampa Bay, Florida shot with the Sony WX50 Cybershot camera. If you’d like to create your own free video slideshow with your own photos click here.

“What a beautiful area,” I thought as I stood on the riverwalk in downtown Tampa Bay, Florida. This was my second day in the Tampa Bay area having spent the previous day visiting the Madira Bickel Mound State Archaeological Site and South Florida Museum in nearby Bradenton. The riverwalk looked newly constructed as did the Tampa Bay History Center. My (almost) four year old daughter played on a large alligator model while I took in the views of along the riverwalk.

We headed into the museum, payed our admission fee, and entered the exhibition area. The first exhibit was devoted to Florida’s First People, the Native Americans. Although the Seminoles are the most recognized Native American tribe in Florida, they are actually late-comers to the state. Long before they were forced out of Georgi and into Florida in the early 1800s, other more ancient tribes lived in the area. These included the Timucua, Tocabago, and the mighty Calusa.

Displays showed ancient artifacts of these tribes including spear points, shell tools, pottery and weapons. A large map showed where the various tribes lived and artwork showed how members of each tribe would have appeared.

Next we entered a small theater to watch a film about the first Spanish who explored Florida. The Winds of Change Theater profiles the first European contacts in Florida beginning with Panfilo Narvaez’s landing in Tampa Bay in 1528.

After the short film finished we exited the theater and saw the European Exploration exhibit. This exhibit details the arrival of Spanish and French explorers who landed in Florida at the beginning of the 16th century. This exhibit features artifacts such as Spanish armor and weapons.

From here we entered the Charles E. Knight Gallery which showcases Seminole and Miccosukee clothing, patchwork, jewelry, baskets, tools and a replica chickee. My daughter enjoyed the interactive part of this exhibit where she got to try her hand at creating her own Seminole weave pattern. There was also the Coacoochee’s Story Theater which immerses viewers in the riveting account of Seminole chief Coacoochee’s experiences during the Second Seminole War.

The final exhibit on the first floor is Cigar City. This exhibit chronicles Tampa’s cigar industry and immigrant communities while featuring one of the most extensive cigar memorabilia collections in the world.

From here we took stairs to the second floor of the museum. The first exhibit we visited was called “A Land Remembered.” This exhibit featured a replica of a pioneer cabin. Inside the cabin were kids-sized pioneer-era clothing. My daughter was excited to play dress-up and eagerly put on a little girl’s nightgown and hat. She posed in front of a wood stove and also sitting in an old-timey school desk.

The next exhibit we encountered was called Cowmen & Crackers. The exhibit showcases Florida’s cattle ranching history, putting viewers in the middle of an actual cattle drive. My daughter was quite excited to climb up on one of the several rocking saddles and pretend she was riding along with the cowboys in their cattle drive on the giant screen in front of her. After finishing her cattle drive she visited the life-size replica of a Florida Cracker long-horn cow.

In the center of the room was a large table with a wooden train set. Called Tiny Tampa, my daughter could have spent all day playing with this train set. In fact, even bribes of ice cream did little to convince her to move along and see other exhibits. While she played I enjoyed the nearby exhibits including an Agriculture/Grove Stand that featured Floridiana, a restored 1908 REO automobile and a “design your own crate label” station.

I eventually was able to pry my daughter away from the “Tiny Tampa” play table with promises to visit the Florida Aquarium, the next stop on our day in downtown Tampa Bay. Overall the Tampa Bay History Center was an enjoyable way to spend a morning learning about Florida’s history from ancient times up until the recent past.