A Blast From The Past | Tampa Bay Edition
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One of the most important things to learn when you set foot to a new place (more so, if you’ve been living in that particular place for the entirety of your life), is to know why the ground beneath your feet came to be, or where all the things around you came from. Luckily, when you’re in Tampa, Florida, then you wouldn’t have to look for the answers any further – Tampa Bay History Center is the source of all cultural and historical needs in the form of a visually appealing series of exhibit galleries for people of all ages.
The museum was founded by the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners and was newly relocated alongside Tampa’s Riverwalk in 2009, showing 12,000 years of Florida’s history in their interactive exhibits in each of the three floors of the building, as well as kid-friendly activities and theaters that provide a unique learning experience for the visitors. Some of the highlights in the museum are galleries of historical events starting from Florida’s first natives from 10,000 years ago to the arrival of the Europeans, film-showing of stories of renowned historical figures in Tampa Bay, the recreation of “Cigar City”, scenic photographs in large panels that covers the entire timeline of Tampa Bay, and other interactive areas in the museum.
The Touchton Map Library, which is also the Florida Center for Cartographic Education and has the most extensive collection of Florida cartography, can also be found inside the history center, and is open for curious travelers who’d like to satisfy their need for historical context, or for ordinary students who just want to finish their homework.
On the 2nd floor of the building is the Columbia Cafe, a branch of Florida’s oldest restaurant and largest Spanish restaurant in the world, The Columbia of Ybor City. Visitors can dine in after a long flashback of Floridian history and are offered a variety of famous Spanish- and Cuban-inspired dishes like the Spanish Bean Soup and Ybor’s Chicken and Yellow Rice.
The Tampa Bay History Center also includes a museum store for official Tampa Bay-inspired merchandise, classrooms and learning centers for their workshops, changing exhibition galleries, and event rental spaces.
Adding more to the plethora of activities that you can do inside, the history center prepares events like their “Suds and Stories”, which is an assortment of talks and seminars about Tampa Bay, sensory-friendly exhibits for people with special needs, and a walking tour around Tampa’s historic sites led by trained guides that are perfect for tourists. They also have separate programs for adults and children; for the grown-ups, they offer courses and book reviews about topics ranging from literature to Floridian politics, as well as an annual gala where they enjoy themselves in an open cocktail party while supporting the museum’s community programs. Meanwhile, there are also history lessons in the form of summer camps (with fun games and guest speakers) and classroom tutorials for children, and volunteer work alongside museum staff for the teens.
Outside the museum, the history center implements outreach programs by providing resource speakers and presentations for civic and community groups, and partners with different educational foundations like the USF libraries to expand their reach and help improve their historical collections.
There’s something for everyone in Tampa Bay History Center. With all these activities, there’s always a fulfilling adventure that’s worth your ticket every time you visit. And if you’re still pumped up with all the traveling, there are still tons to discover around the Tampa Bay. Maybe in one of your walking tours, you’d randomly drop by in front of BarrelHouse barber shop and decide to start anew and leave the past behind by having a haircut. Just not Tampa Bay’s history, though.