By Ma Gabrielle Bernasol –
This year marks the seventeenth since my family immigrated to Florida. Despite living so many years in the Florida, my time working with the Florida History Collection has made me realize that my knowledge of the state is still in its infant stages. Since the beginning of 2020, I have been working with the P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History at Smathers Library.
In the beginning, my work focused on barcoding and cataloguing books from the collection. Of the thousands of books that I came across, my favorites were always the ones with art and photographs. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and I felt as if I had read an entire novel just by looking at the artwork and photos.
This past September, I was able to work with even more photographs as we organized a set of stereoview cards recently donated to the library. A brief look at the near identical side-by-side photos may not look like anything special. But, utilizing a stereoscope, you are able to view these two images as a single three-dimensional image.
The collection had images from all across Florida, and viewing them was like teleporting across the state and to different time periods. There were also some general, non-Florida specific views, and my personal favorite was an image of the moon made in the 1920s that truly felt like I could reach out and touch it when viewing it with the stereoscope.
One of the amazing things about working at a library is discovering something you were not even intending to look for. While organizing a set of photos from St. Augustine, we came across a packet of negative photographs from the St. Augustine Ponce de Leon Celebration.
After some scanning and image manipulation, I was able to digitize the collection in their positive forms. The positive versions were able to provide amazing detail not visible with the physical photographs. This process was similar to being able to finally look through a clear window to see an event you thought was lost to time.
Another interesting find was from our Ephemera Collection. Most of the items in the collection are pamphlets or leaflets, but in one binder was two copies of a book, The Thirteenth Island: A History of Tarpon Springs (1946) by Harry Remde. The cover was beautifully woven out of palm-fronds and the spine was aptly made out of sponge as this book was about the sponge divers in Tarpon Springs.
Scattered throughout the book were amazing pen-and-ink drawings by Gladys Remde. She and her husband Harry spent about six weeks in Tarpons Springs, collecting stories and making sketches of the town, the sponge boat fleet, and the people. The title of the book is a reference to the Dodecanese, a group of islands located in the Aegean Sea, meaning “The Twelve Islands.” The book title, The Thirteenth Island, refers to the large number of Greeks from the Dodecanese islands who immigrated to Tarpon Springs.
Tarpon Springs has been so strongly influenced by Greek culture that it can be seen as the hidden thirteenth island of the Dodecanese.
Working with the Florida history collection has opened my eyes to the rich history and culture that our state has to offer. The discovery of unique items such as these has the ability to endear people to explore more of Florida’s history – and even more treasures are just waiting to be found in the collection.