Historic photos tell the story of Tampa

- If a picture is worth a thousand words, a variable treasure trove was on display at a co-working space in Seminole Heights. Nearly 2,000 historic photos of Tampa were spread across tables, in binders, for visitors to learn about the city's history through images.

"It's nice to humanize history a bit," Tampa history buff Kate Hickland said as she flipped through one of the books of photos.

The photographs were courtesy of Tampa native Ellie Baggett. Her father, Bob Baggett, restores historic photos for the Hillsborough County Public Library.

After restoring the original, he keeps a print copy. Ellie wondered if people would be interested in seeing them.

"Having them in front you, sitting down with some neighbors, talking to people about the photos, what you see in the photos, it has so much more of an opportunity to build a sense of community if you're sitting next to neighbors talking about our history," Baggett said.

The interest was definitely there. The room slowly filled to capacity on a rainy Wednesday. The photos sparked conversations about growing up in Tampa, demolished buildings, and other fun facts about the area.

"I wanted to see these photos in person," Hickland said. "You're able to look at things in so much more detail."

Hickland smiled like a kid in a candy store after entering the building. She relished in being surrounded by fellow history buffs.

"Usually I start talking about these pictures or start talking about Tampa history and people get this look on their face and their eyes get big and I realize I've let the nerd out a little bit too much, and they have no idea what I'm talking about," Hickland said. "I was talking, in general, at a table earlier, and another guy knew exactly what I was talking about. He knew some of the same facts that I did. It was nice to not freak people out."

The photos were displayed in 14 binders as people rotated through the room flipping through. The prints show Tampa from around 1880 to 1950.

"It's great to see our history," Baggett said. "We can look at these photos and see how far we've come."

Baggett says she plans to have future showcases. In the meantime, digital versions of every photo are available on the Hillsborough County Library's website.

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