Collections

The Venice Museum & Archives shares the unique story of its community by collecting, preserving and interpreting its historical collections and City of Venice archives. The geographic area represented in the collections includes Venice, Laurel, Nokomis, and Osprey in south Sarasota County, Florida. The 30,000+ items span a time period of approximately 1867 to the present; however, Venice Florida’s rich prehistory is represented in a paleontological collection dating from approximately 20 million years ago to 10,000 years ago, during the last ice age.

Hundreds of people, organizations, businesses, events, and places are represented in the collections. Some popular local subjects include:

  • Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers
  • Fred Albee and Louella Albee
  • Early settlers
  • Floridaland
  • Historic districts and properties
  • History of Laurel, Nokomis, Osprey
  • John Nolen Plan for Venice
  • Kentucky Military Institute (winter quarters in Venice, 1933-1970)
  • Local fossils, shark’s teeth
  • Lumber and turpentine industries
  • Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Venice Circus Arena
  • Tourism, historic hotels
  • Venice Army Air Base, World War II
  • Venice High School, Venice-Nokomis High School
  • Venice in the 1920s
  • Venice-Nokomis Woman’s Club
  • Walter Farley (Venice resident, author of The Black Stallion)

Researching the collections

One of the main goals of the Venice Museum & Archives is to make its collections accessible to the public for research. In this effort, offsite access is available through an online database. Records are added monthly and approximately 20% of the collection is searchable online. Click the button below to enter the Past Perfect portal. If you see an image you wish to order, use THIS FORM.

Searching the entire database is possible onsite through the use of the museum’s visitor computer. VMA staff is available to answer specific requests for information. Please complete the form below and submit in person or via mail to Venice Museum & Archives, 351 Nassau St. S, Venice, FL 34285; fax to 941-480-3590; or email a scanned copy to Curator Jon Watson.

Donating materials to the collections

At this time, the VMA is unable to accept large donations of materials due to a lack of available storage space. Staff is in the process of upgrading a newly acquired facility to house museum materials. If you are interested in donating items to the collection, please contact  Curator Jon Watson.

The item(s) must meet the following criteria:

  • Are owned by you and not by someone else
  • Relate in a significant way to the history or prehistory of Venice, Laurel, Nokomis and/or Osprey
  • Are in good condition (with no extraordinary conservation needs); can be adequately stored and cared for by the museum
  • If accepted by the VMA, the donation must be free of donor-imposed restrictions


Please note:
Items that are an unnecessary duplication in the museum’s collection or for which the museum anticipates no foreseeable use for exhibition, research, education, or exchange, will not be accepted. Donations of historical material to the museum are processed in accordance with museum standards for proper documentation and care. All items added to the collection are cataloged into a searchable database and collections are stored in a climate-controlled environment, in archival quality materials, to ensure their long-term preservation.

ARCHIVES

The manuscript collection consists of personal papers, photographs, oral histories, correspondence, diaries and scrapbooks, as well as the records of organizations and businesses. These materials provide researchers with an insight into the lives of people and the development of the Venice area. More than 200 individuals, businesses and organizations are represented in the collection.

Other formats, besides documents, include audiovisual material such as:

Film (8mm, 16mm, VHS tapes, DVDs, digital mpeg files)
Reel to reel, audio cassette tapes, compact discs, and digital video discs
Property abstracts, maps and plats, architectural drawings
Genealogical information, including family trees and census records
The municipal archives for the City of Venice includes tax digests from 1927-1967 and record groups pertaining to various City of Venice departments. The Street File Collection includes information about and photographs of individual properties of historical significance in Venice, Laurel, Nokomis, and Osprey.

Nolen 1926 City of Venice Plan (1)
Come to Venice
City of Venice Map National Register of Historic Places
Circus souvenir program
Story of Venice Army Air Field

More Resources

For recent and current municipal records contact the City of Venice Clerk’s Office

LIBRARY

The VMA’s library collection of published materials is available to the public for onsite reference only and is not part of a lending library system. Examples of the types of materials in the museum’s collection include:

The Venice News newspapers (1926-1928)
Venice Gondolier newspapers (bound volumes from 1946-1986)
Assorted local periodicals and newspaper clippings
Books (nonfiction, fiction)
City directories
Telephone directories
Yearbooks (including Venice-Nokomis High School, Venice High School, Venice Middle School, and Kentucky Military Institute)
Commercially produced films, television segments and documentaries on DVD relating to local history

The Venice News
John Nolen book
1989 Venice High School yearbook
1959 Venice Area visitors guide
Kentucky Military Institute senior class 1969

OBJECTS

The VMA has a varied and fascinating array of objects–from the city’s original 1926 fire truck “Old Betsy,” to a real human skeleton used by Dr. Fred Albee in Venice’s first teaching hospital. Highlights from the object collection are often featured in current exhibits.

Examples of the types of objects include:

Fossils
Clothing and textiles
Furniture
Ephemera
Fine art (including the public art collection on display at Venice City Hall)
Other assorted historical artifacts originally belonging to individuals, organizations and businesses, such as medical and office equipment, tools, household items, building materials, and recreational items

old betsy archive photo
albee exhibit bone graft-skeleton
Venice vs Naples poster
Adding Machine

PHOTOGRAPHS

A picture can tell a thousand words and thousands of pictures can tell a community’s story. Images in the VMA’s collection date from early settler days (including photos by Thomas Wrede, who took some of the earliest photos of the area in the early 1900s) to photos of the recent beach renourishment project in 2015.

The largest VMA photographic collections include the Woody Thayer Collection (1940s-1970s); Venice Gondolier Collection (1965-1988); and Sunshine Press Collection (1958-1979). Highlights from the VMA’s photographic collections are often featured in the museum’s current exhibits and are shared weekly on the museum’s Facebook page.

Examples of the types of formats in the museum’s collection include:

Printed photographs, contact sheets, large format aerials, digital formats on compact disc
Negatives (35mm, glass, acetate)
Tintypes
35mm slides
Postcards dating from circa 1926 to the present

Requesting images

Many images from the VMA’s collections are available for reproduction. Use the form below for instructions and to view the price list, available sizes, formats, and the user agreement.

Click HERE to download an image order form.

Kentucky Military Institute soldier formation
Venice Nokomis High School band
Thomas Wrede
Venice Tarpon Club