AMH 3630/5065

Research Assistance:
American Environmental History

Political cartoon, "A Big Job," Times Union (Jacksonville), January 14, 1905.
Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, governor of Florida, prepares to drain the Everglades.

This page contains information to aid students taking Prof. Jack Davis's American Environmental History course (Fall 2006).

I will be happy to assist you with assignments.

James Cusick, Curator
P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History
Department of Special and Area Studies Collections
George A. Smathers Library (East), Second Floor
University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla. 32611
(352) 273-2778

Archive Exercise

Your instructions from your syllabus are: "The archive exercise asks you to write a five-page paper with footnotes and bibliography attached. You will be required to use archival materials from the University of Florida Special and Area Studies Collections. The best materials from these collections and for the purpose of this course focus on Florida history. You might write a short environmental history of your home county; or about the human-nature relationship as recorded in the letters, journal, or diary of an early Florida pioneer; or about the environments that early travel writers of the South encountered. One objective of this assignment is to give you experience working in archival materials-hard-copy matter as opposed to Internet sources. Such materials should form the bulk of your sources used for this paper. As with the Internet paper, you will need to present your subject in historical context."

Suggested first steps:

Define your topic.
(1) Do you want to look at a general subject (hurricanes or a hurricane; treatment of the Everglades; fires; crop freezes or crop losses; endangered species; changes in land use; impact of hunting and/or fishing, etc.)? (2) Are you more interested in writing about a particular city or county? (3) Do you want to work with a particular kind of primary source (photographs, postcards, diaries and memoirs, travel journals, etc.)?

Narrowing down what you want to do will make it easier to locate source material.

Searching for unpublished manuscript materials:
The Department of Special Collections has two floors of papers and records dealing with various aspects of Florida history. To get an idea of what is available on Florida's environmental history, you have a couple of options. First, you can browse the guides to some of our large manuscript collections by going to Browse by Subject and looking at the collections listed under "Natural History." Also, you can search some of our smaller diary and letter collections by going to Miscellaneous Manuscripts and typing in the a word or words related to you topic.

You can also do a keyword search in the library catalog. Here are some basic instructions but if you run into trouble I can help you out.

Searching in the library catalog:

In the online catalog basic search (here), you can use the second search box to find items under various subject headings. Choose "subject, LC" from the drop down menu in the left-hand box. (It's about halfway down the menu. Do NOT choose "subject, LC/NLM." That's different.)

This search is designed to make use of subject headings developed by the Library of Congress.

To find histories of counties or towns in Florida, fill out the search box with this command:

Name of town or county (Fla.) history.

Miami (Fla.) history
Dade County (Fla.) history

You will get a title list of materials in the library that cover the history of the area you requested.

For more general accounts of what Florida was like in the past, try these strings:

Florida description and travel
Frontier and pioneer life Florida

Most of our books describing life in Florida in the 19th and early 20th century will be tagged with one of these subject headings.

In addition, within the Florida collection, you can browse subjects by call numbers. For example,

Canals and canal building: F386.4
Hunting and fishing: F799
The Everglades: F551.4
Pioneer life: F.6
Travel accounts: F.06
Travel accounts: F.092
Government documents (state of Florida): F354

You can use the library catalog to browse titles from your home or campus computer. This is useful when you are trying to compile a list of things you want to look at. To browse:

Use the second box on the catalog search page. This time, choose "Call number, local" from the drop down menu. Then enter the call number in the box at the right. If you put in "F799" you will get a list of all the books in that call number range, in the order they appear on the shelf.

If you happen to find a book that is really useful, you might want to see what other books we have that begin with the same call number.

Newspapers are another potential source of information. U.F. has a large collection of Florida newspapers on microfilm in the Main Library. To find newspaper titles in the catalog try the following search:

Subject, LC
Daytona Beach (Fla.) newspapers

This same type of search will work for any city or county in Florida. If we have newspapers that cover that area, the catalog will give you the title. You can also search for newspapers at U.F. or around Florida by going to this web site (Florida Newspaper Project) and filling in the search boxes.

Finally, if you are interested in a special type of material, like photographs, or postcards, or maps, you should talk with me and I will advise you about what we have. To get an idea about what is available, you can browse some images of what Florida looked like a century ago, you might want to check out the displays in the Online Photo Exhibit. There is one on hurricanes, one on the Everglades, and one on rural life (Baker album). These are just a few of the tens of thousands of images and photographs we hold at U.F.

Copyright © 2004 University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries
Dept. of Special Collections
P. O. Box 117007  Gainesville, FL 32611-7001  (352) 273-2778
Acceptable Use, Copyright, and Disclaimer Statement.
Send comments and/or questions about this site to James Cusick, curator, Florida history
Updated September 15, 2004