I once took a Boston friend to St. Augustine. We strolled through the Colonial Spanish Quarter, stopped in front of an historical marker, and as he realized St. Augustine pre-dated any other European settlement in America, he turned to me and said, “I didn’t realize Florida had history.”
Most people come to the Sunshine State, abandon their past and reinvent themselves. The history they know concerns points north rather than points here. Local historians, though, tenaciously slog through old postcards, photos, and diaries to piece together our past.
St. Petersburg’s founding fathers) or a 17th-century map of the peninsula. Don’t take someone else’s word for it; read and touch and see the letters, charts and photographs that historians have woven together into a tapestry of history.
Everything at the St. Petersburg Museum of History bridges St. Petersburg’s yesterdays with its todays. Browsing their exhibits or spending an afternoon in their archives makes the city’s history quite real. Some permanent exhibits include a replica of the Benoist, the boat plane Tony Janus flew out of Albert Whitted; posters and photos from and of Webb City and a mummy who mysteriously arrived on a ship.
The St. Petersburg Historical Society, a nonprofit organization, started the museum almost 90 years ago and still runs it today with some state, county, and city fiscal support.
For many, history means little when read in a dusty old tome, but when you can touch it, the past comes alive. The museum houses archives separate from the exhibits. These archives contain over 8,000 photos, 5,000 douments and 32,000 artifacts. Anyone can spend some time getting cozy with the last will and testament of John Williams (of Williams park fame and one of St. Petersburg’s founding fathers) or a 17th-century map of the peninsula. Don’t take someone else’s word for it; read and touch and see the letters, charts and photographs that historians have woven together into a tapestry of history.
While you can explore the museum’s exhibits six days a week, you can only get into the archives three afternoons a week. While the exhibits make for an interesting afternoon, but you’ll find the real treasures in the archives. If you want a copy of anything from the archives, be prepared to pay extra.
$12 admission or $35 for an annual membership. Students, children 7-17 and people over 60 cost slightly less. Kids under six get in free, and a family of four visits for $24. Searching the archives costs $9 each time you go, but if you join the museum it’s free (again, except for copies.) When you purchase a membership you also get invited to special events, discounts on special programs and gift shop merchandise. Some events are free for everyone.
WHERE:You can find the St. Petersburg Museum of History at the base of the Pier downtown (335 Second Avenue Northeast.) Bring quarters for the meters. Get more information at www.spmoh.org, or call 894-1052.
Tour the museum from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from 1:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. on Sundays. Make an appointment to dig through the archives from 1 p.m. - 5 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Contact Cathy Salustri at CathySalustri@TheGabber.com.