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St. Petersburg Tells Its Story

By Allison Wilson

A city's history museum is often its cultural center, revealing its backstory as told by the people whose past shaped the community's present. The St. Petersburg Museum of History is that place locally, and it's filled with stories of how history was made here.

"Our permanent exhibit tells the story of St. Petersburg and how it reacted to or affected the history of Florida and the nation," says James Parrish, Marketing and Events Director for the St. Petersburg Museum of History. "The exhibit is built on the foundation of our city archive, a public library in the museum that can be accessed by anyone to find stories, documents, and photos of anything related to St. Petersburg. The archives can tell you everything from the history of your house to the ancestry of a family."

Founded in 1921 and housed in an old aquarium building, the museum tells the city's story through exhibits with a number of different themes, including the world's largest collection of autographed baseballs. Schrader's Little Cooperstown has more than 4,800 baseballs on display, along with artifacts, documents and storyboards that showcase the sport's superstars, including Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson. The museum has chosen the most interesting memorabilia and stories to give visitors a rich perspective of each moment in baseball history. The exhibit also reveals more than 100 years of Tampa Bay's history as a spring training destination for teams like the Yankees, Phillies, Pirates, Blue Jays, Cubs, Cardinals, Mets and Rays.

Another signature exhibit is the World's First Commercial Airline. It chronicles the history of commercial aviation, which began when the first passenger airline service took flight in January 1914 from St. Petersburg to Tampa. The exhibit also features a full-size replica of that first plane, the Benoist Airboat, which flew St. Petersburg Mayor Abram Pheil 21 miles across the bay.

Every year, the museum hosts traveling exhibits from local communities as well as from across the state and the world. For example, you might see a national photo exhibit giving a chronological evolution of the American soldier next to a local story of a business celebrating 90 years in St. Petersburg. The museum also hosts a number of events that have become save-the-dates on local social calendars. Its spin on history lectures, Happy Hour with the Historian, goes beyond traditional accounts of wars won or votes counted- and instead focuses on the fun stories of roadside attractions and culinary developments. Other popular events include a craft beer festival called Beers on the Pier, an annual Gala, and The History of Fashion Night.

The museum is also recognized as a truly unique venue for private rentals such as weddings and business receptions.

"The residents of St. Petersburg are rediscovering the St. Petersburg Museum of History," Parrish says. "Once known as the field trip from the third grade, the museum has become a cultural venue for local musicians, storytellers and newlyweds alike."

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About The Author

Allison Wilson is an award-winning writer and communications professional whose...

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