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Tusks to Tails: A Fossil History of Florida

On exhibit now through January 16, 2022

Life in Florida stretches back millions of years. Long before the first Paleoindians made Florida home, gargantuan sharks swam in Florida seas and furry mammoths munched on Florida grass.

How do we know? In a word, fossils.

Fossil hunters have uncovered saber-toothed tiger fangs, ancient whale bones, giant sloth claws and other remains in Florida riverbeds, phosphate mines and even under coastal ocean waters. Through inquiry and scientific dating, paleontologists have used these fossils to give us a glimpse into Florida’s distant past.

“Tusks to Tails” is on exhibit in the Wayne Thomas Gallery.

Outpost to Statehood: The Florida Territory

On exhibit now through March 6, 2022

During the summer of 1821, Florida officially became a territory of the United States. The process was tedious, not only because the territory was still officially two separate entities (East Florida, with its capital at St. Augustine, and West Florida, with its capital at Pensacola), but also because of the time it took for people and information to travel between Washington, D.C., Madrid, Havana and the two Florida capitals.

Florida’s path to becoming a U.S. Territory took longer, of course, than the activities of 1821. The treaty between the United States and Spain took two years to negotiate and ratify, and that process was preceded by 286 years of Spanish control (with the exception of 20 years, between 1763 and 1783, when East and West Florida were British colonies).

The new American possession immediately created both complications and opportunities. The frontier outpost’s population officially stood at around 10,000 in 1821, but that number only included Whites and enslaved Blacks (both African- and American-born).

That number did not include the Seminole and Miccosukee Indians, nor did it include formerly enslaved Blacks who were either living with the Seminoles and Miccosukees or who were living in their own communities. Twenty-four years later, when Florida became the 27th state, the total population stood at around 67,000 people, including Whites, enslaved and free Blacks, and Seminole and Miccosukee Indians (the latter group were not included in the official 1845 census).

Much happened in the intervening years, and what follows is an overview of those years, told through maps from the J. Thomas and Lavinia Lee Witt Touchton Collection.

“Outpost to Statehood: The Florida Territory” is on exhibit in the Touchton Map Library’s Saunders Gallery.

Tampa Bay History Center - David Rumsey Map Collection

Picturing Women Inventors

On Exhibit Now

Throughout American history, women with diverse backgrounds and interests created inventions that changed lives every day. But women haven’t always had equal opportunities to be inventors or received as much recognition. The Smithsonian and the United States Patent and Trademark Office present “Picturing Women Inventors,” a poster exhibition that explores the inventions of 19 highly accomplished American women. Astronauts, computer pioneers, and businesswomen join athletes, engineers, and even teenagers in this remarkable group of inventors.

“Picturing Women Inventors” showcases the breakthroughs, motivations, and challenges women encountered while pursuing their goals as inventors. The poster exhibition highlights stories of inventors like Marilyn Hamilton, who after a hang-gliding accident in 1978 left her paralyzed, invented a lightweight wheelchair that was easy to maneuver. Diversity of background and age are showcased including inventor Alexis Lewis, who at 12-years-old in 2011 was inspired to adapt a traditional Native American sled, called a travois, by adding wheels to create a simpler way to transport families and their belongings in Somalia.

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