This little museum is fascinating if you give it half a chance. No, there aren't any fancy digital displays here, but if you don't mind reading a few placards (which are charming in an old-fashioned way), you'll learn a lot about St. Petersburg: its history and how that history has led to the problems that St. Petersburg is experiencing now as a city in trouble. From the start, city founders focused almost exclusively on the tourist business, and the same is true today (consider the protracted battle over the Pier vs. the Lens), the result being that the RESIDENTS of the city--and in particular, its poorest residents--have been given short shrift for generations. Did you know that St. Petersburg once had a law on its books prohibiting "Negroes" from living north of Central Avenue? It's true, and it's why so many African Americans today live in South St. Petersburg, which has been classified as a "food desert," meaning that it lacks nearby grocery stores with fresh produce (Sweetbay turned out to be a short-lived solution to a long-term problem). I lived in downtown St. Petersburg for eight years before I finally came to this little museum (NOTE TO STAFF: there was nobody at the front desk when I arrived, and after waiting quite a long time, I just walked into the museum exhibits), and it answered a lot of the questions that I had about why St. Petersburg cares so little for most of the people who actually live there--with the exception, naturally, of those who can afford million dollar condominiums (vacation homes, for the most part, that sit empty nine months of the year) on Beach Drive. NOTE: Though there isn't any food available for purchase at the museum, on the day that I visited, there was a hot dog stand just a few yards away with a vendor who told me that he would never live anywhere but St. Petersburg.
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