All posts by Florida State University Special Collections & Archives

About Florida State University Special Collections & Archives

The Special Collections & Archives Division of the Florida State University Libraries advances research by acquiring, preserving, and providing access to rare and unusual books and original primary source materials. The division includes the Special Collections & Archives Research Center, Heritage & University Archives, The Claude Pepper Library, and the Digital Library Center. Through exhibitions and programs, the division supports active learning and engagement. Collections of unique manuscripts, historic maps, rare books, photographs, and university archives offer abundant opportunities for discovery and scholarship. Strengths of the collections include Napoleon and the French Revolution, poetry, political papers, Florida history, Southern business history, and the history of Florida State University.

“Archive of Me” by Jennifer F.

This post is the second part of our “Archive of Me” series for American Archives Month. Earlier this month Kacee kicked us off with a post about her collections of slides inherited from her grandmother. Below, I will be talking about a few of the things that have ended up in my own personal archive.

Perhaps rather odd for an archivist, I don’t tend to hang onto a whole lot of stuff. I have a box for administrative papers, and then the one pictured above for more personal items. It is both super archival and super organized, as you can see. I suppose I should be rather ashamed that I haven’t upgraded to an archival box and other acid free materials yet! This box is a mix of letters, cards, and small keepsake items that have made it through several moves and several purges or decluttering projects.

A paper heart, handmade from linen for my papermaking class in grad school.
A paper heart, handmade from linen for my papermaking class in grad school.
My number from the very first 5k I ever ran.
My number from the very first 5k I ever ran.
A ticket from the 2012 football National Championship.
A ticket from the 2012 football National Championship.

I picked the items above in particular to show the variety of materials I have held on to over the years. Why have I held on to them? I think that all of these items represent accomplishment to me in some way. Immersing myself in a craft like papermaking, pushing myself to do something I never thought I would be able to like a 5k. Even the ticket represents traveling to a new place for a new experience – a great one, at that. Bottom line, these all have incredible sentimental value to me, and I expect I’ll keep them around for a long time to come.

What about you? What would you put in your own personal archive? Comment down below to let us know!

Archival Profile: The Life and Times of a Preservation Librarian

In honor of American Archives Month, get to know our Preservation Librarian, Hannah Davis!

Hannah Davis,
Preservation Librarian

Hannah Davis first started working for Special Collections & Archives at FSU in 2013 as a graduate assistant, pursuing a Master’s degree in Library and Information Studies. Over the next five years years, she would hold other titles like Heritage & University Archives Assistant and Research Services Coordinator. But in January of 2018, Hannah was hired as Preservation Librarian, a faculty role that was newly re-vitalized after being vacant for several years. Within her first year on the job, Hannah had prepped our collections for hurricane Michael and begun to coordinate a move of many thousands of linear feet of collections material from one storage site to another. The large projects have only continued since then, often involving hefty doses of mold or other preservation concerns.

But what exactly does a preservation librarian do? What has Hannah’s experience been on the job? Last week I took some time to interview Hannah to get more insight. Keep scrolling to learn more!

Tell us who you are, your title, and what work you do with FSU Special Collections and Archives?

My name is Hannah Wiatt Davis and I am the Preservation Librarian with SCA. I oversee the preservation activities in SCA, which includes collections management, environmental monitoring, and working with various Library entities to keep SCA materials safe in perpetuity.

How did you first get interested in archives?

I had a really transformative experience while visiting the Country Music Hall of Fame when I was in high school. I’ve never been a particularly big country music fan, but the museum was so interesting and I started to put together the pieces of how archives and museums connect people with history they don’t even know to ask about. The experience stuck in the back of my mind throughout college and after graduation, growing each day, until one morning I woke up and said: “I think I want to be an archivist.”

Below are some photos Hannah took from that fateful trip to the Country Music Hall of Fame:

What common misunderstandings about your work would you like to dispel?

One thing I try to impress on new visitors to Special Collections is that these materials are here for their use, whatever the use may be. While my job as Preservation Librarian requires me to create and enforce policies that ensure the safety of SCA’s materials, I also uphold the ethics of our profession which includes providing equitable access to everyone. So, if someone comes in to the reading room and asks if they can see the oldest thing in SCA, my response is “absolutely.”

Pictured here, Hannah is working on rehousing our collection of Papyrus fragments.

What’s your favorite item or collection of items in FSU SCA? Why?

Hands down, the Frances Isaac Letters. It’s a collection of letters from an FSCW student during WWII. I even wrote a blog post about them long ago. This collection has everything: love, drama, vintage stationery.

What is your craziest preservation experience?

I was working with a campus department to assess the inventory of a room full of 16mm film reels – I’m talking floor to ceiling shelving full of film canisters. A majority of the films exhibited vinegar syndrome, a process where the chemicals in the film start to break down. When this type of degradation happens, the film starts to put off a vinegar smell, as well as starts to shrink and become brittle. The whole room reeked as if it were full of pickles. A lot of the film was suffering from other preservation problems, like sticky shed and mold. It was just a gross process all around.

An example of one of the reels Hannah assessed.

What is the most relatable preservation meme you have seen recently?

I don’t know if I’d call it a meme, but there was an exchange on Twitter about this incredibly gross and beyond-preservation film reel… you just have to see it.

More mold! Here, Hannah is using a vacuum to safely remove mold spores.

A huge thank you to Hannah for participating in this interview for American Archives Month. Have any more questions for Hannah or about archives in general? Comment them down below!

We Stand Against Racism and Systemic Brutality: Special Collections & Archives Commitment

Special Collections & Archives staff condemn racism and systemic brutality in all its forms. We grieve the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbury, Tony McDade, and David McAtee, and other lost lives. We recognize their deaths as a part of our nation’s long history of marginalization, disenfranchisement, violence, and oppression.

As Special Collections & Archives, our goal is to connect students, faculty, researchers, and the community to primary resources. We support active learning, engagement, and critical thinking. We seek to provide the materials that illuminate contexts and history. We collect and preserve cultural memories, historical documents, and organizational records. We remain committed to our core professional values of social responsibility, diversity, accountability, responsible custody, and trust.

We must also recognize that the structures of archives and special collections are rooted in practices informed by white supremacy and racism. We have a continuing responsibility to face systemic and historic racism, to reflect on how our professional practices and standards are shaped by white, heterosexual dominance, and how those practices contribute to hiding and, often, damaging the lives of Black Americans, Indigenous peoples, People of Color, and LGBTQ people. We reaffirm our commitment to do the work needed to dismantle those structures and practices. We commit to listening, to learning, and to creating just and equitable practices.

We reaffirm our commitment to connect all people to historical materials and to support critical discussion and thinking. Justice often comes from the analysis and interrogation of the historical record. We commit to working with communities to ensure that diverse perspectives and histories are represented, preserved, and shared. We commit to the effort it takes to ensure that all people feel welcome.

We commit to diversity, inclusion, and equity in all aspects of our work. We understand that we must both confront racism and discrimination, implicit and explicit, head on and that that work is not only talking about slavery and violence. We recognize the power, resilience, innovations, and contributions of Black Americans, Indigenous peoples, People of Color, and LGBTQ people. We commit to sharing and preserving that history not as an afterthought but as core to the history of our university, our community, our nation, and our world.

FSU’s President, John Thrasher, expressed our belief that “[i]t is important during these tumultuous times that we reaffirm the values that we, as a university, hold most dear – respect, civility, and diversity and inclusion – as well as our commitment to justice and equality.” Our work to develop truly diverse and inclusive collections, practices, and spaces cannot be done in isolation. We welcome dialogue and invite community feedback. We can be reached by email at lib-specialcollections@fsu.edu

Share Your COVID-19 Pandemic Story with the University Archives

Heritage & University Archives is launching a campus-wide project to encourage FSU students, staff, and faculty to document their personal experiences during the coronavirus outbreak and contribute them to the University Archives. In accordance with FSU’s University Archives Policy, we are already collecting records related to FSU’s official response.

Detail of Dodd Hall entrance, Photo by Sandra Varry

We want to also ensure that personal experiences and reactions to this challenging and historic situation are included in FSU’s permanent archives. All members of the campus community are invited and encouraged to participate. For more information or to start sharing your story, visit the project’s website for all the details.

Update #2 on Coronavirus and FSU Special Collections

As many institutions are doing at the moment, Florida State University is changing operations for a period to respond to coronavirus. What does that mean for Special Collections & Archives?

Original Campus Library Doors, ca. 1940-1944 [original image]

Until further notice, the Special Collections & Archives public areas, including all reading rooms, are closed to the public for the safety of our staff and our patrons. However, our collections are still available even if you can’t come visit them in person. Please contact Special Collections & Archives at lib-specialcollections@fsu.edu for help in doing research in the archives. Also, our online catalog, finding aid database and digital library remain open for remote use. Please be aware much of our staff is working remotely at this time so answers to reference questions or digital reproduction requests may be delayed until we are in the building again.

The Heritage Museum and the Claude Pepper Library and Museum are closed at this time as well.

This is a very fluid and rapidly changing situation and we will do our best to provide updates if and when any of this information changes. Please check back with the FSU Libraries COVID-19 Updates and Resources webpage for the latest information. We ask everyone to be safe during this time.

Update on Coronavirus and FSU Special Collections

As many institutions are doing at the moment, Florida State University is changing operations for a period to respond to coronavirus. What does that mean for Special Collections & Archives?

Nursing students standing outside Jackson Memorial Hospital, 1950s [original item]

Until further notice, access to all FSU Libraries is limited to holders of FSU IDs and students from the joint FAMU/FSU College of Engineering. Community members or traveling scholars will be unable to visit our collections in person. However, our collections are still available even if you can’t come visit them in person. Please contact Special Collections at lib-specialcollections@fsu.edu for help in doing research in the archives while they are closed to the general public. Also, our online catalog, finding aid database and digital library remain open for remote use.

For our FSU campus community, our hours will reduce, as they normally do, during Spring Break. March 16-20, the Research Center Reading Room, Exhibit Room and Norwood Reading Room will be open from 10am to 4:30pm. The Heritage Museum will be closed and the Claude Pepper Library and Museum will be closed as well.

This is a very fluid and rapidly changing situation and we will do our best to provide updates if and when any of this information changes. Please check back with the FSU Libraries COVID-19 Updates and Resources webpage for the latest information. We ask everyone to be safe during this time.

Just Kidding – Construction Delayed

It’s never a dull moment around here! Our new carpet has been delayed but that means we’ll be open our normal operating hours much sooner!

We’ll still be closed for the FSU Winter Holiday Break from December 23-January 1. We will resume normal operating hours on Thursday, January 2, 2020.

You are welcome to email us at lib-specialcollections@fsu.edu while we are closed and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible in the new year.

We wish you a safe and happy holiday season!

Students Joking around on Campus, December 1946 [see original image]

Under Construction

Grounds Closed Sign
Two Women Standing Behind “Grounds Closed” Sign. From the Mary Leora Singeltary Collection, 1919-1923 [original image]

Some of the Special Collections & Archives space will be under construction starting on Monday, December 16th (we’re getting new carpet!). Because of the need to move furniture and materials for this work, the Special Collections Research Center Reading Room, Exhibit Room, and the Norwood Reading Room in Strozier Library will be closed starting on Monday, December 16. We will resume our normal operating hours on Monday, January 13, 2020.

The Pepper Library and Museum will be closed for the FSU Winter Break from Monday, December 23 until Monday, January 6, 2020.

During these times, you can still search our collections in our finding aid database, the library catalog and access digitized materials in DigiNole: FSU’s digital repository. If you have any questions, you can contact the division through email.

We here in Special Collections & Archives wish everyone a safe and wonderful holiday season!

Boots Thomas Digital Collection online from the FSU WWII Institute

Ernest Ivy “Boots” Thomas Jr. was born on March 10, 1924 and raised in Monticello, Florida. He served as a Platoon Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, Company E, Second Battalion, 28th Marines of the Fifth Marine Division during World War II. His collection, held by The Institute on World War II and the Human Experience, contains the letters he sent home to his mother during his time training at Parris Island, South Carolina, as well as the time he served as a drill instructor for the Marine Corps.

Through his letters, one can follow his very active and exciting time in the service, starting from his attempts to join (despite having color blindness) and leading him through to his training at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, Camp Pendleton in California, Camp Tarawa in Hawaii, and eventually into the Pacific Theatre for combat in the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Ernest “Boots” Thomas postcard to his mother, Martha Thorton Thomas, September 9, 1943 [original object]

Boots Thomas was known by his comrades and leaders as a natural leader, taking a post as drill instructor early on in his military career. During the campaign for Iwo Jima, Thomas battled through the rough terrain of the island and Mt. Suribachi, taking charge after the platoon leader was wounded. Leading the platoon, he and his men successfully defended against the Japanese and raised the first American flag atop Suribachi on February 23, 1945. The subsequent second larger flag raising, for which Thomas was not present, would later be repeated and captured in the now-famous photograph from Joe Rosenthal of American Press. Thomas was killed in action on March 3, 1945, seven days before his 21st birthday, and awarded the Navy Cross for “extraordinary heroism,” along with the Purple Heart Metal and other combat-recognition awards.

This digital collection was described by FSU student Carmellina Moersch of The Institute for World War II and the Human Experience. Moersch is a senior at Florida State studying Classics, Humanities and Religion. At the Institute, she works as an Archival Assistant, processing collections and gaining important experience related to historical research, analysis, exhibit curation, and more. The Institute works diligently to preserve the photographs, letters, and artifacts of service members and their families. The Institute depends on Undergraduate and Graduate students to process collections, create finding aids, perform administrative tasks, and help further the goal of making our holdings available to researchers and scholars around the world.

To view the Boots Thomas letters in DigiNole: FSU’s Digital Repository, visit its collection there. You can see all digital collections from the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience in DigiNole as well. For more information about the Institute and its programs, please visit its website.

#AskAnArchivist Day is tomorrow!

FSU Special Collections & Archives is once again participating in #AskAnArchivist Day, the kick-off event for American Archives Month. We’ll be taking over the FSU Libraries twitter feed (@fsulibraries) tomorrow, Wednesday, October 2, 2019 from 10am to 6pm.

How does this work? Archivists here at FSU and all over the country will take to Twitter to respond to questions tweeted with the hashtag #AskAnArchivist. No question is too silly, too small or too big. You can ask us here at FSU what the oldest item is we have, what does it mean to process a collection, do we have anything in our collections about your dissertation topic? Just tweet at us with the hashtag and we’ll answer!

Don’t be shy with us or any other archives on Twitter and be sure to ask your questions on #AskAnArchivist day!