Located along the lovely Bayshore Boulevard, the Safety Harbor Museum and Cultural Center is a local hub of arts, culture, and history for the surrounding community.
The museum is home to a permanent collection of artifacts relating to Safety Harbor’s past. With displays that range from the Native American period to more modern events, there is something for everyone to enjoy at this local museum. Visitors can begin their journey by watching a short video on the history of Safety Harbor. The video links events in the small Florida city with larger trends and happenings around the nation throughout history.
What would later become the Safety Harbor Museum and Cultural Center began as the Safety Harbor Area Historical Society Inc. in 1965. The organization collected artifacts related to the city’s past, hosted excavations, put on pageants, and wrote newsletters to keep the community informed. In 1969 the group was given storefront space on Main Street to display the artifacts they had gathered up to that point.
Over the next eight years the historical society continued to develop their artifact collections, create educational programs, host lectures, and work with the local community. By 1976, the museum had outgrown its spot on Main Street and relocated nearby. The historical society promised the donor of the new space to keep the museum open on a regular basis. Unfortunately though, they had been struggling with managing the museum for years and would be forced to leave their new location the next year.
Discouraged but not defeated, the historical society continued to plan for ways to share the city’s history with its residents. In December of 1977, they chartered a new museum which would be called the Safety Harbor Museum of History and Fine Arts. By March of 1978, the board had secured a lease for the new museum in its modern Bayshore Boulevard location.
Throughout the eighties and nineties, the museum expanded its collections and developed new educational programs which in turn, boosted membership and hours of operation. They held yearly fundraisers to contribute to the non-profit museum’s budget. They also added to the building and the grounds they were located on. The museum had several grand openings to display their newly renovated and redesigned spaces.
According to the St. Petersburg Times, one day in 2003 the museum received “an unwanted box on the doorstep.” This box held human remains. Following federal regulations, the museum had the bones tested by researchers at the University of Florida who determined the bones to have belonged to a Tocobaga Indian, the tribe who inhabited Safety Harbor centuries ago. On June 30th, 2007, the museum board, together with the Spirit People, a local Native American Organization, held a public ceremony to have the remains reinterred in a burial mound. The site remains unaltered today and can be seen by visitors.
The recession of the late 2000s had a lasting effect on the museum, as it did on many local historical sites who struggled financially. By 2011, the museum board and the city of Safety Harbor entered into negotiations to come together in a partnership. The next year an agreement was reached between the parties and the museum closed for nearly all of 2012 for a complete remodeling.
On December 7th, 2012, the newly renovated and newly named Safety Harbor Museum and Cultural Center opened to the public. The museum has continued to run as a partnership by the city’s recreation department and the non-profit board of the museum. The museum board is in charge of the permanent collections while the city develops exhibits for the front of the building.
The front of the museum is an open space used for rotating exhibits, meaning there is something new to see throughout the year! Previous exhibits have featured the art of local artists and artifacts donated by community members. The deck of the museum is a lovely space where locals come to relax near the bay and read or chat with friends.
The growth and development of the Safety Harbor Museum and Cultural Center is a testament to the passion of a local community to preserve their past. Despite various setbacks over the years, residents of Safety Harbor kept fighting to have a space to share the history of their city with each other and visitors.