Tampa Baseball Museum
Creating and Displaying Memories: The Tampa Baseball Museum
On February 18, 2017, the Tampa Baseball Museum hosted an event title “Latinos and Baseball: In the Barrios and the Big Leagues.” Partnering with the Smithsonian, the museum provided tours of the almost-finished space, a panel discussion featuring local baseball greats and academic scholars, and screenings of local films and presentations. The theme of the event concerned the importance of baseball in the historical memory of Tampa and its Latin community.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the museum’s actual location. The museum will be housed in the home of Tampa’s favorite son, Al Lopez. Following his death in 2005, his Ybor City home had deteriorated. In hopes of honoring his legacy, and the legacy of baseball in the community, the Ybor City Museum Society purchased the house. On the night of May 15, 2013, the house was moved from its original location on 12th Avenue, to its new home on 19th Street. Following the move, curator for the society, Elizabeth McCoy was excited for the future of the museum: “It’s been really exciting for the past couple of months. We’re really jazzed. It’s very cool to see it happening.” The Lopez family was also excited for the move. They too saw the home as representing a way of remembering the past. Al Lopez Jr. was quoted as saying “Hopefully, [the house and the museum] will allow future generations to get a glimpse of what these people went through.”
Modern museums, such as the Tampa Baseball Museum, work with communities to sustain historical public memory. This often results in great conversations and riveting stories about the past; however, the memory of the public does not always sustain museums. In the 21st century, museums often face financial constraints, and the Tampa Baseball Museum is no different. On October 13, 2013, the Tampa Tribune printed an editorial titled “Support Tampa Baseball Museum.” Similar to pleas to save the Tampa Smokers in 1924, the newspaper urged its readers to get behind the museum. Unfortunately, the governor of Florida did not heed the pleas of the newspaper. In June of 2014, governor Rick Scott vetoed a $50,000 grant that would have gone to the museum. In an understated reaction, president of the Ybor City Museum Society Chantal Hevia stated that “Needless to say, we’re disappointed.” The money from the state would have gone toward the renovations on the Lopez house. While public memory functions through museums by way of stories and artifacts, it is also affected by contemporary financial constraints.
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