FSU Special Collections & Archives celebrated American Archives Month throughout the month of October by hosting events and sharing interesting items from our collection.
We kicked off the month with a takeover of FSU Libraries social media on October 7th for “Ask an Archivist Day.” FSU SCA staff answered questions on Instagram about how to organize and store family items, what the oldest item in our collection is, questions about FSU’s history, how to become an archivist, and more! The entire takeover is available as a highlight titled “Ask Archivists” on the FSU Libraries Instagram. On Twitter, staff engaged with other institutions participating in #AskAnArchivist by sharing interesting items from our collection and talking about what we do. All of the threads are available on the FSU Libraries Twitter page.
Here on the blog we shared a variety of posts related to our archival work in special collections.
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.
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!
October is coming to an end pretty soon and the National Election on November 3rd is approaching fast! The University has an important resource, FSU Votes, that may come in handy before casting a ballot. There, you can learn more about obtaining a sample ballot, tracking a mail-in ballot, safety precautions for in-person voting, your local voting site, and much more. With Noles to the Polls, students, faculty, and staff will be able to take shuttles from Traditions Parking Garage, the College of Medicine, and University Center A to early voting locations until October 30th. Make sure to vote!
Recently, we digitized the Sun City Development and Motion Picture Studio Plat Map Sheets for use in a class which led me to look into…what are these exactly? I uncovered a fascinating story of the brother of Cleveland railroad barons and a Georgia inventor who, a decade apart, tried to bring Hollywood to Florida.
During the 1920s, Florida experienced a land boom. Florida’s population was growing four times faster than any other state, spurred by the abolition of income and inheritance taxes and an active road-building program. Sun City, original name Ross, was located near present-day Ruskin, in Hillsborough County, and was one of many boom towns at the time in the state.
Herbert C. Van Swearingen, who made his living in real estate in Cleveland, Ohio, was the chief developer of Sun City. Herbert was the forgotten brother of two of Ohio’s biggest railroad barons, Oris and Mantis Van Swearingen. Sun City was his attempt to make a name for himself outside of his brothers’ shadows. The 500-acre Sun City Motion Picture Studio was constructed in late 1925 and built in the Spanish-Moor style with business offices, a projection room, a carpentry room, and 20 dressing rooms. Unlike any other studio, it offered a visitors gallery where Sun City residents and tourists could watch motion picture stars work. Initially, Sun City was successful. Land sales hit $2 million. The emerging city soon had a small number of residences as well as a school, hotel, theater, church, city hall, and power plant. Two short movies were filmed in the state-of-the-art studio.
However, by early 1926, the real estate speculation bubble in the state burst. Also, per usual in Florida, a hurricane hit, creating damage that further drove away seasonal visitors and tourism from the city. Land sales dried up, and Sun City Holding Co. fell into debt and was dissolved. Herbert filed for bankruptcy and returned to his family in Cleveland. Herbert’s brothers helped cover his losses and persuaded Herbert to retire from business. On July 4, 1932, all of Sun City was auctioned at the Hillsborough County Courthouse. Orlando businessman W.W. Staplen bought the land and dismantled the movie studio. He sold the bricks for $1,500. What was left quickly became a ghost town.
In the late 1930s, the next person tried to entice Hollywood to what was left of Sun City. J.T. Fleming, a developer and inventor from Georgia who went broke during the land boom in Florida and lost everything except 500 acres in southern Hillsborough County, bought special masters deeds to Sun City for $100. Fleming believed that the land would be worth millions as a moviemaking destination and resurrected the idea of a city where filmmakers and actors would live among regular residents. However, Fleming became increasingly involved in legal battles and this second try at an East Coast Hollywood never got off the ground. After years of continuous legal challenges, Fleming was ruled insane in 1953, incarcerated for 19 months, and finally had his rights restored by a Fulton County (GA) court. When Fleming died in January 1968, Hillsborough County reclaimed his 500 acres of land near present-day Ruskin for unpaid taxes.
Today, the land that Sun City once stood on is largely a mobile home park situated among industrial sites, fish farms, orchards, and scrapyards. The power plant that was built still stands on Route 41 and if you compare Google Maps to the original maps in our collection, you’ll see the names of movie stars are still on the roads. In fact, side by side, you see that where a movie studio once stood, there is simply woods.
During this American Archives Month, here at Special Collections & Archives we have been having discussions about items that would go in our personal collections- any documents, images, or objects we’ve held on to for a long time that we would want future archivists to keep in our collection.
This was a difficult question for me because I am an avid collector- of coins, VHS tapes, vinyl records, and vintage cameras, to name a few. I decided to turn to items I’ve acquired related to my family.
This little box of film slides is one of the few of my grandmother’s belongings that stayed in the family. When I received the box, it was filled to the brim with film slides in no particular order. Also inside the box were two handheld slide viewers.
In order to ensure the longevity of the slides, I transferred them to acid-free slide protectors. Despite this, I still kept the box and baggies she used to organize the slides and everything is stored together.
I would definitely want this object to be included in my archive. It speaks volumes about my grandmother’s tendency to record and store information. It also serves as a window into my own family, as well as into a time long gone.
Is there anything you know you would want archivists to keep in your Archive of You? Leave a comment and let us know!
“Some persons dodder at 30, others at 80, and some pass through life without “doddering” at all. Our concern should be with competency, not age, race, sex or religion” – Representative Claude Pepper, 1986
There was a time for many professions in the United States when a person’s 65th birthday signaled the end of their working days. During the 1960’s and 70’s, approximately 40 to 50% of the American workforce were covered by compulsory retirement laws. These laws were amended in 1978 and raised the age to 70, but in February of 1986, legislation was introduced by Claude Pepper (who was 86 at the time) to ensure these policies would no longer endure in the United States. This weekend marked the 34th anniversary of the passage of the Age Discrimination in Employment Amendments. The amendments removed, with very few exceptions, the previously mandated retirement age allowing the majority of Americans to work as long in their chosen career as they were able to.
From the political side of the aisle, Pepper was considered by many to be a champion of the rights of elder Americans. Maggie Kuhn, the founder of the Gray Panthers, was also a champion for those same Americans. It was due in no small part to her lobbying efforts that the retirement age amendments of 1978 were successfully passed. She believed that young and old adults should be integrated in social justice movements, often underscoring this by saying “Every one of us is growing older.” In the 1970’s and 80’s it was not uncommon to see Pepper and Kuhn working together to promote the legislation and ideals that worked toward this integration.
Speaking a few days after the amendments were signed into law on October 31st, Claude Pepper remarked that “this bill means that for millions of elderly Americans, the blessings of a 70th birthday will not become a death sentence against their working lives. This new las is an important step in guaranteeing the elderly of this nation a fundamental civil right – the right to work as long as they are willing and able.”
The beginning of the 1980s marked a decisive moment in American Politics: the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). This amendment guaranteed that the United States and individual States would not deny or abridge the equality of rights based on sex. While Alice Paul authored the first form of this amendment in 1923, it would not be until March 22, 1972 that both the Senate and House of Representatives introduced the amendment and set the stage for future state ratifications. The National Organization of Women (NOW) led advocacy and activism efforts to convince legislatures to ratify the amendment throughout the 1970s. It fell short of the necessary number by the 1979 deadline.
After a successful march organized by NOW in Washington D.C., congress extended the deadline to June 30, 1982. However, the amendment was three states shy of the thirty-eight required that year. Florida was one of fifteen states that had not yet ratified the amendment. The local Tallahassee chapter of NOW organized a march on the unratified Florida capitol to take place on June 8, several weeks before the new deadline.
Alongside NOW, the League of Women Voters (LOWV) Tallahassee Chapter, faculty from FSU and FAMU, and a breadth of other local organizations joined the march where some might have worn buttons like the ones below. This demonstration was a final push for ERA supporters to convince the Florida legislature to ratify the amendment. While the Florida House of Representatives passed the measure, the senate defeated it. Ultimately, the 1982 deadline passed without the needed ratifications.
Despite defeat in 1982, to this day activists push to gain the three necessary states for the ERA’s ratification. The ERA and the local chapters of NOW and LOWV are just one example of American politics documented in Special Collections & Archives. Portions of the local chapter records for both NOW and LOWV are available remotely in the Digital Library.
While direct access to physical collections is unavailable at this time due to Covid-19, we hope to resume in-person research when it is safe to do so, and Special Collections & Archives is still available to assist you remotely with research and instruction. Please get in touch with us via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. For a full list of our remote services, please visit our services page.
Capital March for ERA Flyer, June 6, 1982, National Organization of Women Tallahassee Chapter Records, Box 16, Folder 6, Florida State University Libraries Special Collections & Archives, Tallahassee, Florida.
ERA buttons, National Organization of Women Tallahassee Chapter Records, Box 35, Florida State University Libraries Special Collections & Archives, Tallahassee, Florida.
Participant sign-up sheet, National Organization of Women Tallahassee Chapter Records, Box 16, Folder 6, Florida State University Libraries Special Collections & Archives, Tallahassee, Florida.
Voter: League of Women Voters of Tallahassee, Florida, June, 1982, League of Women Voters, Tallahassee Chapter Records, Box 10, Folder 2, Florida State University Libraries Special Collections & Archives, Tallahassee, Florida.
In honor of American Archives Month, get to know our Preservation Librarian, Hannah Davis!
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.”
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.
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.
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!
October is finally here, and with it, American Archives Month!
While we celebrate archives and archivists all year long, Florida State University Special Collections & Archives will be participating in American Archives Month by sharing some of our personal experiences in the archives in blog posts here and on FSU Libraries social accounts.
Follow FSU Libraries on Twitter and Instagram (above), and join us for “Ask an Archivist Day” on Wednesday, October 7th, where we’ll be answering questions and chatting casually about our day-to-day work, our favorite materials from the archives, spookiest discoveries, and more!
How can you participate?
We want to hear from you! If someone in the future made an “Archive of You,” what items or documents might we expect to find? Are there any objects that capture an aspect of your personality, a time in your life, an achievement or an experience?
Share a photo of that item to your Instagram or Twitter, mention @fsulibraries and add the hashtags #ArchivesMonth and #ArchiveMe and we might share your entry on Ask an Archivist day, October 7th! Here’s my example:
Looking forward to a month of celebration. Happy October, and Happy American Archives Month!
October is a special month for those us in the archives. It’s an entire month to celebrate our collections and, more importantly, our work which is often shrouded in mystery. Even for our co-workers in libraries. So, archivists have embraced American Archives Month, held every October, as a way to share what it is we do.
For us here in Special Collections & Archives this year, we started October by participating in #AskAnArchivist day on October 3, 2018, by staging a takeover of the FSU Libraries twitter feed, answering questions and participating in discussions that happened all over the Twittersphere. You can check out the hashtag #AskAnArchivist and the FSU Libraries twitter page to catch up on those tweets.
Special Collections & Archives hosted our first Open House for Archives Month this year for our faculty and staff here in FSU Libraries. We hope to grow this event in the coming years so more people on campus and in the community can come and see our collections and talk to us about our work.
Lastly, we also had our annual tradition of visiting Paul Dirac’s gravesite and cleaning the headstone. Dirac, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, retired to Tallahassee and taught at FSU while he lived here. Upon his death, his papers and collections came here to FSU and is a cornerstone collection to our History of Science materials.