Category Archives: Collections

LGBTQ+ in Rare Books and Manuscripts: A Pride Month Project Becomes a Blog Series!

Hello! My name is Gino Romero.

Gino Photo
Photo of Gino Romero (They/Them, Elle/Ellx)

I am a queer non-binary artist, researcher, and the Rare Books Assistant in Special Collections and Archives. My research deals with queerness, highlighting the erasure of queer history, primarily focusing on people of color. As an undergrad, trying to do research in this topic with no formal training in research proved to be next to impossible. I leaned on my professors for resources, but these results were not so fruitful. Later that year, we went to Special Collections and Archives to look at artists’ books and before the class started, a librarian helped us look through the catalog and find topics we were interested in. I shouted out “LGBTQ+ History!”: no results. We tried just “LGBT”: no results! We tried dozens of configurations until we found results, but even then, it wasn’t guaranteed that they would actually be of use to my research. 

As a student, it was comforting to know that it wasn’t just me, that the institution was also struggling to find these histories. But as a researcher, I was frustrated beyond reason. I wondered why it’s so hard to find these histories. Now I work in Special Collections and Archives, and I wonder what my fellow coworkers and I can do to fix this? I began asking these questions to my colleagues and decided to make it into a project.

LGBT Search
Image – “0 matching items” for “LGBT” or “LGBTQ”

We often think that libraries are neutral, that they are solely a source of information for Rainbow Pull Quotepeople to come and formulate their own opinions on the matter. Librarians are human; personal biases always creep into the work, often to the detriment of marginalized populations. Libraries are sites of power, organizing, labeling, and delivering information in ways that affect cultural beliefs and understanding on institutional, national, and even global scales. It is important that we take the time to acknowledge that power and privilege, and that the discipline evolves out of (perhaps comfortable) old practices that contribute to systems of bigotry, oppression, and white supremacy

Librarians are tasked with the role of making information discoverable and available. They have the ability to place subject headings and search terms on materials, are involved in the acquisition of materials, and even contribute to what is taught in the classroom. These factors, among many others, put libraries in a unique position of power, as gatekeepers of information. 

The project – asking my colleagues to engage with queer histories in archives

For Pride month, I tasked my fellow coworkers with taking a moment to reflect on our role in the distribution and accessibility of information relating to LGBTQ+ history. I asked them to look into our catalogs in order to find materials, to experience what it’s like to be a queer researcher in our institution. The rules for the search were to prioritize the following: 

  • LGBTQ+ people of color
  • Materials outside of the Pride Student Union collection (These institutional records don’t represent intentional acquisition, and while valuable records of queer life on campus, don’t tell the story of underrepresentation on a larger scale.)
  • Stories that do not relate to LGBTQ+ struggles/hardships (Look for stories that highlight queer joy/culture!)

I asked my colleagues to submit a write up of their findings, describing why they chose that object, and what their experience was like in the shoes of a queer researcher. I will curate these submissions and blog about them on a biweekly basis, in hopes that this conversation will continue past Pride month and help create sustainable change.

I’m happy that this Pride Month work is turning into a blog series! In addition to sharing my colleagues’ findings, I hope to interview librarians and scholars who study representation in the archives. Be sure to check out the next post (hoping for a biweekly schedule), where I plan to include some of the discovered materials and describe the challenges my colleagues reported in their search process. 

In addition to this prompt, I also sent my colleagues some LGBTQ+ resources that I would like to share here as well:

Other institutions have been researching and working towards a solution for this issue as well. UNC has created a conscious editing initiative to repair and fix any harmful/outdated language in their catalog

Whether we follow the lead of other institutions or create a new program entirely just for FSU, it is important to take the time to acknowledge the power information holds and to make sure that we are doing our part to make it accurate, available, and equitable.

From the Talisman to Smoke Signals: a student publication at FSU

The history of Florida State University and its predecessor institutions is ubiquitous with numerous and varied outlets for student expression. Student-run publications have been at the heart of student expression on campus since 1906, when Florida State College for Women students began Talisman. The Talisman was the first literary magazine published by an institution of higher learning in Florida (A Booklover’s Guide to Florida by Kevin McCarthy, 1992). In 1914, publishing of Talisman ceased publishing to make way for Florida Flambeau, a student-run newspaper published weekly. According to the first issue of the Flambeau, too much was happening on campus for news to only circulate on a quarterly basis, as it did with the Talisman.

Florida Flambeau, January 23, 1915, View this item in the digital library

In the early 20th century, literary magazines were influential across colleges and universities in the United States. They served as a means to not only showcase the literacy and expressiveness of students, but also to share news as to the happenings on campus. In 1926 work began on establishing a new college magazine for Florida State College for Women and the first issue was released towards the end of that year. In 1927 the magazine began being published under the name Distaff. By 1928, Distaff was being published four times a year.

Florida Flambeau, October 22, 1927, View this item in the digital library

The college magazine was published as Distaff until 1947, when students voted to change the name to Talaria. This name only lasted four years until 1951, when students once more opted for a name change. They held a contest and Smoke Signals won. Along with this name change, students demanded a change in the content of the magazine. Since the magazine’s founding it had focused on short stories, poetry, expression, and literacy. Students wanted a shift in content toward action and humor (Florida Flambeau, June 22, 1951).

Florida Flambeau, February 16, 1951, View this item in the digital library

In the 1970s, students clashed with university administration regarding censorship of Smoke Signals. They censored and prevented dissemination of several issues throughout the 1970s due to what they considered at the time “libelous” and “vulgar” materials. (Florida Flambeau, October 21, 1977)

Smoke Signals continued publishing until at least 1985, when they were still hiring writers for the magazine through the Florida Flambeau. (Florida Flambeau, Novemeber 25, 1985) The last issue of Smoke Signals in our holdings is from Winter of 1970.

Several issues of the Talaria and Smoke Signals are now available to be viewed on our digital library, DigiNole: FSU’s digital repository, and can be viewed here.

This article was written by Kacee Reguera, a student worker in Heritage & University Archives.

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.

History of the Nursing Program at FSU

May 6th is Nurses Day!

Florida State College for Women (FSCW) began a precursor to the current Nursing Program in 1936. A B.S. in Nursing was available through the School of Home Economics. Students in this program worked closely with local hospitals to receive the necessary nursing training, while also taking more traditionally liberal arts classes at FSCW.

Nursing Instructor Teaching Her Students
Nursing Instructor Teaching Her Students, circa 1950s. [see item in digital library]
In 1949, FSU created a separate College of Nursing, which was the second collegiate nursing program established in the state of Florida, and appointed Ms. Vivian M. Duxbury as Dean. The first class admitted in 1950 and was made up of 25 young women. The classes continued to be made up of small groups of primarily female students for many years, even though it was introduced after the university became coed in 1947. This was primarily due to the stereotype of nursing being a woman’s job and becoming a doctor was strictly for men. This meant that there were no male professors or doctors to teach the female students. Therefore, the college utilized women who had obtained their nursing degree from elsewhere or had experience/training from past wars to teach the women.

1960s College of Nursing Class Photo
1960s College of Nursing Class Photo. [see item in digital library]
In 1958 Florida State’s nursing baccalaureate program became the first in Florida to receive national accreditation by the National League for Nursing. It was only 1 out of less than 100 in the entire nation to become accredited. This was a great accomplishment for FSU. Due to the newfound distinction of the nursing program, it was able to grow at a much faster rate than before. In 1975 the school of nursing was finally granted their own building on campus, Vivian M Duxbury Hall, and by 1976 1,871 students had graduated from the nursing program at FSU.

Black and White Photos of Nursing Instruments
Black & White Photos of Nursing Instruments. [see item in digital library]
In 1985, the school of nursing was able to offer a masters program for students pursuing higher degrees in nursing. By 2006, the school of nursing officially changed its name from School of Nursing to College of Nursing.

The College of Nursing is constantly improving, adapting, and pursuing high reaching goals. It is now ranked among the top one hundred universities in the nation and one of the most selective majors at FSU with only 80 applicants accepted in the fall and over 300 applicants applying. In the end, the College of Nursing’s prestige continues to add to FSU’s reputation as one of the top twenty public universities in the nation.

Held in Heritage & University Archives, are the records and memorabilia of the College of Nursing. This collection consists of papers, ephemera, and photographs that document the history and activities of the college from its development in 1948 through 2014. Included are records from the deans, the graduate nursing program, various faculty committees, student organizations (Student Nurses Association and Sigma Theta Tau), and the Legacy Project, as well as materials created for special events such as pinning and graduation ceremonies, homecoming events, conferences, and presentations. A detailed inventory is located here.

Collection Update: The Historical Photograph Collection

This article was written by Jeffrey Henley, a graduate student who has been working with the Florida State University Historic Photograph Collection with Heritage & University Archives since September 2018.

The FSU Historic Photograph Collection in the Heritage & University Archives at Florida State University contains in excess of 250,000 images and negatives. The collection houses a number of different types of images produced from the late nineteenth century through approximately 2010. The majority of the images were produced in the 1950s and 1960s. The challenges to processing this collection generally center on the issue of its size and diversity of photographs.  An issue with provenance exists due to the photographs having been collected without strict documentation. What is known, though, is the overwhelming majority of the photographs were produced by an entity within or associated with Florida State University. While the provenance of the collection is also a challenge, this issue is not at the forefront of dealing with the collection. Due to the way it had been collected over time as many different collections, it had not been organized as a coherent archival collection, but rather was kept in a variety of storage entities.

Baseball
Florida State University baseball player receiving congratulations from team as he scores a run. From the Historic Photograph Collection. [see item in digital library]
The collection was first processed to its current form in 2016. When I started to work on this collection in late September 2018, I spent a couple of weeks familiarizing myself with proper techniques for handling photographs and negatives, recognizing issues, and identifying proper storage. After that, I spent a fair amount of time learning the collection and becoming familiar with its organization.  I found the collection organized into five series, each representing distinctive types of photographs and subjects. Even after working with the collection for almost eighteen months, I am still learning about the content. Once I had a grasp of how to work with the collection and what I was dealing with, the time came for me to pick up the processing of the collection where Dave Rodriguez left off in April 2018.

I began working with Series 5, which was a mixture of prints and negatives. While the contents of the remaining fourteen boxes were generally in alphabetical order by subject, they still needed to be checked to make sure they were correct and I also discovered many of the subjects had additional titles for clarification. These categories then had to be organized within sub-categories. I noticed many of the prints and negatives (not all) had additional markings to indicate some sort of numerical system that was being used by the photographer to organize them. Discovering this system made the task of putting matched prints and negatives together in the boxes.  I do not know how many prints and negatives were in those fourteen boxes, however it took me about four and half to five months to reprocess them. The fourteen boxes actually expanded to fifteen boxes due to a number of prints and negatives being stuffed into storage envelopes. I rehoused each print, and occasional negative, in new storage envelopes. Series 5 was completed in late March 2019, however due to space and other pending projects, the boxes were left in place until such time I could come back to them and fully incorporate them into the collection both physically and in the finding aid. I spent the rest of the semester working on research requests and digitization projects for the Heritage & University Archives.

Bread making machine
Florida State University students Paul Grimmig and Charles Clark with bread making machinery. From the Historic Photograph Collection. [see item in digital library]
When I returned to Special Collections in the fall of 2019, Sandra Varry had me begin a project to assess the provenance of the collection. We knew the photographs that were already in the collection, along with those that had yet to be processed, came from a wide variety of sources, however there was no clear indication as to what sources had contributed to the entire collection. This project also included examining the provenance of the General Photograph Collection and the Alumni Association Miscellaneous Photograph Collection. The project was a precursor to the possible merging of these smaller collections into the larger FSU Historic Photograph Collection.

The Alumni Association Collection appeared to be a more unique collection than the General Photograph Collection. The decision was made to keep the Alumni Association Collection as its own entity, but Sandra decided the best course of action for the General Photograph Collection was to merge it into the Historic Photograph Collection. One issue that we had to take into consideration before moving forward was that roughly three-quarters of the photographs in the General Photograph Collection had been digitized and were part of the finding aid for the collection down to the item level.

Three men with abacuses
Air Force Master Sergeant Clarence Vogelgesang, Professor George A. Lensen, and Major William Reese examine 2 abacuses. From the Historic Photograph Collection. [see item in digital library]
Over the course of several weeks into October 2019, we had a number of meetings with other specialists in Special Collections to prepare to merge these collections. We received the best practices for tracking the digitized photographs as well as keeping track of updates that need to be made to the finding aid. After that, the next step was to go through the General Photograph Collection and make determinations as to where each photograph would go in the Historic Photograph Collection. This process took a bit longer than anticipated due to my misunderstanding of the numbering system used on the General Photograph Collection and the fact that I had missed over 100 photographs that were not digitized, but were still part of the collection. I then had to go back through and determine where those photographs would go. When that task was completed, it was time to begin laying out how many photographs would go into which folders and which boxes in the Historic Photograph Collection and layout a map of how the collection would look on the shelves and how much room would be needed to fit them all in, not to mention the 15 boxes that had been processed the previous spring.  Creating the map of the collection took most of the rest of the fall semester.

Upon my return for the spring semester 2020, I reviewed the floor plan for the collection and received approval from Sandra to proceed with the actual merging of the collections. Over the course of the next six or seven weeks, I meticulously merged the General Photograph Collection into the Historic Photograph Collection, over 800 photographs, and accounted for each one on at least three different spreadsheets. One spreadsheet was reserved for tracking the digitized photographs, one was used to update the finding aid, and the other was a back up, in essence, to the finding aid tracker. Doing it this way slowed the process down significantly, however I thought the time was worth avoiding a serious mistake that could undo months of work.

Westcott Building
Westcott Building decorated for Christmas. From the Historic Photograph Collection. [see item in digital library]
By the second week in March 2020, the physical collection merger was complete. All that remained to be done was final review of the new finding aid and upload, turning over the new locations for the digitized photographs to the DLC team for review, and to print the new labels for the collection. It was all ready to go. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 crisis intervened. The final few steps of the process to complete the merger and reopen the collection will have to wait until the crisis abates and campus is open once again.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and FSU’s Ostraka Collection

History of Texts and Popular Media

As someone who studies the history of texts, I try to avoid commenting on the portrayal of textual history or librarianship in popular media (don’t get me started on Jocasta Nu in Attack of the Clones) in casual settings. What good does it do to point out that a manuscript’s hand doesn’t match the era, or that a particular text wouldn’t be in the vernacular, or that rare books should NEVER be perused while consuming an apple or burning incense? Probably not much, though you better believe textual historians have these conversations all the time!

On Athena's shoulder
Kassandra on Athena’s Shoulder

This is why I am delighted when they get it right. I’ve spent some time over the past few weeks playing Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey (ACO), an epic adventure game set in the year 431 BCE. In the game, you play as a mercenary (in my case, Kassandra) navigating the political and military landscape of Greece during the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. The map is seemingly endless, the vistas beautiful, and my time sailing and attacking pirate ships has almost made me forget about the COVID-19 quarantine and my cancelled travel. 

 

Sailing
Sailing is the most I get out these days.

From the beginning of the game you are encouraged to find something referred to as Ainigmata Ostraka – these are stone tablets hidden in various locations that contain riddles that guide you to “engravings” that level up your weapons. (Here is a brief clip of me finding one.) Huzzah, a real text technology from the time, and — I am happy to report — ostraka make another appearance crucial to the main mission of the game that is true to their historical importance (more on this later). 

What are Ostraka?

The word ostraka (plural) or ostrakon (singular) refers to a piece of pottery, usually broken off from a larger vessel (a potsherd), that has been reused as a writing surface. Ostraka were plentiful in the ancient world and were typically inscribed in Greek, Latin, Arabic, or Hieratic script (Ancient Egyptian). While papyrus was also available, it was expensive and usually reserved for documents that needed to last; ostraka recorded more ephemeral notes, letters, and (as you’ll soon see) ballots. 

download
FSU Ostraka 18: Letter

FSU Special Collections and Archives have a collection of 32 ostraka from circa 150 CE, much later than the time period of the game, but they match physical descriptions of ostraka across these centuries. Here’s how Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey’s portrayal of ostraka aligns with the historical record: 

 

 

 

Almost, but Not Quite…

Ostraka Size
Ostrakon in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

Most ostraka were small. 

When my character discovers ostraka, they are usually all about the same size. They are very regular in shape, rectangular, and about the length of Kassandra’s forearm. Ostraka of that size have existed in history, but they were exceptional and, it seems, rare. Based on real ostraka that survive, it appears that a majority were very small pieces, about the size of one’s hand or even smaller, and their shapes are extremely irregular. 

 

download (1)
FSU Ostraka 6: Letter of Maximus

Ostraka were not usually flat.

The ostraka stored under “Documents” in your ACO inventory appear to be flat. Usually, real ostraka give an indication of the shape of the pot or clay item that the shard was originally a part of. They will frequently have a curve to them; I’ve often thought that the shape might rather conveniently conform to the writer’s leg during the inscription process. 

 

 

 

record sunshine
Ostrakon that appears to show engraving

Ostraka were usually written in ink or scratched into paint, rather than carved.

We don’t get to see very close, detailed depictions of the ostraka in ACO, but they do appear to be engraved, almost like a cuneiform tablet, rather than written. Writers sometimes used the same tools they used for writing on papyrus — a small brush or reed pen — to compose in ink on their ostrakon. If the pottery was painted, or had a dark glaze on it, the writing could be etched into the painted surface – the effect looked less like a stone tablet and more like words scratched into paint, like bathroom stall graffiti. 

1238_-_Keramikos_Museum,_Athens_-_Ostrakon_against_Aristides,_son_of_Lysimachos_-_Photo_by_Giovanni_Dall
Picture by Giovanni Dall’Orto, from Wikimedia Commons

 

Absolutely Correct

download (3)
FSU Ostraka 25: List of watchtower guards

Ostraka were plentiful.

Consider them the post-it note of the ancient world! Ostraka were used for many different purposes. Pottery was the primary means of storing, preserving, and transporting goods, so shards of pottery were nearly unlimited in supply. 

 

 

 

 

download (4)
FSU Ostraka 23: List of guards

Ostraka are found in strange places.

Archaeologists  find groupings of ostraka in places you might not expect: in trash heaps, at the bottom of wells or fountains, under the foundations of houses. This relates to the purposes they usually served. Either they were ephemeral notes that were discarded, or they were inscribed as a means of imbuing some sort of metaphysical power into the description, and tossed into a well or buried under a house to complete the ritual. FSU Special Collections and Archives’ ostraka were discovered in an archaeological dig of a trash heap next to a Roman military outpost in Edfu, Egypt. 

Ostraka can vary in color.

I was happy to see that the ACO designers created ostraka that come in a variety of colors. As ostraka come from broken pottery that would have been crafted in various places, the components of the clay would differ according to geography. Additionally, some pottery was painted or treated, and would have color differentiation accordingly. 

 

Ostraka can tell a full story.

While most ostraka contain very brief inscriptions, some give us a glimpse into the lives of the people who wrote them. We even have a pretty explicit love poem. Here’s a different example that illustrates this in FSU’s ostraka collection: 

download (5)
FSU Ostraka 1: Letter of Sentis to Proclus

“Sentis to Proclus her brother, greeting. You did well, brother, in giving the two kolophoia to Anchoubis; also write to me about the passage-money and I will send it to you at once. I did not send you meat, brother, so that I might not bid farewell to you. Therefore I ask you, sir, show respect (?) to me and come this the Ethiopoan, Let us be happy. Farewell. (At the side) Do not do otherwise, then, but if you love me come. Let us be happy.”

 

Ostraka were used to vote people out of Athenian society, and the etymological source for the word “ostracism.”

You might not know that the word “ostracism” derives from a practice in fifth-century Athens that relied upon ostraka: ostrakismos. The process is succinctly described here: 

The procedure was as follows: Every winter, the full assembly of Athenian citizens (i.e. free adult males) was asked  whether it wanted to hold an ostrakismos. If a majority – not counting less than 6,000 – agreed, the event was held two months later. For this purpose, a large area within the Agora was corralled off. Every citizen could enter. On doing so, he handed a potsherd (ostrakon) to an official, inscribed with the name of the individual he wished to see ostracised, further identified by his father’s name and the deme (district) he came from. To prevent multiple votes, the citizens had to wait within until the vote was complete. The sherds were then counted and the person most frequently chosen, again subject to a minimum of 6,000 votes, was ostracised.

The ostracised citizen was given ten days to settle his affairs and leave Athens. His citizenship was not affected, nor was his property touched, and he retained access to its proceeds. He was not to return to the city for ten years – on penalty of death – unless a public vote recalled him at an earlier date. Ostracism was not considered per se dishonourable; status and rights were fully reinstated on return. (https://www.petersommer.com/blog/archaeology-history/ostraka)

In Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, Kassandra is introduced to this practice when she is asked to sneak into the location where the ostraka are being counted and rig the votes by switching out the ostraka with fake ones. In this case, the ostraka appear to be small, dark round pieces, which perfectly matches the piece of pottery that was typically used in the process – the disc-shaped bottom of a stemmed drinking vessel. 

1024px-Atenas,_Estoa_de_Átalo_10
Ostraka; Stoa of Attalus. Athens, Attica, Greece by Wikimedia User LBM1948

Many thanks to Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, for the excellent portrayal of ostraka as a historical text technology. One caveat: I’m currently only at level 24 in the game, so it’s possible that ostraka make more appearances that would change my perspective. If that’s the case, please let me know! 

And as always, FSU Special Collections and Archives materials are open to the public. While our reading rooms are currently closed due to the pandemic, our ostraka collections (and other awesome pre-print materials) are available in our digital library, DigiNole. I encourage you to browse them at your leisure! 

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.

The History of the Ku Klux Klan in Miami

When you think of Miami, you think of the beaches, the art, the South Beach area, a tourist paradise, and the rich Cuban culture. Miami is one of Florida’s most influential cities that produces many stars, politicians, and field leaders. Great things come out of Miami, however, there is one thing within the history of the city that is not so great — the Ku Klux Klan. Many people would not believe that a city like Miami had a klavern of the Ku Klux Klan, but that does not erase the history.

This image shows klansmen of the Miami klavern on a parade float named “America’s Little Red School House.”

The Ku Klux Klan in Miami operated just as any other klavern of the Ku Klux Klan would. It thrived off of hatred, white supremacy, and oppression of others. In Miami, the klavern steadily enacted violence and fear—including lynchings, bombings and parades— starting in the early 1900s. Activities documented in the Miami-Dade Public Library digital collection on the Ku Klux Klan included baby baptism ceremonies, marches in white robes, church at The White Temple Methodist Church, going on parades, and funeral services. The collection does not include the terrorism that this klavern perpetuated in Miami.

One infamous act of terrorism that the Ku Klux Klan of Miami carried out was a raid on a gay club in Miami. On Nov. 15, 1937, nearly 200 klansmen and klanswomen stormed the club La Paloma in Miami-Dade county. While wearing their Ku Klux Klan robes, they struck fear into the community by showing up in mass, assaulting staff and performers, and demanding the club shutdown. The klan claimed that by attacking this nightclub, they were saving white, traditional families from intruding ethnic, gender, and sexuality challenges.

Often times the klavern was blamed for fragmenting the community of Miami. Marjory Stoneman Douglas reflected on the impact of the Ku Klux Klan in Miami by saying, “How could you be a community with people like that?” In her interview with the Douglas House, she recounted her encounters with seeing people lynched, tarred and feathered, and face to face altercations with the Ku Klux Klan. Though, she never wavered in her belief that the Ku Klux Klan did belong in the community. She said she liked the Coconut Grove area better than Miami because “it was a community of people who had backgrounds other than [Ku Klux Klan], and I’m quite sure there was no Ku Klux Klan in Coconut Grove.”

As Krystal Thomas at FSU Libraries notes, “libraries, archives and museums always think long and hard about how, or even if, to present this type of history in an online environment where it is hard to maintain its context and to ensure that people interacting with it understand its place in history and won’t potentially misappropriate it. However, there is no guarantee any of that would not also happen with researchers in our reading rooms or exhibit spaces. Ultimately, if they choose to, cultural heritage organizations share this information so that an accurate representation of our history is also online, however problematic that history may be to modern users. We try to use description to make sure digital objects are accurately represented and, where appropriate, include disclaimers to warn users about graphic or potentially triggering content.”

Overall, the state of Florida has a rich history, but sadly some of the history includes terrorist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. Luckily, the activity of the Ku Klux Klan in Miami dwindled with the rise of the civil rights movement in the United States of America.  Learn more about civil rights related content in the Civil and Human Rights search on SSDN.DP.LA.