Miami, FL

The Magic Over the Years: It's A Miami Thing Commemorates Miami’s 125th Birthday.

Clayton Gutzmore

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Courtesy of History Miami

The next exhibit entering the halls of HistoryMiami is going to be a nostalgic one. It's a Miami Thing is a collection that honors everything Miami in celebration of the city's 125 birthday. 30,000 artifacts have been gathered for this exhibit. Included in that number are pieces in HistoryMiami’s collection that haven't been shown to the public.

Each piece shares a story of the city’s past and present for everyone to enjoy. The team at HistoryMiami is excited to invite South Florida to an exhibition that will connect with anyone of any age group, “It's great to see a piece that connects with guests. People are going to leave the exhibit saying I can't believe you have that? They are going to see items that are important to them and realize they are a part of the local culture,” said Jorge Zamanillo, Executive Director of HistoryMiami Museum.

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Courtesy of HistoryMiami Museum

It's a Miami Thing exhibit debuted on July 29 at the HistoryMiami Museum. The Museum is at 101 West Flagler Street in Miami and it is offering free admission until September 1.The exhibit commemorates the 125 anniversary of Miami being incorporated. The city was incorporated on July 28, 1869. 344 men from other parts of Florida and the south voted to incorporate the city of Miami. According to researcher and former journalist Nadege Green, among those men were Black Americans and Bahamian men. This aligns with Miami’s present being a cultural melting pot of so many people from the Caribbean living in South Florida.

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Courtesy of HistoryMiami Museum

It’s a Miami Thing was curated from over 30,000 objects and millions of archival items in the museum’s collection. Some of those items are Burdines signs from the original flagship store, The dress of award-winning singer Celia Cruz, and an air boat that represents the Florida everglades. “The air boat is symbolic of maritime activities. It is the only way to navigate the everglades and go across those flat shallow waters,” said Zamanillo.

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Courtesy of HistoryMiami Museum

The exhibit is divided into seven collections, Hurricanes, Aviation, Journalism, Signs, Maritime, Artifacts and Archives. Each part has a remarkable piece of Miami History. The Journalism Collection has a satellite phone and the newspaper vending machine of the Miami News, Miami’s first newspaper. Hurricanes is a collection of items that survived some of Florida’s memorable hurricanes. In the collection, there is a buoy that was washed ashore from Hurricane Irma in 2017. Laid next to it is the Farm Store cow that was blown down by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. HistoryMiami aims to display all parts of life in Miami, “Our mission is to safeguard Miami Stories and the way we do that is by collecting items that document the Miami experience,” said Zamanillo.

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Courtesy of HistoryMiami Museum

Signs may be the collection that is going to make most visitors smile. HistoryMiami dedicated an entire wall of the exhibit to signs in Miami’s past that most will recognize. The Miami sign from the 1940s Miami Theater is on the wall. The I heart MIA sign from the Wynwood Yard made it on the wall. Even the neon shrimp sign from Jumbos made it on the wall. Jumbos was a soul food restaurant in Liberty City. It is a historical landmark for the Miami Black community because it was the first restaurant in the city to integrate its staff and customers during the civil rights era, “In 1966 the owner served people in the Black community and his business took a turn for the best,” said Zamanillo.

HistoryMiami went to great lengths to preserve the neon signs. They got both Jumbos and the Miami sign restored by a specialist named Steve Moser who has a career in fixing neon signs. HistoryMiami is ready to welcome all of South Florida for It’s A Miami Thing. The exhibit launches on July 29 and will be available until January 9, 2022.

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Courtesy of HistoryMiami Museum

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Clayton Gutzmore is a freelance journalist in South Florida. His work has been published in several print outlets including The Miami Times, The Miami Herald, The Atlanta Voice, and Variety Magazine. Gutzmore is a 2016 graduate of Florida International University. He is also a member of the National Association of Black Journalists, The Online News Association and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.

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