Key West and the Florida Keys
Speaker Rodney Kite-Powell Director, Touchton Map Center, Tampa Bay History Center
Key West and the Florida Keys: Mapping the History of the Conch Republic

Summary: The constellation of islands that serve as Florida’s – and the continental U.S.’s – southern border were formed through the forces of plate tectonics, shifting sea levels, and erosion by wind and water. Consisting of a combination of coral, limestone, and sand, the Florida Keys that we know today were formed when coral reefs that had formed hundreds of thousands of years ago were exposed to the air by receding sea levels during the last Ice Age. The human history of the archipelago goes back at least 1,000 years. What started out as a coral reef is now know for the Coral Reefer Band, Fantasy Fest, cruise ships, and tourists. Its history is filled with adventurers, wreckers, cigar makers, refugees, drug smugglers, burnouts, dropouts, artists, authors, and even presidents. Much of that history is represented in maps, charts, and tourist brochures, which are featured in the Tampa Bay History Center’s latest exhibition in the Touchton Map Library – Key West and the Florida Keys: Mapping the History of the Conch Republic.

Bio: Rodney Kite-Powell is the Director of the Touchton Map Library at the Tampa Bay History Center, where he joined the staff in 1995. He received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Florida and a Master of Arts from the University of South Florida – both in the subject of US history. Born and raised in Tampa, he has written and lectured extensively on the history of Tampa, Hillsborough County, and Florida.  Rodney serves on the Academic Committee of the Library of Congress’ Philip Lee Phillips Society, and in 2019 he was named the official county historian for Hillsborough County by the Board of County Commissioners. He is the author of three books: History of Davis Islands: David P. Davis and the Story of a Landmark Tampa Neighborhood (2013); Palma Ceia Golf and Country Club: A Centennial Celebration (2016); and Tampa Bay’s Waterfront: Its History and Development, co-authored with Arthur Savage (2017).

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Wednesday, June 14, 2023
7 PM, Eastern (New York)
Virtual, via Zoom