I have visited my fair share of historic research facilities, and one of my favorites is the State Library and Archives of Florida, in Tallahassee. My first visit there was a couple of years ago, and I still rave about that trip from time to time. Its time again.
I was working on a huge project involving a historic family and their business in my home town. I did an online search on the State Library and Archives website and discovered that they held 25 cubic feet of files on my subject. It’s one of their largest collections. The online list of files is very detailed, and it tells you what types of records are in each file. I had struck gold.
One of the services offered at the library involves getting copies made and mailed to you, at .25 a page. Which is a fair price, of course, but that would have cost me a small fortune. I asked if it was okay to scan pages myself if I came for a visit, using a hand-held scanner. They said that was most certainly allowed.
Tallahassee is about a 5 hour drive for me, and this project was going to take a few days to complete. And I was going to need help. So, first task – to get my husband to agree to go with me. Actually, not a hard task at all. He’s always up for an adventure, and he loves getting involved with my projects. Second task – hotel reservations at a hotel close to the library. Not very hard. Its very near the State Capitol Building, so lots of hotels around. We decided to drive up on a Monday, and then spend the next four days in the library.
I had a few conversations with the staff before we made the trip, and we were able to come up with a game plan. I told them exactly which files I wanted to see first. They pulled those boxes and had them ready for us when we arrived the first day. Patrons are only allowed to have a certain number of files out at one time, so as soon as we finished one group of files, we took them back to the desk, along with a list of what we wanted next, and within about 5 minutes we were able to dive back in again.
We had two hand-held scanners and a camera with us, all fully charged. And charging cords. We had paper, pencils and a printed list of the files in the collection. The staff reserved a large table for us to use, with electrical outlets available. We were also given gloves to wear.
When we opened the first box, we began to read the pages one by one to determine if it was something that I was going to need to scan. These were 100 year-old hand written pages. It only took us a few minutes to determine that if we were going to get anything accomplished, it was scan now and read later. We each took a folder, opened it up, and started scanning each individual page. We did this for about seven hours straight, rotating between the scanners and the camera, recharging as needed. At the end of the first day, we left the library, got some dinner, went back to the hotel and downloaded everything we had scanned on to my laptop, and recharged everything to get it ready for day two. We repeated this process throughout the week. At the end of the trip we had over 3500 scans, and we only made it through about a third of the complete collection.
The staff behind the desk was incredibly helpful throughout this whole process. I can’t tell you how many trips they made to retrieve more boxes for us. They were always friendly and cheerful, and made us feel like old friends who had dropped in for a visit. Since that trip, I have requested specific files at various times by email, and always received excellent service. The staff at the State Library and Archives of Florida is amazing.
One of the resources available on the State Library and Archives website is the Florida Memory collection, which I love. I can, and have, spent hours looking through the old photographs. My favorite way to search is by typing in the name of a city or town in Florida, and then enjoying the historic photos and documents.
If you haven’t looked at their website, check it out. And if you have the opportunity to visit, you will totally enjoy the experience.