Press Release

December 14, 2016
Contact: Manny Leto


Tampa Bay History Center Announces Major Expansion

The $11 million project will add new galleries and cartographic center
featuring centuries-old maps and artifacts

(Tampa, December 14, 2016) —From the Bucs to Gasparilla, pirates – real and imagined – are an inescapable part of Tampa Bay’s popular culture.

The Tampa Bay History Center will lend some power to Tampa’s local pirate lore when as the museum located on Tampa’s Riverwalk embarks on an $11 million expansion project scheduled to begin in January.

The new “Treasure Seekers: Conquistadors, Pirates & Shipwrecks” gallery at the History Center will feature a 60-foot replica sailing vessel and focus on explorers who landed in “La Florida” more than 500 years ago, pirates who wreaked havoc along Florida’s coasts in the 17th and 18th centuries, and efforts to recover long-forgotten shipwrecks from Florida’s waters.

The new “Treasure Seekers” gallery is part of an 8,500-square-foot expansion that will also include the Touchton Map Library/Florida Center for Cartographic Education (TML/FCCE), a partnership with the University of South Florida.

“We celebrate our role as this community’s storyteller,” said History Center President and CEO C.J. Roberts. “Expanding our galleries allows us to tell an even bigger story about the state of Florida, early European exploration, maritime history, shipwrecks and piracy. It will make the History Center even more of a destination for visitors and locals,” he added.

The History Center’s expansion project includes the Touchton Map Library/Florida Center for Cartographic Education. A partnership with the University of South Florida, the map library and cartographic center will be home to some 6,000 maps dating back to the discovery of the New World, and will be the only research library of its kind in the Southeastern United States.

Access to an additional 10,000 maps and other documents via USF Libraries will make the Touchton Map Library among the largest collections of Florida cartography anywhere in the world.
“The maps in this collection span five centuries,” said Rodney Kite-Powell, who was tapped to lead the map library and cartographic center. “It’s truly a world-class collection, something that doesn’t currently exist in the state of Florida.”

The partnership between the History Center and USF continues a multi-year partnership between the museum and the University, which already includes the publication of the Tampa Bay History Journal, an annual lecture series, special exhibitions, and internships for USF students.

With this one-of-a-kind library and cartographic center, located near our Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation and the future home of our Morsani College of Medicine and USF Health Heart Institute, the University of South Florida will forever be on the map of downtown Tampa,” said USF President Judy Genshaft. “We are pleased to deepen our partnership with the Tampa Bay History Center, thrilled to share the treasures that will be housed in this expansion, and proud to play such an important role in the revitalization of the downtown district.”

With map collections spanning the arrival of early European explorers to 21st century applications of geographic information systems, USF has an ideal partner in the Tampa Bay History Center,” said USF Libraries Dean, Todd Chavez. “Our collaboration improves access to unique historical documents while advancing innovative research and educational opportunities.”

Rare artifacts recovered from shipwrecks off the coast of Florida, including 400-year-old navigational tools, weaponry and pottery, will also be on permanent display in the new “Treasure Seekers” gallery.

The focus on Florida’s maritime history allows the museum to explore the science, technology and engineering of centuries-old sailing vessels and how sailors used primitive tools and the stars to navigate unknown waters.

“Adding the maritime stories allows us to expand our educational offerings beyond history into science, technology, engineering, art and math,” said CEO Roberts.

The expansion comes at a time of growth for the History Center, which has seen attendance climb 20 percent over the past two years, surpassing 100,000 visitors annually. The Channel District where the History Center is located is also poised for a massive multi-billion-dollar redevelopment, which is just getting underway.

“It’s a great time for both the History Center and Tampa,” said Roberts. “We’re both charting a bold course for this area’s future.”

Quick Facts – Tampa Bay History Center

  • Opened in 2009, the Tampa Bay History Center tells the stories of the Tampa Bay area and “historic” Hillsborough County
  • Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums
  • Smithsonian Affiliate
  • Visitation has increased steadily to more than 100,000 annual visitors, including 10,000+ students from bay-area schools
  • Southern “anchor” of the Tampa Riverwalk
  • Home to the Columbia Cafe

Expansion Project Quick Facts

  • Construction is scheduled to begin in January, with completion scheduled for Fall 2017
  • Will add 8,500 square feet on TBHC’s third floor, increasing gallery space by one third
  • New “Treasure Seekers: Conquistadors, Pirates & Shipwrecks” gallery will tell the story of the “Age of Discovery,” roughly the 16th century through the early 18th century
  • Includes the Touchton Map Library/Florida Center for Cartographic Education (TML/FCCE), in partnership with USF
  • (TML/FCCE) will be the only cartographic research center in the Southeastern U.S., one of only 9 in the nation, and will house more than 6,000 maps and documents dating back to 1493.
  • TBHC has raised more than half of an $11 million fundraising effort.

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