Press Release

January 6, 2016
Contact: Manny Leto


History Center exhibit offers a slice of vintage Florida

Florida souvenirs and collectibles will be on display beginning January 16.

(Tampa) – Souvenirs are the tangible reminder of a vacation well-enjoyed. Who can resist an alligator back scratcher or that bag of oranges being sold along the roadside?

Bringing Home the Sunshine: Collecting Florida Souvenirs, opening Saturday, January 16 at the Tampa Bay History Center, takes a look at Florida’s colorful, kitschy knick-knaks, everything from vintage tourist brochures, postcards and pennants to flatware and ceramics from collections at the University of South Florida, private collectors, and the History Center’s archives.

Bringing Home the Sunshine will also include late Highwaymen artist Robert Butler’s final painting, which is part of the History Center’s collection, as well as vintage-inspired prints of local tourist attractions and landmarks by artist Tim Boatright.

Curated by the History Center’s staff, Bringing Home the Sunshine will focus on institutional collections and private collectors, and why they collect specific items. For instance, they History Center’s archive, which includes more than 80,000 artifacts – everything from photographs and correspondence to uniforms and fossils – is focused on Hillsborough County’s material culture. USF’s Special and Digital Collections, meanwhile, includes mostly two-dimensional objects – documents, photographs, and books – and has a broader focus than just Hillsborough County.

“A show like this gives us a chance to highlight some of the more unusual parts of our collection,” said History Center curator Rodney Kite-Powell. “We have a lot on display in our main galleries, but there’s a lot the public doesn’t get to see,” he said.

The same is true for U.S.F.’s Special Collections. An invaluable resource for researchers and academics, the collection features tens of thousands of documents, books and photographs but, says Librarian Andy Huse, “the general public might not be as familiar with what we do.” Several items from USF will be on view at the History Center, including —–

Florida’s place as a tourist mecca was established years before air conditioning and Mickey Mouse took hold in the Sunshine State. Natural Florida, with its year-round, near-perfect weather, was enough to entice visitors from across the country and around the world who have traveled to Florida since the late 1800s.

Brining Home the Sunshine: Collecting Florida Souvenirs will be on exhibit at the Tampa Bay History Center beginning Saturday, January 16 through Sunday, April 17. For more information, contact the Tampa Bay Center at (813) 228-0097 or online at

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