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A massive photo archive documenting Tampa Bay area history is being digitized for the public

 A man wearing a gray button up shirt and jeans stands in front of a projector that has a photo of a photographer in the 1950s standing on top of his truck.
Daylina Miller
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WUSF Public Media
Chip Weiner, a local commercial and historical photographer, gives a talk at the Tampa Bay History Center about a collection of photographs from Skip Gandy that document Tampa over the course of 60 years. The Special Collections department at the University of South Floida's Tampa campus library houses his lifetime of more than 80,000 negatives and additional prints, some by Skip's father, Sandy Gandy.

The images from the Skip Gandy Collection of Aerial and Commercial Photography chronicles key moments in local history, from the 1950s to 2010s.

A project to preserve decades of Tampa Bay area history is in the works.

The University of South Florida Libraries are digitizing nearly 80,000 photo negatives that document the life and landscape of the Tampa Bay region from the 1950s to 2010s. The images are part of the Skip Gandy Collection of Aerial and Commercial Photography and chronicle key moments in local history.

A fundraising project aims to raise $41,300 to digitize the entire collection and make these never-before-seen images available to the public under a Creative Commons license. Up until now, a few dozen photos have been available to view online. USF Libraries’ Digital Collections have raised $30,000 so far.

A man in suit leaning against campaign trailer for Kennedy and Johnson on Bayshore Blvd.
Skip Gandy
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Skip Gandy Commercial and Aerial Photography. Image 57. https://digitalcommons.usf.edu/gandy/57
The photograph was taken on Bayshore Boulevard where the Gasparilla Pirate Ship Dock is currently located. In the right of the picture, the backside of a Christopher Columbus, which marks the Columbus Statue Park at 300 Bayshore Dr., can be seen.

Some of these film negatives are starting to degrade, making their preservation all the more urgent, according to Tampa-based photographer Chip Weiner.

“We cannot let this history disappear,” said Weiner. “It’s 100 years of visual history that so many cities don’t have and we are completely blessed to have that available to us.”

Weiner spoke to an audience at the Tampa Bay History Center on Friday afternoon about the Gandy Collection. He said he found photos of relatives and friends while perusing through the negatives.

“You will connect to something in those collections --I guarantee it -- If you've been here for a while,” said Weiner.

 TA black and white photo of Chef checking on meat in the kitchen of the Columbia Restaurant.
Skip Gandy
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Skip Gandy Commercial and Aerial Photography. Image 36. https://digitalcommons.usf.edu/gandy/36
The Columbia Restaurant has been owned by the same family for 5 generations and been in continuous operation for 110 years.

Friday’s lecture marked one of the culminating events of the city of Tampa’s Archives Awareness Week. Tampa native Kimberli Burns Cummings said she felt a special connection to the photos that were unveiled during the event.

“When I see a photo, it is like a little video that just goes, ‘oh, rolling’ and I remember that building,” said Burns. “I remember McCrory’s [and] holding my hand up high because my dad would walk me in there or my grandmother would walk me in there.”

 A skyline of downtown Tampa taken from across the water.
Skip Gandy
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Skip Gandy Commercial and Aerial Photography. Image 104. https://digitalcommons.usf.edu/gandy/104
A skyline of downtown Tampa taken from across the water.
 A black and white aerial photograph of the football stadium for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the training facility for major league baseball.
Skip Gandy
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Skip Gandy Commercial and Aerial Photography. Image 163. https://digitalcommons.usf.edu/gandy/163
An aerial photograph of the football stadium for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the training facility for major league baseball.

Skip Gandy grew up on Tampa's Davis Islands and captured both the changing natural environment and growth of the urban landscape on the bay. His vast collection spans commercial photography, aerial shots and photos of the everyday. Gandy also documented famous figures passing through the area, including 35th president John F. Kennedy in Tampa five days before his assassination in 1963.

Images are in black and white as well as in color.

Once photos are digitized, Weiner said Digital Collections will need the community’s help identifying places and people. The next goal will be printing out photos and creating an exhibition.

To donate, visit giving.usf.edu and enter “Skip Gandy” in the search box.

To view the photographs that have already been scanned, visit digitalcommons.usf.edu/gandy.

As WUSF's general assignment reporter, I cover a variety of topics across the greater Tampa Bay region.