Conducting 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].

About The Collection

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, all related to Florida’s history.

The Tampa Bay History Center has an exceptional collection of more than 1,000 Tampa cigar industry- related items, including printed cigar labels, boxes, cigar making tools and factory furniture, as well as cigar advertising ephemera, all dating from the late 19th through the early and mid-20th century.


The History Center maintains a large collection of Florida Seminole objects and materials, gifted from the Charles L. Knight Family. Items in this collection include patchwork clothing and 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 80,000, 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.

Collections FAQ

How Can I Donate an Artifact to the Museum?

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.

Can I loan my item to the museum?

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.

Is my donation tax deductible?

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.

Can the History Center appraise objects?

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.

American Society of Appraisers

Appraisers Association of America

International Society of Appraisers

Will my artifacts or documents be used in an exhibit?

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.

Recommended Local Vendors


Griffin Bookbinding


7212 Central Avenue
St Petersburg, Florida 33707


[email protected]


Clayton Galleries


4105 South MacDill Ave.
Tampa, FL 33611


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Art Conservation of Central Florida


701 S. Howard Ave,
Suite 106-302
Tampa, FL 33606


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Eagle Photographics & Digital Imaging Inc.


3612 W. Swann Ave
Tampa, FL 33609


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801 Water Street, Tampa, FL 33602

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