I haven’t been blogging as much lately, but it’s not because I don’t have much to share. The adage “still waters run deep” seems fitting for the University of Florida Digital Collections of late. In recent months, we’ve upgraded our infrastructure repeatedly and we continue to make progress on working through our digitized-yet-unprocessed materials and in working through the files in need of migration. One collection’s history perhaps speaks best to our current and ongoing efforts, as our Digital Library Center Director explained in 2000:
“The Governor’s gift enables the creation and delivery of electronic library resources via the Internet in support of the University of Florida’s teaching and research objectives,” explains Erich Kesse, director of the Digital Library Center. “But, perhaps most important, Gov. Bryant’s gift provides the hardware infrastructure to develop and serve these and other resources to the people of the state of Florida.” (UF News Bureau)
The Governor’s gift founded the Papers of Governor C. Farris Bryant Collection, which began at PALMM (the statewide digital collection). Soon after, with technological advances, the former PALMM system came up against limitations. The old system is still operational, but PALMM’s new system has been deployed and collections are migrating. Similarly, the University of Florida Digital Collections (UFDC) didn’t even exist in 2000 as a separate entity and now that it does, we’ve migrated the Papers of Governor C. Farris Bryant Collection to the University of Florida Digital Collections.
Adding these 33,000+ pages to UFDC required additional infrastructure in terms of hardware with more server space and software from our programmer to people to process the materials. The infrastructure developed for this collection now also benefits all of UFDC and all of the state of Florida and the world through the over 2 million pages now online, and more adding daily. The 2 million pages from so many titles and collections are each much like the Papers of Governor C. Farris Bryant Collection in that the sheer quantity can’t explain the quality even though each added page adds to the overall quality of the existing materials.
The Governor’s papers tell the stories of the state of Florida, Florida’s citizens, a changing world with the explosive growth of Florida tourism and the US space program, a man and his family, the importance of the media, the influence of the University of Florida on its graduates and the influence of University of Florida graduates on the world and the University of Florida, and much more. The Governor’s papers support the Florida Law Collections and the Florida Digital Newspaper Library, respectively chronicling Florida’s laws and the state’s application and response to them. Even more directly, the Governor’s papers support The Floridians Collection which includes a vast array of writings – history, literature, community and political activism – from and about Florida. Florida will be a swing state in the coming election as it so often is because Florida is a state with many tales and ideas, orange groves and astronauts, St. Augustine as the oldest city and Disney World as a land outside of time.
William Faulkner is quoted with “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” The statement couldn’t be more true when dealing with technology – we never finish with our past because all digital creation includes the trace of prior technology and the continuing needs of that the prior technology supported – and it couldn’t be more true in dealing with Florida. The Papers of Governor C. Farris Bryant tell the stories of building the highways and across Florida (the roads that supported Florida tourism and the current concept of Florida) and of building higher education in Florida. The digital collection for those papers supports the information highway and all of education by building supporting UFDC and all of its collections, including UFDC’s role in building international collections like the Digital Library of the Caribbean.
Now that the Governor’s papers are loaded, we’ve begun work to connect the existing finding aid to the digital collection items in the best way possible, to allow both to operate separately and together while benefiting from and without inhibiting the unique benefits of each. This work also supports the proposal for a new digital collection on papers from the Everglades. The Everglades also capture Florida’s history in the balance of railroads, Florida’s development, and their sensitive ecology. Infrastructure for information access benefits the coming events in each of these stories of Florida’s history. The past will never be dead, but through the necessary infrastructure we can harness the strength of the past for the present and future, from the vast orange groves of Florida building the road to tomorrow.