Tampa Bay History Center
801 Old Water Street
| +1 813-228-0097
Photo by Tampa Bay History Center
Sun - Sat 10am - 5pm
Ahoy Matey! Set Sail with Pirates at the Tampa Bay History Center.The existing 60,000 square-foot Tampa Bay History Center takes visitors through 12,000 years of Florida history telling the varied stories of the native people, explorers, settlers, cowboys, citrus growers, cigar makers, and entrepreneurs who brought trains, shipping, and industry to the area.
Now with a major 8,500 square-foot expansion to the third floor of the Center scheduled to open in December 2017, the Center will offer an exciting new permanent display, "Treasure Seekers: Conquistadors, Pirates & Shipwrecks." The exhibit will bring to life the vibrant stories of early European explorers who came to La Florida in search of treasures, enterprising pirates who sailed the seas often taking advantage of the wayfaring explorers, and the sometimes unfortunate ships that sank to the bottom of local and distant waters laden with sailors and goods.
The fascinating centerpiece of the new 4,300 square foot gallery will be the replica of a 60-foot long sleek pirate sloop. Visitors will be able to explore and climb around the sloop inside and out. Adults and children alike will also be able to "play pirate" in the interactive theater where they can choose a swashbuckler-themed adventure game and see how they do as a modern day swashbuckler.
Visitors will enter the ship at ground level and go to a theater where they can take a virtual private journey. They will make decisions about where to go, what ships to attack, and when and where to shoot cannon. Their "outcome" will depend on the decisions they make.
Throughout the ship and the surrounding gallery will be a large collection of authentic artifacts that have been found in shipwrecks in the waters off Florida, the Caribbean, and the Mediterranean. There will be a 17th century, bronze Ship's Bell whose ring would probably have been the last sound heard as it's ship was sinking. An extraordinarily rare Astrolabe from the 17th-century (which predated use of the sextant) was one of the first tools used for navigation by determining latitude using the stars and planets. An 18th Century cannon was likely used on a Barbary pirate vessel in battle, perhaps its last battle as it sank in the Mediterranean.
A chest, recently acquired by the Museum, would have been used to store treasures which might have included precious navigation maps examples of which will also be on display. What good are treasures after all if you can't find your way home?
There will also be weaponry (including a really cool dagger), jewelry and jewelry boxes including pearls, gold and silver coins, and pottery and flatware.
The artifacts and maps will be used to tell the stories of explorers who came to La Florida and pirates who sailed both the waters off Florida and the world, including Anne Bonney of Ireland who was one of the few known female pirates of her era. The stories will also explore the science, technology, and engineering of centuries-old sailing vessels and how sailors navigated the world using primitive tools and the stars.
And not to be overlooked, the exhibit will talk about modern day treasure hunters, the men and women who search for long-forgotten shipwrecks in Florida's waters. These stories will be illustrated with rare artifacts recovered from these shipwrecks and a display of the ships and technology used to locate and salvage shipwrecks.
In addition to the new gallery, museum goers can wander out onto a large outdoor patio called the Crow's Nest just off the new exhibit where they can enjoy an expansive view across the Garrison Canal.
So come December get ready to set sail with the pirates at the Tampa Bay History Center.