The Florida Folklife Digitization and Education Project
First Monday

The Florida Folklife Digitization and Education Project by Joanna Norman



 

Figure 1: Glen Simmons (foreground) and apprentice Donald Edwards navigating 
their way through the River of Grass on glades skiffs: Florida City, Florida, 1992
 
Figure 1: Glen Simmons (foreground) and apprentice Donald Edwards navigating their way through the “River of Grass” on glades skiffs: Florida City, Florida, 1992.

 

Abstract
The State Library and Archives of Florida’s Florida Folklife Digitization and Education Project was a two–year IMLS–funded project intended to enhance access to the Florida Folklife Collection, to develop educational resources based on the Collection, and to make these cultural and educational resources accessible to lifelong learners on the Florida Memory Project Web site at http://www.floridamemory.com.

Contents

Introduction
Digitization of Photographs (and Sound)
Educational Unit Development
Item Level Indexing
Conclusion

 


 

Introduction

 

Figure 2: Sculptor Jesse J. Aaron with one of his wood sculptures, Gainesville, Florida, 1976
 
Figure 2: Sculptor Jesse J. Aaron with one of his wood sculptures, Gainesville, Florida, 1976.

 

The State Archives of Florida is mandated by law to collect, preserve, and make available for research the historically significant records of the state, as well as private manuscripts, local government records, photographs, and other materials that complement the official records. The collections housed in the Archives are unique, and as a result never loaned or checked–out to patrons.

The State Archives of Florida acquired the Florida Folklife Collection in 1995 when the state’s folklife programs were reorganized. The Florida Folklife Collection is a rich archival collection documenting the folk arts, crafts, customs, lore, games, music, and dance of many of Florida’s cultural communities. These communities are representative of sister communities across the country sharing the same national, ethnic, religious, and cultural traditions. The collection also documents the administration and presentation of the Florida Folk Festival, the nation’s oldest continuous folk festival. In addition, it traces the development of the folklife field, including the work of some of the nation’s most prominent folklorists and one of the country’s earliest state folklife programs.

The Florida Folklife Digitization and Education Project’s goals were achieved through three major project activities:

  1. Creating an index to provide item-level access to approximately 45,952 photographic images and approximately 5,537 audio recordings
  2. Creating catalog records and digital images of 12,000 of the most significant and representative indexed images
  3. Creating five educational units using digitized materials from the Folklife Collection.

 

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Digitization of Photographs (and Sound)

 

Figure 3: Shrimper Dale Davis attaching a lazy line to the tail bag, 1985
 
Figure 3: Shrimper Dale Davis attaching a “lazy line” to the tail bag, 1985.

 

The images consist of negatives, photographs, and slides produced or collected by the Bureau of Florida Folklife Programs and the Florida Folklife Archive. They depict folklife festivals and events such as the annual Florida Folklife Festival. Featured are artisans and craftsmen such as quilters, carvers, and weavers, and their work; performances of folk dancers and musicians; educational and cultural programs sponsored by the Bureau of Florida Folklife Programs. Also included are various ethnic groups and their art, including the Seminole Indians; persons employed in traditional Florida industries such as shrimping and turpentining; and, Florida architecture.

Approximately 13,000 images were selected, digitized, and cataloged (using standardized vocabularies, including both Library of Congress Subject Headings and Name Authorities and professionally accepted folklife vocabularies), and made available on the State Library and Archives Florida Memory Project Web site. The images were scanned and cataloged with existing equipment, using nationally recognized and accepted formats, guidelines, standards, and procedures.

 

Figure 4: Recordings from the Florida Folklife Collection
 
Figure 4: Recordings from the Florida Folklife Collection.

 

Though not in the original grant proposal, staff did eventually digitize a number of sound recordings from the Folklife Collection. The Collection contains more than 5,000 audio recordings which cover a wide range of material, including public musical performances, fieldwork recordings and over fifty years of the Florida Folk Festival. Historic sound recordings, many of which have not been heard since they were first recorded in the 1950s, have been recovered, restored, and digitized following standards set forth by the Library of Congress American Folklife Center. Three promotional CDs have been produced, receiving airplay from stations throughout the United States, and on radio stations as far away as Australia, England, Germany, and Switzerland:

  1. Music from the Florida Folklife Collection: from Shove It Over, a WPA recording of a work song performed by Zora Neale Hurston, to Orange Blossom Special, performed by Gamble Rogers and Will McLean, this CD spans fifty years of Florida folk music.
  2. More Music from the Florida Folklife Collection: this CD features selections from well–known artists such as Don Grooms, Etta Baker, Bill Monroe, Doc Watson, and Jean Ritchie.
  3. Shall We Gather At The River: African–American Sacred Music from the Florida Folklife Collection: this disc highlights Florida’s African American religious music traditions. The collection features both nationally recognized acts and previously unknown local artists, including the Dixie Hummingbirds, the Georgia Sea Island, the Versiteers, and the Amigo Male Singers.

 

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Educational Unit Development

 

Figure 5: Gabriel Brown playing guitar for Rochelle French and Zora Neale Hurston, Eatonville, Florida, 1935
 
Figure 5: Gabriel Brown playing guitar for Rochelle French and Zora Neale Hurston, Eatonville, Florida, 1935.

 

The State Archives Education Officer researched the series within the Folklife Collection to identify themes or subjects documented to a sufficient depth to create at least four educational units reflecting diverse subject areas. The Education Officer looked for components that reflected subjects of cultural and educational significance. She then made a final selection based on the significance of the material and the quality and quantity of material available in various media such as photographs, written transcripts, slides, and audio recordings. The following five folklife educational units were created, all correlated to Florida’s Sunshine State Standards http://www.firn.edu/doe/curric/prek12/frame2.htm, and made available via the Online Classroom of the Florida Memory Web site.

  1. Zora Neale Hurston, the WPA in Florida, and the Cross City Turpentine Camp (http://www.floridamemory.com/OnlineClassroom/Zora_Hurston/lesson_2.cfm)
    Zora Neale Hurston was already a published writer when she began working for the Florida division of the Work Projects Administration (WPA). In August of 1939, Hurston went on a recording expedition to the turpentine camps in Cross City, Florida. Includes photos and lesson plans.

  2. Netmaking and Net Fishing in Florida (http://www.floridamemory.com/OnlineClassroom/netmaking/)
    Longtime net maker and Fernandina resident Billy Burbank III discusses the history and practices of the netmaking trade. Includes photos and lesson plans.

  3. Lucreaty Clark, White Oak Basket Maker (http://www.floridamemory.com/OnlineClassroom/lucreaty/)
    Clark learned to make white oak baskets from her parents. Originally, these sturdy baskets were used to hold cotton and carry vegetables. The tradition of white oak basket making has been carried on by Lucreaty Clark’s grandson, Alphonso Jennings. Includes photos and lesson plans.

  4. Seminole Doll Making (http://www.floridamemory.com/OnlineClassroom/seminole_dolls/)
    Seminole doll maker Mary B. Billie and her daughter, Claudia C. John, discuss the history and practices of Seminole doll making. Includes photos and lesson plans.

  5. Sacred Harp (http://www.floridamemory.com/OnlineClassroom/sacred_harp/index.cfm)
    Documents and audio recordings in this unit are primarily drawn from The Sacred Harp Sing, a slide and tape show created by the Florida Folklife Program in 1978, and field recordings by Alton Morris in 1949 in Gainesville, Florida. Includes photos and lesson plans.

 

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Item Level Indexing

 

Figure 6: White Springs School fifth graders dancing, White Springs, Florida, 1959
 
Figure 6: White Springs School fifth graders dancing, White Springs, Florida, 1959.

 

Project staff met regularly with the State Folklorist and the database consultant in creating the database. A series of refinements and enhancements to the original design resulted in a complete, fully functional, easy–to–use data entry and searchable interface. Requirements for the database included:

  • Data elements compatible with Dublin Core metadata standards
  • Use of standardized vocabularies, including both Library of Congress Subject Headings and Name Authorities and professionally accepted folklife vocabularies
  • Powerful, flexible search capabilities.

The indexing describes a variety of characteristics of the selected items, among them the item type (still image, moving image, sound, text/manuscript), item title, date, program/event, collector/fieldworker, tradition bearer, ethnicity/nationality, genre/occupation, subject, and place. The Folklife Database can be found on the Florida Memory site at http://www.floridamemory.com/Collections/folklife/.

In addition to creating a detailed finding aid for researchers, indexing the Folklife Collection enabled staff to:

  • Provide an item–level inventory to the majority of the Folklife Collection
  • Identify any damaged and deteriorating sound recordings
  • Identify which items were duplicated, missing, misidentified, or mislabeled
  • Acquire a more holistic view of the collection, allowing for the creation of better overall descriptions
  • Easily search the photographs and sound recordings for use in creating CDs, postcards, and other promotional and Web materials
  • Better identify connections between items, and sometimes the relationship between the various series within the Folklife Collection.

 

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Conclusion

 

Figure 7: Buck Thompson playing blues guitar outside of his house, Hastings, Florida, 1985
 
Figure 7: Buck Thompson playing blues guitar outside of his house, Hastings, Florida, 1985.

 

Overall, the Florida Folklife Digitization and Education Project has been a tremendous success for the State Library and Archives of Florida and patrons alike. The Florida Folklife Collection, which came to the State Archives loosely organized and difficult to use, has now become one of the best described and most readily accessible collections housed in the Archives. In addition to the written descriptions, there are digitized photographs, biographies, sounds, and educational units, all of which are housed within an innovative and attractive Web page devoted solely to the collection. Not only does this project enhance the use and knowledge of the Folklife Collection, but it serves as an example for marketing and educational opportunities that the Archives will emulate with other collections. From music CDs to an enlarged Web presence, to a more prominent role in the Florida historical, library, and educational communities, this project has changed how the general public, as well as staff, see the State Archives and its role in Florida life. We hope that the conclusion of the Florida Folklife Digitization and Education Project will only serve as a beginning to more projects like this one that seek to bring Florida’s past and culture to more people. End of article

 

About the author

Joanna Norman is Archives Supervisor at the Florida State Archives in Tallahassee.

 


 

Contents Index

Copyright ©2007, First Monday.

Copyright ©2007,Joanna Norman.

The Florida Folklife Digitization and Education Project by Joanna Norman
First Monday, volume 12, number 7 (July 2007),
URL: http://firstmonday.org/issues/issue12_7/laise/index.html





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