Tag Archives: digital collections

Behind the Scenes: Enslaved Lives in the Archives at FSU

Special Collections and Archives spent this summer contributing to two projects centered on the lives of local enslaved people. Currently, we are supporting the Tallahassee History and Human Rights Project. The first phase of this collaborative effort between the Grove Museum, Goodwood Museum & Gardens, the Tallahassee Museum, and the community seeks to better interpret the lives and experiences of the enslaved people that lived on and built the plantations at those sites.

RKS_Division_of_Slaves1
The Roderick Kirkpatrick Shaw Estate Division of Slaves

To support them, Special Collections & Archives identified manuscript collections, rare books, oral histories, and historic newspapers held at FSU that provide insight on African and African American lives from Territorial Florida to the Great Depression in Tallahassee and surrounding counties. We primarily found plantation records, personal papers, and business records documenting the era of enslavement and sharecropping in the Tallahassee locale. Please join these three museums for a series of tours on Saturday, September 14th that commemorate the lives and experiences of local enslaved people.

Alongside the research done for the Tallahassee History and Human Rights Project, Special Collections and Archives digitized and submitted objects to a collaborative online exhibit curated by the Association of Southeast Research Libraries (ASERL). The exhibit recognizes and commemorates the 400 years since the arrival of enslaved Africans in the United States.

Whitfield1
The Notebook of George Whitfield, a Slave trader in Tallahassee and Leon County. Digital version available here

The exhibit covers five periods: Colonial, American Revolution and Constitution, Antebellum, Civil War, and Twentieth Century. The digital exhibit is slated to debut on the Omeka platform in November. Our contributions, including the Whitfield Notebook to the right, have been digitized and added to our digital library, DigiNole.

Supporting these initiatives led Special Collections and Archives to question how to make our own holdings more visible and accessible. We started with the objects submitted to the ASERL Exhibit and added them to our digital library. The documents below are examples of what we identified that will be digitized in the near future. Alongside digitization, we have begun to incorporate these materials in class visits and aim to include them in research guides. As always, we encourage everyone to visit our reading room to view and work with our collections.

New additions to the digital library documenting enslavement and sharecropping include manuscript and printed sharecropping contracts, the Whitfield Notebook, and the R.F. Van Brunt General Store 1911 Day Book.

Special Collections & Archives welcomes visitors to our reading room on the first floor of Strozier Library Monday-Thursday from 10:00-6:00 and Friday from 10:00-5:30.

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.

New Digital Exhibit on Integration at FSU

Integration Statue
Integration Statue

A new digital exhibit is now available, featuring information and documents that expand on the items currently on display in at the Heritage Museum in Dodd Hall. The exhibit is titled A University in Transition: The Long Path to Integration and focuses on the role of institutional racism in delaying state university integration. It also highlights acts of resistance by students, such as John Boardman, who was expelled for his active involvement with the black Inter-Civic council during and after the Tallahassee Bus Boycott.

Picture of Bob Leach, Vice President for Student Affairs (1978-1988)
Bobby E. Leach, Vice President for Student Affairs (1978-1988)

African American students, faculty, staff, and alumni also tell their story during the 40th anniversary of integration, for which a statue was commissioned featuring the first black graduate, athlete, and homecoming queen. The exhibit concludes with a spotlight on FSU’s first black administrator, Dr. Bob E. Leach, whose speeches inspired students for over a decade (1978-1988) and who served as a model of leadership for the university.

The exhibit also aligns with the goals of FSU’s recently established Civil Rights Institute. The interdisciplinary institute will sponsor events, speakers, publications, education, and research on civil rights and social justice. Its collections will be housed in Strozier Library and include historical African American newspapers, the Tallahassee Civil Rights Oral History collection, microfilm editions of NAACP and ACLU organizational records and the Emmett Till archives.

For more information, check out the library’s Civil Rights LibGuide.

The digital exhibit is available here: https://universityintransition.omeka.net/exhibits/show/a-university-in-transition/introduction

Celebrating the Start of Summer

We recently completed digitization of the newspaper from Leon High School here in Tallahassee. Started in the 1920s, the paper has gone through several name changes to end up at Leon High Life today. Our recent additions to the newspaper started in 1988 and bring us up to the end of Spring 2019. To write this update, I took a look at the newspapers published just at the end of the school year.

As a school publication, there are few to no issues published beyond the beginning of June. These papers are the last hurrah for the seniors, celebrating the next steps for those leaving, looking back at the year of academics and athletics.

2001-2002 Sports Year in Review spread [original item]

They also used these issues to talk about what they’d loved and hated that year, making these issues time capsules to what the kids thought was cool at the time.

Spread from the May 31, 1988 High Life Graduation Issue [original item]

But they were also looking forward to their summer and looking at what would be on deck to go see, hear, and do for their last few months of freedom if they were Seniors or just looking forward to the break if there was more high school ahead of them.

What students were looking forward to in the summer of 1992 [original item]

You can explore the entire run of the Leon High Newspaper for a unique look at life in Tallahassee from a high schooler’s perspective from the 1920s up to 2019.

Godby High Yearbooks Online

FSU Libraries continues to partner with local organizations to bring the history of our region online and available for research. Today’s new digital collection comes from a local high school, Godby High School. Opened in 1966, it officially became a school for grades 9-12 in 1968, graduating its first class in 1970. Much younger than the other high school we’ve partnered with in the past, Leon High School, Godby brings another perspective to student and family life in Tallahassee from the mid-1960s up to the 2018 yearbook.

Spread from the 1975 Godby High Cougar [original item]

You can explore more yearbooks from Godby High here. Yearbooks from 1969 to 2018 are available to browse and search.

Castro Archaeological Site Collection

The Digital Library Center (DLC) recently uploaded a new set of material to the Castro Archaeological Site Collection in DigiNole! The most recent additions to this collection contain comprehensive notes, drawings, and analysis of the Castro archeological site in Leon County. More information on this collaboration between the DLC and FSU’s Department of Anthropology can be found on our previous post from August 2018.

Feature Inventory Form - Castro Site
Feature Inventory Form – Castro Site [original object]
In addition to preserving important details about the excavation of the Castro site, digitizing and uploading this collection to DigiNole gives visitors a glimpse into the day-to-day operations of both professional and student archeologists.

Though this marks the end of digitization of the Castro material, our collaborative efforts with the Department of Anthropology will continue. Keep an eye out for more updates as we continue to add more archaeological content to DigiNole!

New records from St. John’s in DigiNole

We are pleased to announce that additional records of the St. John’s Episcopal Church are now available online through DigiNole: FSU’d Digital Repository. These include records of baptisms, marriages, and burials at St. John’s throughout the 20th century, as well as early vestry minutes, detailing early church events such as establishing the site of the building and cemetery, selecting rectors, and historical practices such as renting seats in the pews. These supplement previously digitized records of church rites and the journals of Reverend W.H. Carter. Genealogists, St. John’s parishioners, and researchers of Tallahassee history will all find value in greater access to these materials.

A page from the St. John's Vestry Records, 1836-1873, discussing pew rates
A page from the St. John’s Vestry Records, 1836-1873, discussing pew rates [original object]


St. John’s is the mother church of the Diocese of Florida. It was founded as a mission parish in 1829, and the church’s first building was erected in 1837. The Diocese was organized at St. John’s in 1838 and Francis Huger Rutledge, who became rector of St. John’s in 1845, was consecrated the first Bishop of Florida in 1851. The original church burned in 1879; a new church was built on the same site and consecrated in 1888, and it is still the parish’s principal place of worship.


The physical collection includes administrative records; member registries; meeting minutes of the Vestry and church circles; Bibles, Books of Common Prayer, hymnals, and other liturgical works; documentation of the history of St. John’s Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Florida; service bulletins and other periodicals; sermon transcripts; photographs; and motion pictures.

For more information about the collection, visit its finding aid. You can also explore the digitized materials from St. John’s in DigiNole: FSU’s Digital Repository.

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!

The Lord Mayor’s Show

In loading some new titles to the John MacKay Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection, I noticed an event popping up in several of the texts. The Lord Mayor’s Show, an event still held today, was a popular topic in British children’s books in the 1800s.

Pages from Lord Mayor’s Show, or, The 9th of November (1810) [see original item here]

Children’s books in this era were often used to educate and explain people, place, nature and events to children. As the first example, Lord Mayor’s show, or, The 9th of November (1810) shows. This hand-colored picture book explains all the pageantry surrounding the event as well as takes the reader through each individual event that makes up the Show.

First page of the poem, “Lord Mayor’s Show” [See original item here]

Another example shows how prominent events in children’s lives could always be used to teach a lesson. In The rose-bud: a flower in the juvenile garland, a poem entitled “Lord Mayor’s Show” shows a young boy exclaiming over all the pomp and circumstance around the traditional parade at the Lord Mayor’s Show. His parents are quick to point out it is the hard work the Lord Mayor puts in that is valued and not the gold of his carriage.

The Lord Mayor’s Show is one of the longest running events of its kind, dating back to the 16th century and still celebrated today on the same date as the young children in the 1800s would have celebrated it. Both of these examples show how children’s literature can give us a glimpse into how events have changed, or remained the same.

You can explore more books and poetry of the John MacKay Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection through DigiNole: FSU’s Digital Repository. We’re adding new titles to the collection often so be sure to check back!

The Gertrude Margaritte Ivory Bertram Collection

The Gertrude Margaritte Ivory Bertram Collection covers the service of one African American nurse in the U.S. Army during World War II.

Portrait of Lieutenant Gertrude M. Ivory [see original image]

Bertram was born in Clarksville, Georgia on February 17, 1916. She attended nursing school at the Brewster Hospital and School of Nurse Training in Jacksonville, Florida, which was the first African American hospital in the United States. She then enlisted in the U.S. Army on May 1, 1941 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. While in the Army, Bertram served as a ward nurse in Fort Bragg and later in the West African theater.

Her collection includes numerous photographs depicting herself and her fellow nurses in uniform, as well as African American G.I.s, and a few photographs from her time in West Africa. Her collection also includes an oral history transcript, personal items, newspaper clippings, and manuscripts. This collection is important, as it covers the unique experiences of women and African Americans during World War II, and offers insight that differs from the majority white male G.I. perspective. It depicts African American nurses in both a professional setting, and a casual setting as Bertram enjoyed downtime with her friends.

This collection is one of many at the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience that offers perspective on Army nurses and African Americans during the war. Portions of the Bertram Collection are now available online through DigiNole: FSU’s Digital Repository and you can see more information about the collection in its finding aid.

Post was written by two guest authors:

Lee Morrison has been involved with the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience since Summer 2018. After graduation, he will pursue a Master’s Degree in Medieval History at Florida State University.

Gillian Morton has been involved with the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience since Spring 2016. After graduation, she will pursue a Master’s Degree in Information Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.