Tampa’s long and rich history as a port community will be the focus of a permanent exhibit at the new Tampa Bay History Center, scheduled to open to the public on Jan. 17. The exhibit was previewed this week by the Tampa Bay History Center and The Mosaic Company at the Tampa Port Authority business center.

Made possible by a $250,000 grant from Mosaic, the “Port City” exhibit -- one of the History Center’s 10 permanent exhibits -- will highlight the importance of the Port of Tampa to the region’s commerce, culture and economic vitality.

The centerpiece of the exhibit is an actual shipping container that has been converted into a mini movie theater. The theater will feature “Now Loading,” a six-minute film that tells the history of the port up to present day. It covers cargo ranging from citrus to scrap metal as well as cruise ship passengers. The exhibit also includes “Tiny Tampa,” an interactive activity table where children and adults can manipulate models of ships and trains around the port.

Surrounding these elements are text panels, photomurals and other displays that will give visitors a hands-on understanding of the history of the harbor area.

Steve Pinney, senior vice president of Mosaic, a global leader in phosphate fertilizer production, said, “The activities of the port have been inextricably linked to the economic significance of the phosphate industry in Florida for over a century, so it’s important to us to share its story. We believe the Port City exhibit will enrich and educate our community.”

“The Port of Tampa is at the heart of Tampa Bay’s rich history, and we are very excited to see a quality exhibit that underscores the significant and far-reaching role of the port in the vitality of the region,” Richard Wainio, Tampa’s port director and chief executive, said.

“We are most grateful to Mosaic for their sponsorship of this port exhibit and for making this valuable teaching tool a reality,” said C.J. Roberts, president & CEO of the Tampa Bay History Center. Roberts added, “With water playing such an important role in our history, and the port playing such an important role in our economy and the area’s identity, it was only natural that we would give the story of our port a prominent place within the new museum.”