The City of Tampa has been living and breathing since it became incorporated US territory in 1845, however, although Tampa has this deep and rich history the city has only had an archives and records department since 1987. The development of such a department is thanks to the work of Frances Henriquez, the first female and Hispanic city clerk of Tampa.
Henriquez was appointed to her position as city clerk on November 27th, 1973, she was pushed by Mayor Dick Greco to run for office as he believed that it was time for a woman to hold a place in office. Henriquez, with the support from the mayor’s office, ran for city clerk and won, making her the last person to be voted into that position. She then spent 20 years as the city clerk, retiring in September of 1993 .
During her time as the city clerk Mrs. Henriquez realized that there was an enormous amount of information constantly being cycled through the offices at City Hall that were being constantly discarded or lost, with no attention being payed to their potential value as important documentation about their growing metropolis. In her oral history Henriquez stated “I saw records coming in, being taken or destroyed. There was no continuity, no history, and that bothered me”. This realization led her to take the steps to form a records department for The City of Tampa, which eventually led to the development of their archives division as well. Eventually the archives and records division acquired their own building which they appropriately named the “Frances Henriquez Archives and Records Service Building” .
The creation of The City of Tampa’s archives and records department was the first of its kind in the state of Florida, therefore, making it the first ever municipal archive in the state. The archives and record department now house a plethora of historical documents and memorabilia pertaining to Tampa as well as her sister cities. Examples of the types of documentation that is held at the archives include, mayors’ papers from mayors such as Mayor Lloyd Copeland and Mayor Dick A. Greco Jr, as well as city council minutes and a photographic collection containing pictures of life in Tampa from 1950-1990.
The Tampa Photo Supply collection is one of the archives largest projects and can be seen on display on the Hillsborough Public Library website. Digitizing this collection is very important for the city, especially because some of the negatives and photos were not in the best shape. However, through their digitalization they will be preserved for everyone to see for years to come.
Taking an interest in and participating in the public sphere is an integral part of the archives and its function. Instead of looking at the archives as simply a space that houses the important history of a city, look at it instead as a living breathing entity where anyone can visit to experience firsthand the history of their home. The archives do take steps to show their accessibility to the community through initiatives such as Archives Awareness Week which takes place during the Summer. They also have booklets detailing the history of the city clerks of Tampa such as Frances Henriquez and even coloring books for people to learn while also having fun. The history of the creation of The City of Tampa Bay’s Archives and Records department is an interesting one, and the first of its kind. The employees of the archives try their best to live up to that history while also creating an environment that is open as well as friendly to the public.