You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.

Tampa Box Company Archive Photo

Together we're preserving 90,000+ artifacts.

The History Center’s collections date from the prehistoric era to the present, with a geographic focus on Hillsborough County, the Gulf Coast, and, generally, the state of Florida, covering all spheres of life, public and domestic.

The research library contains nearly 10,000 books, manuals, maps, documents, microfilm, and family/subject papers related to Florida’s history.

More than 1,000 Tampa cigar industry-related items, including printed cigar labels, boxes, cigar-making tools, factory furniture, and cigar advertising ephemera, all date from the late 19th through the early and mid-20th centuries, tell the story of how Tampa, Fla., became known as Cigar City.

An extensive collection of Florida Seminole objects and materials was gifted from the Charles L. Knight Family, which includes patchwork clothing, rare patchwork samples, and items used in daily life, such as pottery and utensils.

The History Center recently assembled a collection of maritime artifacts from the Age of Discovery. The collection features navigation tools, including one of only 100 known astrolabes in a public collection, flatware and pottery, and assorted weaponry from the era.

The collections are assembled to complement and strengthen the interpretation of the history of the gulf coast and the state of Florida, generally. Together, objects in these collections number close to 90,000, a portion of which are on display in the museum’s galleries showcasing Florida’s maritime heritage, Tampa’s historic Cigar City, Florida’s cattle ranching industry, Seminole Indian history and culture, and Florida’s changing environment.

How to conduct research at the History Center

Located on the fourth floor of the History Center, the Currie B. and Lavinia Sparkman-Witt Research Center is open to the general public by appointment only. The research center is a non-lending research and reading room. Books, documents or other items must be viewed on-site. Copy and scanning services are available for a fee. To ask a question or schedule a visit, email [email protected].

Meet our memory makers.

Malerie Dorman explores Tampa Bay History Center’s extensive collection of historic maps, some dating back to the time of Christopher Columbus.

Collections FAQ

If you have artifacts or documents that you believe would complement the museum’s collection, please contact the History Center’s curatorial staff at [email protected].

Artifacts cannot be accepted without prior communication with museum staff.

The staff will determine whether the object meets the museum’s board-approved collecting criteria. In evaluating the object for acceptance into the collection, we will consider the following questions:

  • Was the object made or used in the Tampa Bay area or state of Florida?
  • What is the object’s historical significance?
  • Is there documentation (written or oral) on the object?
  • Does the object need conservation work?
  • Does the object duplicate or support the History Center’s existing collection?
  • What is the object’s exhibit potential?
  • What is the object’s educational potential?
  • What impact would the object have on available storage space?

If the object meets the criteria, the curator will present it to the collections committee who will vote on whether to accept the item(s). Following the meeting you will be contacted regarding the next steps.

The Tampa Bay History Center is unable to accept long term loans, loans for unspecified periods of time, or that are not related to a specific exhibit. We may seek out artifacts in support of upcoming exhibits and programs but these loans are for a limited time, usually no more than 6 months, and are based on our needs as determined by the curatorial staff.

Yes. The Tampa Bay History Center is recognized as a qualified charitable organization, thus the fair market value of your donated materials is generally tax deductible. To take advantage of your deduction, you must file tax form 1040 and, depending on the value of your donation, tax form 8283. It is recommended that you consult with your own accountant, attorney, or the IRS to ensure that you receive the maximum tax benefit. You may also consult Internal Revenue Service Publication No. 526, Charitable Contributions, and Publication No. 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property.

No. Although the Tampa Bay History Center welcomes artifact donations, it does not provide authentication or appraisal services.

An object’s value can often be determined by consulting one of the many price guides available in libraries and bookstores. If you wish to obtain a formal, written appraisal of an object (for which you may be charged a fee), please consult the following professional associations to find an accredited appraiser in your area.

The History Center cannot guarantee that any objects or documents donated to its collection will be exhibited. Only a small fraction of the collection is on view at any given time but many artifacts and documents are made available for research purposes.

Please contribute to our digital collection.

The Tampa Bay History Center collection contains objects, photographs, documents, maps, and more that reflect the history of the Tampa Bay area, the Gulf Coast, and the state of Florida. As we look to the future, our collecting efforts must also embrace ever-changing technology and recognize that history can be captured digitally.

In an effort to build our born-digital collections, we need your help. Use the upload link below to share an audio recording or photograph. Your story and photos will be archived into our collection at the History Center, saved for use in exhibits, for researchers and historians, and for future generations of Floridians. Whether we’re documenting current events, collecting the stories of community members, or documenting the changing built environment of the Tampa Bay area, we are committed to helping you tell your story. We want to hear from you.

Click or drag a file to this area to upload.
The maximum file size is 50MB. If your file is larger than 50MB, please email [email protected] for upload options.

Recommended Local Vendors

Griffin Bookbinding

7212 Central Avenue
St Petersburg, Florida 33707
(727) 254-7962
[email protected]

Clayton Galleries

4105 South MacDill Ave.
Tampa, FL 33611
(813) 831-3753
[email protected]

Art Conservation of Central Florida

701 S. Howard Ave,
Suite 106-302
Tampa, FL 33606
(813) 258-4131
[email protected]

Eagle Photographics & Digital Imaging Inc.

3612 W. Swann Ave
Tampa, FL 33609
(813) 870-2495
[email protected]