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Florence Snyder: Notes from the Florida State Archives

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Florence Snyder

If you want to feel good — really good — about your government, pay a visit to the overworked, underpaid band of public servants who staff Florida’s State Library and Archives.

These are the people who preserve, protect and defend our history from those who would rewrite it for short-term political or financial gain. Florida’s archivists and librarians are paragons of competence. They are bottomless pits of the childlike curiosity and thirst for knowledge that moves a society in the right direction.

Turnover is not an issue at the Library and Archives. The new kids have been around for five years, and the gray-haired eminences were brought on back when Bob Graham was governor.

Just nine archivists tend the vast collection of stuff that tells Florida’s story. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics were important tools of the archivists’ trade long before “STEM” became a ubiquitous acronym.  Without their expertise in chemistry and climatology, priceless treasures like Baptista Boazio‘s Saint Augustine Map, commissioned by Queen Elizabeth I in 1589, would have long ago disintegrated.

The muscular left-brains who labor in the R.A. Gray Building make it possible for legislative staffers, opposition researchers, survivors of Florida’s infamous Dozier School, and generations of writers and students to access parchment and vellum and onion skin papers, along with the Dictabelts and CDs where our history resides.

New material arrives every day, and somehow, this tiny staff manages to keep track of it.

October is American Archives Month, and a good time to drop by the R.A. Gray Building and see your tax dollars working very hard and extremely smart.

Written By

Florence Beth Snyder is a Tallahassee-based lawyer and consultant.

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