Community Partner Spotlight: Havana History & Heritage Society

One of my favorite responsibilities in my work is coordinating and working with community organizations in the Tallahassee area to digitize materials they hold in their historical collections. As a public university, I feel FSU, and by extension myself, have a responsibility to help smaller community institutions who are unable, for various reasons, to digitize and provide access to these materials on their own. I have found this to be rewarding work and over the next month, I’ll be spotlighting the collections of these partners and the work I’ve been lucky enough to share with them to bring these materials online.

Havana, Florida is 30 minutes north of downtown Tallahassee and is considered by some online sources to be a suburb of Tallahassee but its residents would argue it is a distinct rural community in its own right. The Havana History & Heritage Society was established to preserve and highlight the historical assets and events that have made Havana an exceptional community in which to live, have a business, and visit. The Society’s home is in the Shade Tobacco Museum in downtown Havana.

FSU was first approached by the Society in February 2019, referred by one of our other community partners, to gauge interest in digitizing a set of scrapbooks documenting the Home Demonstration Extension Service work in Gadsden County from 1916 through the 1960s. In particular, the scrapbooks documented the work of Ms. Elise Laffitte who ran the home demonstration portion of the extension services in the county for several decades.

Ms. Laffitte at work in the home demonstration office, Gadsden County [see original item in scrapbook]

In 2019, FSU did digitize seven scrapbooks and a loose set of photographs from the Society which are now available online in DigiNole: FSU’s digital repository. These scrapbooks provide a fascinating look at this farming community during the World Wars and Great Depression years. It also showcases the importance of women in producing food and clothing in these communities. In the 1942-1946 scrapbook in particular, the importance of the activities of the extension services during the war effort are clear. There is also a focus on what women and children through gardening and 4-H clubs were doing for the war effort in this scrapbook which is a different perspective then we often get. There is also correspondence showing businesses went to Ms. Laffitte to find fresh produce and products they needed during the war that they could not get elsewhere but that small farms and gardens could provide at the time.

Newspaper articles taped into the 1942-1946 scrapbook [see original pages in scrapbook]

Over time though, there is a shift in interested in the home demonstration extension service. By the last scrapbook from 1960-1961, the focus has shifted from food production to soft goods like clothing and quilts. Canning is still mentioned frequently but food production does not seem to be as much of a focus for the group. The State Style Show features prominently in this later scrapbook.

Page from the 1960-1961 scrapbook showing some of the State Style Show winners [see original page in scrapbook]

We look forward to our next project with the Havana History & Heritage Society later this year and encourage you to browse all of the Society’s collection available online.

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