Gulfport Historical Museum reopens Sept. 1 with new displays

Historian Lynne Brown, left, and Linda Skillen, a fifth-generation member of the Webb family, look at family artifacts that will be on display at the Gulfport Historical Museum when it reopens Sept. 1.

PATTI EWALD | Special to the Times

Historian Lynne Brown, left, and Linda Skillen, a fifth-generation member of the Webb family, look at family artifacts that will be on display at the Gulfport Historical Museum when it reopens Sept. 1.

GULFPORT

There's always something new with Gulfport's old stuff.

The Historical Museum will have a fresh, less-cluttered look with new exhibits when it reopens Sept. 1 after its summer hiatus.

Historian Lynne Brown and fellow volunteers have cleaned house and added a showcase to display artifacts from the city's earliest families.

Another new donated showcase is filled with objects from Gulfport restaurants and hotels.

"There are half a dozen major original families I could make exhibits on," said Brown, author of several books on Gulfport history.

There are many sixth- and seventh-generation descendants of the original settlers living here. Their family genealogies, containing more than 3,000 names, are available for viewing at the museum.

The first family to be featured in the new showcase is the Webb family: Samuel Webb, the first city clerk who lived from 1875 to 1931, and his descendants.

An assortment of photos, legal papers, jewelry and other family objects are being displayed.

Linda Skillen, a city parks employee and Webb's great-great-granddaughter, got a sneak preview of the exhibit.

"There's something about Gulfport that captures you," she said. "You can go away, but you always come back. Even people who weren't born here come back."

That's exactly what she did. Born here in 1951, she graduated from Boca Ciega High School before entering the Air Force and then settling in Palatka, where her husband worked and her children were born, for 15 years.

She now lives on 13th Avenue S in a house two doors down from the one in which she grew up.

Brown said community sentiment wraps itself around the residents and won't let go.

"Newer places try to manufacture community sentiment, but you just can't do it," she said.

Another new feature of the museum is a searchable archive — text and picture files cataloged on a laptop computer that museum visitors can use.

When Brown cleaned house, she put the things she didn't want — duplicates and items not related to Gulfport — in boxes until the city's 101st Birthday Bash on Oct. 8, when they will be offered for sale.

Brown said she has to walk a thin line when deciding what objects to keep and what objects to get rid of.

"Early Gulfport people wouldn't have had nice stuff," she said. So, she errs on the side of history, keeping even objects that look like junk, when she tries to pare down the collection.

The museum will be open from 2 to 4 p.m. weekdays and from 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays once it reopens. Admission is free, but donations are accepted.

Fast facts

For sale: old stuff

Here are some of the more unusual items the museum will sell at the city's Birthday Bash in October.

• Orange metal elephant: $50

• Wig stand: $10

• 12 rolling pins: $1 each

Gray's School and Field Book

of Botany: $1

• Spectacles: $2

• Horrible hats: $1 each

• Wind-up alarm clock: $2

• Original property maps

book: $20

Did you know?

• Gulfport was the largest (in population) incorporated town in the county when it was incorporated in 1910. Much of the land now in St. Petersburg was then a part of Gulfport.

• The people of Gulfport moved their houses so often that in the 1930s, the city enacted a house-moving tax of $100 in an attempt to slow the practice.

Source: Gulfport Historical Museum

Gulfport Historical Museum reopens Sept. 1 with new displays 08/23/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 23, 2011 4:34pm]

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