Throughout the year, the History Center hosts rotating exhibits and educational programs that feature a variety of subjects specific to Polk County. Temporary exhibits currently on display include:
The 19th Amendment at 100 Years: A Milestone of Democracy for Women’s Suffrage
- Opened in 2020, the exhibition explores the path to women’s voting rights, and highlights the influential women involved in the campaign, including Dr. Mary Jewett, Mary McLeod Bethune and Marian Horwitz, Florida’s first female mayor.
- Explore More! Opening on August 29, 2023, Delta Sigma Theta: 110 Years of Social Action, is a companion exhibit in the 19th Amendment gallery that explores the impact of Delta Sigma Theta on the political landscape, from suffrage to today. Featuring artifacts and historic photographs, the companion exhibit highlights the Lakeland Alumane Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta and notable Polk Countians such as Carrie Roberts Oldham, the only Black woman to serve as Mayor of Lakeland, and Fentrice Driskell, Minority Leader of the Florida House of Representatives.
Ed Fortner "Memories of Bone Valley" Exhibit
Features 27 original works by James Edward Fortner (1910-1990), who was born and raised in the Polk County phosphate communities of Pierce and Brewster. Composed of striking forms and a style that evokes movement and intrigue, the works represent the day-to-day life of the men and families who grew up in Bone Valley and along the South Prong of the Alafia River.
- Polk’s early industries: cattle, citrus, farming, lumber and turpentine, railroads and phosphate mining, highlights early businesses: Badcock, Coca-Cola, Harrell’s, Mosaic, Publix and Citizens Bank.
- Rare artifacts and historical text that offer a glimpse into the rugged conditions of Florida’s unsettled interior during the mid-1800s including information about early forts.
Jacob Summerlin Video Gallery
- Video Gallery featuring changing films of historical interest; details Jacob Summerlin’s visit in 1887 for the placement of the cornerstone of Summerlin Institute
Children’s Discovery Room and Florida’s Natural World
- Experience what it was like to live in an early Cracker home or a Seminole-style Chickee.
Leisure and Tourism Gallery
- Heritage Trail Kiosk, tin can tourists and early Polk County attractions; highlights include Major League Baseball’s Detroit Tigers and their spring training relationship in Polk as well as the Eger Bait fishing lure collection.
- Organization of Polk County government, including education, law enforcement, fire rescue and medical services.
Weiss Gallery Welcome Center
- History of Polk County’s Clerks of Court, restoration, and architecture of courthouse.
Polk County Crossroads
- Collection of historical land and soil maps depicting the development of Polk’s transportation infrastructure and early settlement.
Polk Proud Cities of Polk
- History of Polk municipalities and communities, past and present.
- This courtroom was part of the wings which were added to the building in 1926 to meet the needs of the growing community.
Arts & Culture Exhibit
- Local artists from Polk, including theater, architecture, music, literature, and visual arts.
Paleo Indian Gallery
- Artifacts include a 1500-year-old canoe recovered from a Polk County lakebed and a collection of points.
Polk County Land of Heroes: Military Galleries
- Polk’s military history beginning with the Second Seminole War in the 1850s. Film from the Spanish American War produced by Thomas Edison on display.
- History of the 10th Judicial Circuit highlighting the life achievements of Spessard Holland; Judges Emeritus Kiosk features retired or deceased 10th Judicial Circuit Judges.
The Polk County History Center collection strives to meet the museum’s mission to educate and inspire through the procurement, preservation, and interpretation of historical objects and data, illustrative of, and relating to, Polk County. Our collection includes books, textiles, 3 dimensional objects, and any other manner of artifact that helps provide insight to the history of the county. Many of these artifacts are on display in our dedicated exhibit galleries focused on such topics as tourism, government, fossils, industry, and more. Per our collection policy, objects must be relevant to, and consistent with the History Center’s purposes and activities, chiefly research, preservation, exhibition, and/or preservation.
The Polk County History Center welcomes the opportunity to consider offers of collection donations. Interested parties should contact the Curator of Collections & Exhibitions at BartholomewDelcamp@polk-county.net to schedule a meeting to discuss any potential donations. Please note the following before submitting an offer:
- Due to the volume of offers we receive, and the time required to carefully review an objects history and it may take several weeks for the History Center to carefully consider and reply to each one.
- The History Center generally does not consider unsolicited offers of temporary loans, nor can we promise to display loaned or donated items.
- Any unsolicited objects received will be considered abandoned, and the History Center reserves the right to dispose of such property as it sees fit.
- Due to limited space and the delicate status of some objects, not every artifact donated will be on display. Some exhibits have objects rotated in and out of collection storage depending on other factors.
The History Center always gives close consideration to offers of authentic objects, photographs, documents and works of art illustrating Polk County history and culture.