Tampa Bay History Center

 In Museums

801 Old Water Street
Tampa, FL 33602

The History Center is a 60,000-square-foot museum focused on the history and heritage of Florida and the Tampa Bay region. From the earliest native peoples and Seminole Wars, to the growth of transportation and industry, the History Center covers 12,000 years of Florida’s past. Sail across unknown seas with European explorers, ply the Florida coast alongside pirates and privateers, and dive to the ocean floor in search of long-lost fortunes in the all-new Treasure Seekers: Conquistadors, Pirates and Shipwrecks gallery.

Exhibition Schedule:

Permanent Galleries


The new “Treasure Seekers: Conquistadors, Pirates and Shipwrecks” gallery at the Tampa Bay History Center

From the infamous pirate Jack Rackam, to the hard-charging Teddy Roosevelt, the Tampa Bay History Center’s three floors of exhibits explore the stories and personalities from Florida’s past. Florida History Exibit Themes include: Florida’s Native Indians, Florida’s Early European Explorers, Seminole Wars & Culture, Founding of Tampa & “Cigar City”, Tampa Bay Timeline, Industries & Natural Resources, Sports & Recreation, Civil Rights in Tampa, Tampa’s War Heroes, Pioneer Florida, Trans-Atlantic New World Exploration, Navigation Tools, The Pirate’s Life, Florida Shipwrecks and Artifacts Recovered.


Navigating in the Age Before GPS: Nautical Charts of Florida and the Caribbean

Now Through December 2018

Finding your way at sea is a complex art. Captain and crew must not only possess expert knowledge of geography, tides and weather, they also require the latest technology to ensure a safe voyage. A new exhibit in the History Center’s Touchton Map Library lets visitors navigate Florida’s coastlines the way sailors had done centuries before the existence of GPS: with a piece of paper.

“Navigating in the Age Before GPS: Nautical Charts of Florida and the Caribbean,” highlights the era before satellites and hand-held global positioning software. The exhibit features a dozen large-scale nautical charts dating back to the late 1700s, focusing on the coastal areas along the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

As seemingly sprawling and sparse as the waters and coastlines they depict, the charts in the exhibition present an array of details and information, from depths to shipping routes, sandbars to long-forgotten coastal cities, islands and ports. The chart “An Accurate Draught of the Gulph-Passage from Jamaica with the West end of Cuba &’c” from 1796 depicts important sailing waters of the “Gulph-Passage” between the two islands, while its title reflects the growing importance in English overseas trade at that time, especially sugar and rum.

Meanwhile, “Progress Sketch Sec. VI – West Coast of Florida – Tampa Bay and Vicinity,” printed in 1879, shows several bay area landmarks, including one of the earliest mentions of south Tampa’s Ballast Point.

As with all of the charts presented in “Navigating,” each was created without the benefit of satellite technology, or even airborne observation.


A History of Conservation – A Bird’s-eye View

August 25 – February 10, 2019

This comprehensive exhibit details the establishment of Florida’s Coastal Island Sanctuaries as well as local entities involved in Tampa Bay’s wildlife and water quality recovery and protection.

Symbols and drawings of birds appear on the earliest artifacts of modern humans. Birds’ ability to fly, the beauty of their feathers and their varied songs have drawn people to them for centuries. In some ancient cultures, birds were omnipresent – as protectors, hunting aids and transporters to the afterlife. Owls and hawks, especially, were thought to represent gods or spirits with special powers.

Today, birds are a reminder that nature is always with us, and they are recognized as indicators of the health of ecosystems. Understanding long-distance avian migrations has led to international cooperation as well as scientific advances.

Presented by the Tampa Bay History Center in partnership with Audubon Florida’s Coastal Island Sanctuaries staff, “A History of Conservation: A Bird’s-Eye View” traces birds as an important part of mankind’s culture, from the early Greeks and Romans to John James Audubon’s study of North American bird life in the 19th century.

“A Bird’s-Eye View” also looks at Florida’s role in the birth of the modern conservation movement, from John Audubon’s travels throughout the state in the 1830s, to Theodore Roosevelt’s time in Tampa and his subsequent naming of Tampa Bay’s Passage Key as one of the first federal bird reservations.


Curriculum Connections:

Social Studies (Florida and U.S. history Connections for grades 4-8).


Tours are designed for Grades 3-12 but can be adapted for younger students.

Tour Length:

1.5-2 hours.


Up to 150 students can be accommodated at one time. Larger school groups will need to be split over multiple days.

Bus Parking:

Bus parking is available free in an adjacent lot. Drivers will be provided maps. As downtown construction progresses, parking instructions may change but updated information can always be found on the website.

Study Guide/Activity Guide:

Pre-Field trip activities available on-line, along with Teachers’ Field trip planning guide. For a ‘classroom’ field trip we offer History-To-Go Kits available for rent. For more information: www.tampabayhistorycenter.org/educators/educator-resources/


A minimum of 10 students is required for the group rate of $7 per student, with one adult chaperone required but complimentary for every 10 students. Additional chaperones $10 each.

Reservation Instructions:

To make a reservation, fill out the online form at tampabayhistorycenter.org or contact Brian Buttafuoco at 813-675-8960 or bbuttafuoco@tampabayhistorycenter.org


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