All posts by Krystal Thomas

About Krystal Thomas

Digital Archivist at Florida State University

Community Partner Spotlight: Leon High School

Along with First Baptist Church of Tallahassee, Leon High School (LHS) was one of our first community partners and we learned a lot on this project (what to do and not do with future community partners). Overall though, it was a rewarding experience to work with this sort of non-traditional archive and also to work in the high school environment and interact with the students while in the Media Center at Leon High.

Leon High School in Tallahassee is Florida’s oldest continually accredited high school, founded in 1871 just twenty-six years after Florida became a state. We digitized all the yearbooks along with all the issues held in the Archives Room of the school newspaper, published since 1920. Last week, the Class of 2020 had a drive-through graduation celebration, a mark of these strange times for the latest LHS graduates. So, in celebration of this year’s class, I did a deep dive into the Leon High School newspaper’s Graduation Issues over the school’s history.

The first Senior Class was celebrated on the front page of the May 28, 1920 issue of The Hill Top, the original name for the LHS school newspaper:

Front Page of the Hill Top, May 28, 1920
Front Page of The Hill Top, May 28, 1920 [original object]

In 1935, the newspaper, now renamed Leon High Life, printed out the “stats” for each graduating Senior and shared some fun stories about each Senior:

Statistics of Class of 1935, Leon High Life, May 20, 1935
Statistics of Class of 1935, Leon High Life, May 20, 1935, page 4 [see original object]

Eventually, the newspaper’s title changes again to just High Life and the features to celebrate the seniors became more and more involved until starting in the 1980s, there is a special Graduation Issue of High Life that is published in late May each year to celebrate the most recent Senior class. 1981 was one of the first years a special Graduation Issue was published:

High Life Graduation Issue Front Page, June 5, 1981
High Life Graduation Issue Front Page, June 5, 1981 [see original object]

As Leon High entered the 2000s, the newspaper shifted between entire issues and special inserts in a normal issue of the paper. For the Class of 2000, a special insert celebrated seniors with both a hopeful and somewhat ominous front page:

Detail of front page, Senior Special, May 20, 2000 [see original object]

Sadly, Leon High Life has not published an article in its online portal since mid-March of this year when schools were closed due to the COVID-19 in Tallahassee. However, the Class of 2020 hopefully is celebrating digitally through their preferred digital platforms and we here in FSU’s Special Collections & Archives wish this class in all local high schools the very best in their next adventure!

Community Partner Spotlight: First Baptist Church of Tallahassee

For our second community partner spotlight, I am excited to be able to share newly available materials in the First Baptist Church of Tallahassee (FBCT) digital collection!

Once we completed digitization of the church bulletins, I met with my contacts at the Church for what they wanted to explore for digitization next. A set of photographs, programs and other historical documentation about the Church emerged. I set my contacts to the task of creating some basic description about these materials. As the subject experts, they were the best suited to the task of telling me who was in these photographs or what events they were showing and how they reflected the history of the Church. They did not disappoint! I was very pleased to be able to provide rich metadata for the new materials thanks to the hard work of my volunteer catalogers.

I was particularly happy to see this photograph from the 1940s showing a celebration held in the sanctuary of the Church for recent college graduates, many of whom were probably graduating from Florida State College for Women, FSU’s predecessor institution.

Celebration of Graduates at First Baptist Church, 1940-1950 [see original object]

Another aspect of the Church that this set of materials shares is the work of the Women’s Missionary Union (WMU) and its Girls Auxiliary. Around this time of year, a new set of girls would be initiated into the Auxiliary and start their paths to becoming maidens, ladies-in-waiting, princesses and queens for the Auxiliary. It would have been a crowning achievement for these girls as they contributed to their church and local communities to earn their titles. The materials relating to the WMU and Girls Auxiliary share their work over the years to contribute widely to the Church, both locally and around the world.

Please browse all of the FBCT collection in DigiNole to explore the history of the Church, its congregation and how it fits into the wider historical picture of Tallahassee.

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.

Sermons from a Changing Tallahassee in the 1960s

Recently, one of our community partners, the First Baptist Church (FBC) of Tallahassee, gave us an audio CD with digitized recordings from Dr. C.A. Roberts, the pastor for the church in the 1960s. Tallahassee, as you can imagine, was undergoing a lot of social and cultural change in the 1960s as the Civil Rights Movement started to challenge and change the way of life for the country but particularly, for southern cities.

Header from Dr. Robert’s column in the church bulletin, 1965 [original item]

At the 1965 Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas, Texas, Dr. Roberts addressed the attendees and gave a rousing speech about his efforts to integrate FBC at that time. Dr. Roberts was a fiery speaker and he clearly felt strongly about his duty to help the Church welcoming all parishioners to worship at the Church. At a time when attitudes about such a decision were filled with anger, fear and prejudice, Dr. Roberts shared his story about why it was important to him and how the congregation came to agree with him.

The other recording is a sermon given at some point during Dr. Roberts’ tenure at the First Baptist Church between 1962-1967. It is titled “Ethics of Sex” and is a fascinating glimpse into Dr. Roberts’ and the Church’s feelings about the changing sexual environment of the 1960s. It was especially interesting to us at FSU as Dr. Roberts particularly calls out a recent PowWow he attended at FSU and the behavior displayed by fraternities and sororities at the event as being against the teachings of the Church as regards sex. Many FSU students have attended FBC over the years so I can imagine some students in the audience at this sermon being either very embarrassed or perhaps angered at the sermon and what might have been seen as the Church not keeping up with the times.

Both recordings are a window into a very different time in Tallahassee and the challenges the Church and the community faced as society altered quickly and drastically throughout the 1960s. Please browse all of our materials from the First Baptist Church in DigiNole: FSU’s Digital Repository.

International Children’s Book Day in the DL

As we adjust to our new realities in the time of coronavirus, and we’re going stir-crazy and already bored with the books in the house, maybe it’s time for a deep dive into the children’s books of yesteryear for some new material. So, on today, International Children’s Book Day, celebrated on or near the birthday of Hans Christian Andersen each year, I would like to highlight some of the children’s literature we have in the digital library (DL) from the John Mackay Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection.

Fairy tales abound in the Shaw Collection but Cinderella has always been a personal favorite. We have several digitized but my favorite version is a hand colored Cinderella from the 1800s.

A page from Cinderella, 1800s [see original object]

The story of Cock Robin is in many of the books of the Shaw Collection. This particular spread is from a children’s book titled Cock Robin: a pretty painted toy for either girl or boy : suited to children of all ages, published in 1840.

Pages from Cock Robin, 1840 [see original object]

Alphabet, or ABC, books are also plentiful in our digital collection. This one, Goode’s instructive alphabet for children from the 1800s, uses many professions and expressions that children today would probably not recognize (a reading and history lesson in one!)

Page from Goode’s Instructive Alphabet, 1800s [see original object]

And lastly, in case you are in need of some new songs (possibly the Disney tunes are already wearing on the nerves), Silver carols: a collection of new music for district schools, high schools, seminaries, academies, colleges, juvenile conventions and the home circle from 1874 may have a new set of songs for you and your children to explore.

Trip Lightly from Silver Carols, 1874 [see original object]

These are just a few of the hundreds of titles we’ve digitized and made available in the digital library from the Shaw collection. Happy reading on this International Children’s Book Day!

Celebrating Women’s History with a new digital collection

The DLC recently completed processing and started loading materials from the League of Women Voters (LWV), Tallahassee Chapter Records materials held at the Claude Pepper Library into DigiNole. The materials in this first round of digitization with the collection include the newsletters of the Tallahassee chapter from 1962-2012 as well as Study and Action guides for the national LWV agenda from 1975-1999.

The records of the League of Women Voters, Tallahassee Chapter, are comprised primarily of administrative files, publications, and subject files and document 55 years of Tallahassee League activities including the organization of conventions and meetings, coordination of league activities, and the chapter’s relationship with the League of Women Voters of the United States.

Of particular interest is the story one can find in the newsletters regarding the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in Florida. First appearing in the newsletters in 1972, it appears in every monthly newsletter throughout the 1980s including the big push to try to get it ratified before the amendment expired in 1982. The League often reminded its members that it was used to a long struggle, having been founded just before women received the right to vote in 1920 by women suffragists. Still, there is some discouragement to be found in the newsletters when, over and over again, the Florida Legislature failed to take up the ERA in any meaningful way.

This is just one of the many stories you’ll find in these materials which offer a unique look at women and politics in Tallahassee, Florida and the United States in some of our most volatile political decades. To get an idea of what you’ll find in the entire collection, please see the finding aid. To browse more of the materials digitized, please visit the collection at DigiNole: FSU’s digital repository.

State of the Digital Library

In 2019, we added 11 new collections to the digital library. We also added 1,414 new books (over 71,000 pages). 6,759 images, 1,028 newspaper issues and 3,707 PDF files. All added up with all the other types of files we loaded, we added 13,760 new items in the digital library in 2019! Now, the more interesting question, what are people looking at in the digital library?

We can’t break these numbers down by year easily unfortunately so these are the top viewed items in the Digital Library as of early February 2020:

Dissertation of Paul A. M. Dirac for Ph.D. degree, Paul A.M. Dirac Collection: 20,517
Golden bells, or, Hymns for our children, multiple collections: 7,113
Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey clown college, Harrison Sayre Collection Posters: 6,463
Child’s ABC of the war, multiple collections: 4,982
Il Secolo (Milan, Italy) (newspaper object only): 3,602
Stephen Graham’s notes from travels in the Jim Crow-era South, Stephen Graham Papers: 1,875
Joyfull newes out of the new found world, Cookbooks and Herbals: 1,738
Le Moniteur universel (newspaper object only): 1,654
All about cookery, Cookbooks and Herbals: 1,371
Tallahatchie Civil Rights Driving Tour, Davis Houck Papers: 1,331

Title page from Mrs. Beeton’s All About Cookery, 1890

I separated out the most views in the Heritage & University Archives (HUA) items as those are a different set of materials with a different audience than the rest of our digital collections. In news that will surprise few, FSU football items dominate the top viewed materials with the university archives. The top viewed items in the HUA collections as of early February 2020:

Florida Flambeau (newspaper object only): 5,616
2015-16 Florida State University Fact Book: 3,606
Tally-Ho 1952, FSU Yearbook: 1,306
Dorothy Price at FSCW, Florida State College for Women Photographs: 1,289
1980-81 Florida State University Bulletin General Information: 1,072
1993 Florida State Seminoles Football Media Guide: 1,000
Vernon Fox, Criminology, FSU Historic Photographs: 956
President Campbell with Werner Baum: 895
Florida State Football Team, 1962: 845
“A Cannibal Wife” in the Zo-Imba Production, Pat Arrants Collection 1955-1958: 835

“A Cannibal Wife” in the Zo-Imba Production (don’t you wonder what is happening here?!)

Explore all the items in the FSU digital library and see what you can find!

Archives Month in FSU Special Collections & Archives

October is American Archives Month. And while every month is Archives Month to those of us here in Special Collections & Archives, October is the month we really like to toot our own horn.

We kicked off the festivities this year with our annual takeover of the FSU Libraries twitter handle for #AskAnArchivist day which was on October 2, 2019 this year. We had a great day of discussion and sharing out information about our collections, our practices and what exactly it is we do every day in all our spaces. You can see a round-up of (most) of the tweets below. Happy Reading! [In case the tweets are not appearing in this post since technology is not always our friend, even to the digital archivist, you can view this Tweet Collection here as well.]

Scrapbooks to the Past, Gadsden County Edition

Scrapbooks are one of the best time capsules an archives may hold in its collections. These books, some giant, some small, were put together with care and love by the people who were actively looking to document and save their history as it was happening. Here at FSU, we hold dozens of scrapbooks that students have put together over the years, showing what student life was like on campus but also what was happening outside of FSU in the wider world that was affecting them as they worked on their degree.

Today, I share a very different kind of scrapbook. In partnership with the Havana History & Heritage Society in Havana, Florida, we digitized and described seven large scrapbooks kept by the Home Extension Services agent in Gadsden County, Florida from 1916 until 1961. These books showcase the work of 4-H clubs and women’s groups throughout some of the toughest years this rural Florida county faced during the Great Depression and into World War II.

A page from the 1928-1932 scrapbook. The caption reads “4-H Club Girls’ Exhibit of Canned Products. Achievement Day 1929” [See Original Scrapbook]

As a 21st century woman through and through, I marvel at the skills these children and women had to grow, preserve and produce the food, clothing and other resources they and their families needed during these years. Looking at the photos included in these books, what they called a “garden” was actually a small-scale farm. This was brought home to me especially when I found a FSU connection. It seems, in the 1930s, Florida State College for Women (FSCW), what FSU was called until 1947, often bought produce and their Thanksgiving turkeys from the Extension Services in Gadsden County. Which means, these small farms, helmed by women by the looks of it in the scrapbooks, were producing enough for themselves, their community and then some!

Take a look at these scrapbooks and some photographs that we digitized as part of this project with the Havana History & Heritage Society. I look forward to working with more community groups in our region to continue to bring to light the history and work of the people in Big Bend Region through partnerships like this one.

Summer Quiet

Summer is indeed a quieter time on campus. Today starts the summer term here at FSU and we wish all students the best of luck in their summer classes.

Title page from the Summer Holiday issue of The Girl’s Own Paper (1883). See the entire issue here.

We recently posted in DigiNole: FSU’s Digital Repository more volumes of The Girl’s Own Paper, or The Girl’s Own Annual as it was eventually titled. You can browse issues from this publication geared at young British girls and teenagers from the years 1880-1893 in DigiNole. This is an ongoing digitization project so be sure to look out for “new” issues in the future. This publication is a part of the larger John MacKay Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection. Titles from that collection which have been digitized may be browsed and searched in DigiNole as well.

Happy Summer!