In the spring of 1956, after students Wilhelmina Jakes and Carrie Patterson from Florida A&M University, were arrested and jailed for refusing to leave the “whites only” section of a Tallahassee bus, the African-American community of the city rallied together to boycott the city bus service and take a stand for their civil rights and the belief that the color of their skin should not leave them subject to discrimination and fear. Those who participated in the boycott, including Rev. C.K. Steele, Daniel Speed, Jakes and Patterson and many others from the then 10,600 African-American residents of Tallahassee, were met with resistance from bigoted members of the Tallahassee community that felt racial segregation should remain the law of the land. What factors contributed to a mindset that would allow for one group to so poorly treat another?
A new exhibit now open at the Claude Pepper Library seeks to illustrate the kind of resistance that the Bus Boycott participants faced in their endeavors to secure fair and impartial treatment in a city that they too, called home. Guests are invited to visit the Claude Pepper Library and explore the exhibit on the Tallahassee Bus Boycott of 1956 which is open to the public now, through the early fall of 2018. Using primary source documents, ephemera and photographs that provide a deeper context for the events that began to take place in May of 1956, Special Collections & Archives provides a look into the social and political climate in the State of Florida leading during the time of the Bus Boycott. Guests are also able to listen to audio recordings of boycott participants and witnesses, including the Reverend C.K. Steele, Daniel Speed and Governor LeRoy Collins. The Claude Pepper Library and Museum are open Monday through Friday from 9:00AM to 5:00PM, call (850) 644-9217 or email Political Papers Archivist Robert Rubero (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions.
Due to an event to be held in some of our spaces the Special Collections Research Center will be closing at 3:30pm on Thursday, January 25, 2018. If you need to make arrangements to use our collections between 4-6pm that day, please make an appointment by emailing email@example.com.
The Special Collections Exhibit Room, due to the same event, will be closing at 12:00pm on Thursday.
All our other areas will keep their normally scheduled hours.
We will resume normal operating hours for the Research Center and Exhibit Room on Friday, January 26, 2018.
The division of Special Collections and Archives, of Florida State University, is privileged to have the assistance of our undergraduate student assistants in addition to our graduate assistants. In coordination with our Manager of Special Collections, Lisa Girard, our undergraduate assistants may also work between Heritage Protocol and University Archives (HPUA) and the Claude Pepper Library. Our undergraduate student assistants comprise a variety of different majors, have spent many semesters in our division and are imperative to our daily operations. The first of two posts, that follow, serve as our means of honoring them as well as reflecting on their time spent here as they graduate and become alumni of FSU.
“My name is Mary Kate Downing and I’ve been an student assistant in Special Collections and Archives for the past two semesters. I’m graduating this semester, so I was thrilled to learn that I’d have the chance to write a part of a guest blog post as a way to reflect on the fantastic time I’ve had here.
I first learned about Special Collections and Archives in spring 2015 from one of my professors, Dr. Davis Houck of the School of Communication. I was in Dr. Houck’s speech class and wanted to give an informative speech on the history of FSU’s Westcott Building and Fountain. He encouraged me to pay Special Collections a visit. I had not heard of the division before, but I wanted to do some research for my speech, so I took the plunge and walked through the fancy wooden door. Everyone I met from the division was friendly and helpful and I was able to find more than enough information for my speech. The rest of that spring semester was extremely busy, so I didn’t think too much about Special Collections again until the end of the summer when I was applying for jobs for the fall. I was looking for a part-time library job because I already knew that I wanted to be a librarian, but I had only previously worked at public libraries. With my fingers crossed, I filled out the application to work at Strozier Library checking off that I was interested in almost every division, including Special Collections. I was invited to interview for positions in three different divisions, but I was the most excited about my Special Collections interview. As you can imagine, then, I was elated to eventually be offered a position in the division!
When I started working at Special Collections and Archives, I realized that the division
didn’t only have materials related to FSU history. I learned about the huge variety of manuscripts, rare books, maps, sound recordings, ephemera, and more that call Special Collections home. I was impressed. I couldn’t believe that all of those materials were readily available for people to look at. I was so excited to be able to interact with items, ranging from a Napoleonic death mask to letters written by Dr. Seuss, on a daily basis. During my two semesters here, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a variety of different projects in three divisions of Special Collections and Archives – general Special Collections, Heritage Protocol and University Archives (HPUA), and the Claude Pepper Library.
Some of my favorite projects in general Special Collections have included different inventories, like the Dirac book cart inventory, where we went through carts of books and journals that belonged to late Nobel laureate and FSU professor Paul A.M. Dirac. As well as the vault inventory, where I made sure all the especially valuable materials in Special Collections were accounted for.
In HPUA, my main project was creating a comprehensive timeline of FSU history using primary source documents. In searching for primary sources, I came across a lot of awesome FSU-related materials, like the enormous Victoria J. Lewis scrapbook and the 1968 edition of the FSU yearbook Tally-Ho.
At the Claude Pepper Library, some of my favorite projects have included the CDA to WAV conversion, where we worked to convert CD recordings of late Florida Senator Claude Pepper to digital files, and the ongoing inventory, where I went through almost a hundred boxes of Senator Pepper’s correspondence and mementos from 1936 to 1951. I also enjoyed working with the collection of phonodiscs, which contain the original recordings of many of Senator Pepper’s speeches and interviews, and a program from the 1944 Democratic National Convention that was in one of Senator Pepper’s correspondence folders.
After graduation, I will be earning a master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of South Florida and working part-time in the Youth Services Department at a public library in the Tampa area. I’ll miss FSU’s Special Collections and Archives, but I plan to look for another special collections or archives position in the near future. If I could tell people who are unfamiliar with Special Collections and Archives one thing about the division, it would be to come check it out! Don’t be intimidated by the door that separates the Special Collections Reading Room from the rest of Strozier Library. There’s so much you can learn, and the librarians and archivists are some of the coolest people on campus.”
American Archives Month is when archivists often take the time to tell the public what it is we do all day and why they should care. However, we’ve never much talked about how it must be for the collections themselves. Here’s a collection-level view of what an archivist does when new materials arrive.
When I arrived in the Special Collections & Archives Division at Florida State University, I was a real mess. Parts in cardboard boxes, others in plastic bags; I heard the folks who brought me in say more than once that it was hard to tell which end was which. Since then I’ve discovered that it isn’t always the same with other new arrivals.
Some show up completely tidy and ready to help people find the answers to their most pressing questions. Not so with me. I started life out in the College of Communications at Florida State University in 1972 in the office of a young professor named Thomas Hoffer. I wasn’t much at first, but as the years kept piling up, as is the tendency with things, I grew. Exams, course syllabi, professional correspondence and some non-important bits like old blank warehouse club membership applications were just a few of the things that came to represent me after the thirty years I was with Professor Hoffer. Being quite substantial at this point and with the Professor retiring, I needed a place to go. After getting boxed, and bagged up, I was taken to a storage facility not far from the university.
Settling into my new home wasn’t too bad once I got over being constantly lifted up and put down again, though I must say it was a little warmer than I was used to. After a few years had passed, it was decided that I would be donated to the Special Collections & Archives at Florida State University and I became acquainted with some folks that called themselves archivists. That’s when things got interesting. At first they made some initial visits to my storage space to go through my contents, making notes and doing a lot of talking about how much of me there was.
After several of these visits, instead of bringing note pads and pencils with them, the archivists showed up with hand trucks, push carts and a van which they used to bring me back to the university. It was a little confusing at first and I’d wondered if there had been a mistake, but eventually, piece by piece I was moved from my storage room back to campus. To be specific, I was moved to an archives.
My skepticism started to fade when the archivists and student workers began to remove my essential parts from the musky boxes and plastic bags, and started putting me into fresh new folders and boxes that, by the looks of them, were made specifically for archives. According to the folks who were shifting me around, these new folders and boxes would help in keeping me around for a good while longer. As all of this was going on, all of the non-important bits that I mentioned earlier, like the blank forms and random accumulations such as a bit of reptile skin were removed and disposed of. After about a year and half of this celebrity treatment, my “physical processing,” as the archivists called it, was finished and I found myself in a new home on the shelves of the Claude Pepper Library.
Since then an electronic finding aid, which as I have gathered, is like a road map for my makeup and contents, has been put online by the good archivists and can be found on the FSU Special Collections & Archives homepage (the internet wasn’t around when I got my start, but I highly recommend it!). The finding aid helps researchers like yourself find what you’d need quickly and easily like Dr. Hoffer’s work with his film indexing project or classes he taught on documentary film making. I hope you’ve enjoyed my story and will come visit the Florida State University Libraries Division of Special Collections & Archives to see what our collections are made of. Whether it’s for a project or personal enrichment, I guarantee you’ll find something interesting to learn about and enjoy.