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Florida International Museum in downtown St Petersburg Florida

Treasure of the Czars exhibit

Treasure of the Czars exhibit

Florida International Museum opened in downtown St Petersburg Florida on January 11, 1995, with Treasures of the Czars, after nearly 4 years of work putting it together. The current exhibit, Thanks for the Memories, will close in December, the end of the Florida International Museum.

Friday an appreciation luncheon was held for the volunteers – it was the first banquet I’ve attended where boxes of Kleenex were next to the floral centerpieces. A number of attendees have been volunteers for the entire fifteen years of the museum. Those volunteers are examples of dedication and passion. (disclaimer: I was one of the founding members of the Board of Directors and have been a board member from the beginning to the end).

Also in attendance were David Fisher,  Jim Broughton,  Ira Mitlin,  Rick Baker, Joe Cronin,  Kathy Oathout, chairmen and members of the board, representatives of St Pete College who took FIM under its wing, and enough more to fill the ballroom at the Renaissance Vinoy Hotel.  Sadly, John and Rosemary Galbraith were unable to attend. The Galbraiths were ideal citizens, donating their money, time and passion to so much of St Petersburg. A heartfelt Thank You to all involved.

It was appropriate to look up and see the Chihuly chandelier – Chihuly probably wouldn’t be here today if the Florida International Museum  hadn’t happened.  Treasures of the Czars brought over 600,000 visitors to downtown St Pete to see the exhibit and brought an economic impact of $34 million to the community. Attendance at the Titanic topped 830,000. Visitors came from 50 states and 100 countries. Visitors, including hundreds of school children, were exposed to treasures and culture from other parts of the world.

In addition to the cultural impact, I strongly believe that the Florida International Museum and its early success in bringing people downtown was a catalyst for the development and blossoming of downtown St Pete. Thank You, to all who were any part of the Florida International Museum.

Lennie Bennett recently wrote about the history of the Florida International Museum in the St Pete Times. You can read more there. The current and final exhibit “Thanks for the Memories” is  free, a first for a museum that made and lost millions.

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