Welcome to the Polk County History Center, home to the historical museum and genealogical library.
The Polk County Historical Museum opened its doors on September 19, 1998, in the Old Polk County Courthouse, located in downtown Bartow. The Museum serves the Polk County Community through special events, volunteer opportunities, and educational programs. The Museum's exhibits and programs continue to grow and change as new information and artifacts become available.
The Polk County Historical and Genealogical Library was first opened to the public in January of 1940. The library is one of the largest Genealogical and Historical collections in the Southeast United States.
Polk County History Center - Information & Fees
The History Center is located in downtown Bartow at:
100 East Main Street (corner of Main & Broadway)
Bartow, Florida 33830
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Hours of Operation
Tuesday - Saturday 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.
Closed Sundays & Mondays
Admission to the museum is FREE to the public.
Preview a visit to the Polk County History Center now!
Special Events & Announcements
Edge of Wilderness: Polk County in the Civil War Exhibit:
The History Center opens two new Civil War exhibits September, 2013. The exhibits remain open through April 2015 to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. “Defending the Boundaries of Wilderness,” examines how men from Polk County fought on both sides of the Civil War. The exhibit uncovers the histories of the Cow Cavalry, the South Florida Bulldogs, Union troops, and Colored Units who lived, fought, or settled in Polk County. Opening the same day, “Living on the Edge of Wilderness,” focuses on the lives of women and families on the home front of Polk County during the Civil War.
Journey Stories, a traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian, opens at the Polk County History Center on Friday, Dec. 6. The exhibit is on display through Saturday, Jan 4 and is made possible through a grant from the Florida Humanities Council. Journey Stories, from the Smithsonian’s traveling exhibit program “Museums on Main Street,” explores how our ancestors came to America – a central element of the personal heritage.
The History Center also opens Polk County Journeys, a complementary exhibit focused on influential residents and visitors to Polk County who helped shape the community’s history and heritage. Polk County Journeys includes historic postcards from the History Center archives and entries from the Journey Stories postcard competition, created by local children.
Journey Stories is made possible at the Polk County History Center by the Florida Humanities Council. Journey Stories is part of Museum on Main Street, a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution and State Humanities Councils nationwide. Support for Museum on Main Street has been provided by the United States Congress. Flyer Journey Stories Flyer
Free Lunch and Learn speaker series at the Historical Museum:
The Polk County Historical Museum is introducing a “Lunch & Learn” series.
The museum invites guests to bring lunch up to the 1926 courtroom and listen to a guest speaker on the third Tuesday every month. Lectures will begin at 12:15 and last 45 - 60 minutes.
The program is free, just bring your own lunch!
The 2013 Lunch & Learn speakers & dates are here: Lunch & Learn 2013 Schedule
Family Fun Days:
Family Fun Day is a free event on the second Saturday of each month between 10:00am - noon. Children and their families can participate together in a new arts and crafts activity each month while learning about Polk County history.
Education / School Program
The History Center features a guided tour through the museum's exhibits. The program takes students through museum exhibits in a team learning exercise that will uncover information about Polk County and Florida history. For more information about this service please see the School Program page.
The History Center is an extraordinary venue for hosting group functions such as; conferences, weddings, receptions, or meetings. For more information about hosting an event at the History Center, see the Museum Rentals page or download the Museum Rental Brochure. Events with alcohol service require additional forms and insurance. Contact the History Center for more information.
Get involved with the History Center by volunteering. The History Center currently has several opportunities available to assist with organizing collections and greeting visitors. View a list of current opportunities.
The Polk County History Center's museum collection includes natural and cultural objects related to Polk County and the greater Central Florida area that represent our history from pre-Columbian to present day eras. For more information about the exhibitions or to view the virtual tour, please see the Museum Exhibitions page. For a list of special events and temporary exhibits at the museum click here Museum Exhibitions
Polk County History Center's Gift Shop
The History Center's Gift Shop offers a wide variety of books, specialty food items, and souvenirs. Some of these items can be ordered online. Call the museum office at (863) 534-4386 to inquire about item availability.
Send check or money order payable to:
Polk County History Center
Museum Gift Shop
100 East Main Street
Bartow, Florida 33830
Items will ship upon receipt of payment. Please allow 5-7 business days for shipping. There is a $5.95 shipping and handling charge applied to the order. You may also purchase package insurance for an additional $1.35.
For more information about the Polk County History Center please contact us by email, phone (863) 534-4386 or toll free 1-800-780-5346 ext.4386; or fax (863) 534-4387. Operating hours are Tuesday-Saturday between 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. (excluding holidays).