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Tampa Bay History Center will reopen Friday with free admission

(TAMPA, Fla., Sept. 29, 2022) — The Tampa Bay History Center closed this past Tuesday in anticipation of Hurricane Ian. The Category 4 hurricane did not significantly impact the museum at 801 Water Street in Tampa, Fla., and the History Center will reopen tomorrow, Sept. 30, with free admission from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“It could have been much worse for the Tampa Bay area, and we offer our support to our neighbors and museum colleagues in Collier, Lee, and the other counties starting the recovery process,” said C.J. Roberts, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay History Center. “We hope that tomorrow’s free admission day will provide some relief to local families without power. The History Center’s mission to discover, preserve and inform our common future couldn’t be more pertinent as we all take note of the characteristics of our state.”

The History Center’s curatorial team worked to secure its collection of 80,000 objects ahead of the storm. The building was designed with the potential for a major storm event in mind and to keep Tampa Bay’s priceless artifacts and one of the largest map collections in the southeast safe.

Museum visitors can find out more information, donate, and view thousands of maps from the Touchton Map Library at

In addition, the Columbia Cafe will reopen tomorrow at 11 a.m. The Cafe offers a sampling of the Spanish- and Cuban-inspired dishes that made the 116-year-old restaurant famous.

Cuban Pathway Gallery Tours

Top honors awarded to Tampa Bay History Center for Cuban Pathways

(TAMPA, Fla., Sept. 6, 2022) — Tampa Bay History Center is pleased to announce they are a recipient of the 2022 Southeastern Museums Conference Gold Exhibition Award for Cuban Pathways. The SEMC Exhibition Competition showcases the best in our profession and provides benchmarks for regional exhibition efforts in southeastern museums.

SEMC 2022 Exhibition Winner

Cuban Pathways is on exhibit now until Feb. 11, 2023, at the Tampa Bay History Center and tells the 500-year story through the lenses of individuals whose labor, political crusades, and search for refuge illustrate Cuba’s complex history.

“This is an incredible honor and recognizes our outstanding curatorial team,” said C.J. Roberts, President and CEO of the Tampa Bay History Center. “Cuban Pathways took two years to develop and includes more than 120 objects that tell the stories of our community’s deep connections with the island nation. We are proud to share these artifacts from our collection and extensive research with the Tampa Bay community and other museums in the Southeast and beyond.”

For many visitors, exhibitions are the public face of museums, and effective planning, management of resources, research and interpretation, collections care, public programs, publications, and fundraising all contribute to the fulfillment of a museum’s mission. Expectations and standards were exceptionally high for this year’s applicants. The SEMC Exhibition Competition received a record-breaking number of applications from a wide variety of museums across the southeast.

The Exhibition Competition recognizes exhibitions for overall excellence or for stretching the limits of content and design through innovation. Winning entries were well-designed exhibitions of merit with educational value and demonstrated, respectful treatment of objects. Recipients of the awards were judged by an appointed jury of museum professionals across the region who specialize in curatorial studies and exhibition design.

Award winners will be celebrated at the 2022 Annual Meeting Awards Luncheon on Oct. 26, 2022, in Rogers, Arkansas, and the Fall 2022 Edition of INSIDE SEMC, a digital publication of the Southeastern Museums Conference. This designation recognizes Tampa Bay History Center’s contribution to professional standards in Southeastern museums.


About the Tampa Bay History Center

Located on Tampa’s Riverwalk, the Tampa Bay History Center includes three floors of permanent and temporary exhibition space focusing on 12,000 years of Florida’s history and culture. A Smithsonian Affiliate museum accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the History Center includes the Touchton Map Library and Florida Center for Cartographic Education, and the Witt Research Center, and is home to the Columbia Cafe. One of Tampa’s premier cultural venues, the History Center’s hands-on, interactive exhibits and theaters provide an entertaining and educational experience for visitors of all ages. For more information, visit

About the Southeastern Museums Conference

The Southeastern Museums Conference (SEMC), a nonprofit membership organization, is an association of museums, museum staff, independent professionals, and corporate partners. We focus on the Southeastern United States including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Puerto Rico, and US Virgin Islands. For more information about the Southeastern Museums Conference, visit

War Stories at the Tampa Bay History Center

Kitschy Cartography: Illustrated and Pictorial Maps of Florida

(TAMPA, Fla., May 17, 2022) — Maps aren’t just about geography. They can also help convey a broader idea of what to expect as you explore the areas featured on that map. The Tampa Bay History Center’s new exhibition Kitschy Cartography: Illustrated and Pictorial Maps of Florida is on exhibit now through April 2, 2023, in the Touchton Map Library’s Saunders Gallery.

“The maps in this exhibit are a bit more whimsical than what you may expect from a world-class map collection, but they certainly have their place in the cartographic history of our state,” says Rodney Kite-Powell, Director of the Touchton Map Library at the Tampa Bay History Center.

In Kitschy Cartography, visitors will see views of Florida and its cities through the eyes of artists who populate their maps with colorful characters that symbolize the history, industries, and people of the state.

Maps during the Age of Exploration (roughly the 15th and 16th centuries) used illustrations depicting sea monsters and other fantasy creatures. They outlined the dangers of trans-oceanic voyages and highlighted the notion that there were a lot of unknowns on the edges of the maps.

By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, images on maps came to be associated with what was known about a place rather than the unknown. Unfortunately, many of those images were stereotypical and offensive representations of African Americans, American Indians, immigrant populations, and women.

Caricatured city views are an important subset of the illustrated map genre. Marketed more toward locals than tourists, they often featured oversized images of people and businesses (who often paid sponsorships for their inclusion). These views were prevalent in the 1980s and early 1990s, and they were created for most cities within the state.

“In many ways, they are a much more accessible way for people to engage with maps of the state than something printed in Latin from the 16th century. All maps, these included, have stories to tell – they just do it in a more colorful way.”

War Stories at the Tampa Bay History Center

Tampa Bay History Center offers free admission to active military families as part of Blue Star Museums

(TAMPA, Fla., May 6, 2022) — Blue Star Museums is a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and the Tampa Bay History Center. 

Blue Star MuseumsThe 2022 free admission program will begin on Armed Forces Day, Saturday, May 21, 2022, and end on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 5, 2022. Armed Forces Day was established in 1949 for citizens to come together and thank military members for their patriotic service.

The free admission program is available for those currently serving in the United States Military—Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard as well as members of the Reserves, National Guard, U.S. Public Health Commissioned Corps, NOAA Commissioned Corps—and up to five family members.

Qualified members must show a Geneva Convention common access card (CAC), DD Form 1173 ID card (dependent ID), or a DD Form 1173-1 ID card at Visitor Services before entering the museum galleries.

For a list of participating museums, visit

Chinsegut Hill Historic Site

A first of its kind family reunion is coming to Chinsegut Hill in Hernando County

(BROOKSVILLE, Fla., May 2, 2022) — The Tampa Bay History Center presents Florida Emancipation Day: A Family Reunion on Saturday, May 21, 2022, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Chinsegut Hill Historic Site, 22495 Chinsegut Hill Road, Brooksville, Fla.

Located atop one of the highest points in the state, Chinsegut Hill is home to a historic house at the center of a 114-acre preserve. This landscape has a human history that spans millennia. Prehistoric people, Seminole Indians, wealthy American planters, enslaved individuals, political crusaders, and others have called Chinsegut home.

The History Center leads preservation efforts and educational programming at the historic site and presents Florida Emancipation Day: A Family Reunion as a free family event, thanks to the support of Hernando County, Florida’s Adventure Coast Visitors Bureau, and Pasco-Hernando State College.

This celebration features living history and historical reenactments, an active archaeological dig tour, outdoor games for all ages thanks to Hernando County YMCA, Brooksville’s favorite food vendors, and live music all afternoon.

The following dignitaries will take part in a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation from the steps of the historic house:

  • Timothy L. Beard, Ph.D., Pasco-Hernando State College President

  • Pat Brayton, City of Brooksville Mayor

  • Susan Duval, Hernando School Board Vice-Chair

  • Natalie Kahler, Brooksville Main Street Executive Director

  • Jeff Rogers, Hernando County Administrator

  • Curtis Stokes, Tampa Bay History Center Board of Trustees Chair

  • John Stratton, Hernando School District Superintendent

“The last of Florida’s enslaved African people were liberated May 20th, 1865, when U. S. Major General Edward McCook read the Emancipation Proclamation from the steps of the Knott House in Tallahassee,” says Fred Hearns, Curator of Black History at the History Center. “When that day of freedom came in 1865, Black people’s liberation meant a time of rejoicing and reuniting with loved ones. That’s what May 20th celebrations are all about.”

“Storytelling is a powerful tool for shaping our future,” says C.J. Roberts, President and CEO of the History Center. “We’re telling more of the Chinsegut Hill story than ever before and eager to share this special place in West Central Florida.”

In addition to the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, programming includes Rev. Dr. Glenn B. Dames, Jr. and the Allen Temple AME Church’s Janet Spencer-Davis Choir of Tampa, the Cornerstone Baptist Church Choir of Spring Hill, Sonja Wise, Donald Dowridge, Jim “Bowcat” Anderson, and Petey Smith. DJ Marvelous of Tampa will keep the guests entertained.


Tickets are sold separately for tours of the historic home (adults: $10, children: $5).


Local historians connect the complicated 500-year story of Cuba and its ties to Tampa

(TAMPA, Jan. 27, 2022) – What do you imagine when you think about today’s Cuba? Or the Cuba visited by pastel-wearing tourists in the 1950s? The island nation is the largest in the Caribbean and has a long history of turmoil and opportunity–with deep connections to the Tampa Bay region.

Cuban Pathways Cuban Pathways is the latest exhibition by the Tampa Bay History Center and tells the 500-year story through the lenses of individuals whose labor, political crusades and search for refuge illustrates Cuba’s complex history.

“Given our region’s deep connections with Cuba, this story is part of the Tampa Bay story,” says C.J. Roberts, President and CEO of the Tampa Bay History Center. “Cuban Pathways is the first traveling exhibition produced exclusively by the History Center. We are proud to share these artifacts from our collection and extensive research with the Tampa Bay community and other museums in the Southeast and beyond.”

This traveling exhibition covers early Spanish settlements and the arrival of the first Africans to the island, and it includes first-hand accounts of émigrés fleeing Revolutionary Cuba. It is a personalized experience as we meet three modern Cubans representing the island’s diversity.

Follow the experiences of Paulina Pedroso, an Afro-Cuban revolutionary born in Pinar del Río, Cuba in 1845 into a free Afro-Cuban family; Rogelio Azorín, who arrived from Spain after the Spanish-Cuban-American War in 1898 and whose family established a manufacturing company; and Francisco Changsut, who emigrated from Canton, China to Cuba around 1900. This extensive look at Cuban history was researched by the History Center’s curatorial team and led by Dr. Brad Massey, Saunders Foundation Curator of Public History, who traveled to South Florida and Key West over the past year to secure artifacts for the exhibition.

“Cuba was the Caribbean hub of the modern Atlantic World and home to a diverse population,” says Massey. “This exhibition is organized by three distinct journeys that brought people to and from the island. It offers a glimpse into Cuban life during each era.”

The collection will occupy more than 2,000 square feet of gallery space at the History Center when it opens Friday, Feb. 11, 2022, for a year-long showing. After the premiere exhibition in Tampa, Cuban Pathways is set to travel the southeastern U.S.

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