Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Florida History

A place to begin research on Florida History.

Introduction to Special Collections & Archives

Special Collections & Archives (SCA) is a division of FSU Libraries. The mission of SCA is the preservation of rare and unusual books and original primary source materials, as well as facilitating research through providing access to these materials. SCA collaborates with other departments to provide instruction that gives students an introduction to primary source literacy and they also support active learning and discovery through exhibitions and other programs. The division includes several areas that work towards these goals: the Special Collections & Archives Research Center, Heritage & University Archives (HUA), The Claude Pepper Library, and the Digital Library Center.


SCA’s collections of unique manuscripts, historic maps, rare books, photographs, and university archives offer abundant opportunities for discovery and scholarship.Their collecting strengths include: Napoleon and the French Revolution, poetry, political papers, artists’ books, children’s literature, Florida history, Southern business history, and the history of Florida State University. However, our 90,000 volumes and over one million manuscript items cover more than just these strengths. If you are interested in learning more about Special Collections & Archives, click here. If you would like to search our collections further, click here. Finally, if you are interested in instruction with SCA, click here.

Primary Sources

Browsing sources 

  • Before navigating the gallery slides, keep in mind that these resources are not meant to be exhaustive, but rather suggestions of what Special Collections & Archives (SCA) can offer for each topic. Always search our databases with your own search terms and keywords to ensure you are discovering all relevant results.
  • The main databases listed in the following slides are the finding aid database, the library catalog, and Diginole. If you need more general instruction on how to use SCA databases, or when to use which database, please see the box below titled, "Locating Materials in Special Collections & Archives."
  • If your search terms are not generating results, please consult the "Developing Keyword Searches" box below, which has suggestions for how to improve your searches.

Image: "Wakulla Springs, 20 Miles South of Tallahassee, Fla," Heritage Protocol Postcard Collection. Heritage & University Archives, Florida State University Libraries, Tallahassee, Florida. http://purl.flvc.org/fcla/dt/1927510.

Early Florida 

  • To search Special Collections & Archives' (SCA) manuscript resources related to early Florida, search the following classification in ArchivesSpace: Discovery, Exploration, and Colonization. This classification collects our resources related to early Florida history. 
  • To narrow your search in the library's catalog, it is helpful to search subject headings and limit location to "Strozier, Special Collections." Books that appear under these subject headings likely also are tagged with other relevant headings that can be browsed as well. Subject headings relevant to early Florida include, but are not limited to:
    • Frontier and pioneer life -- Florida
    • Florida -- Discovery and exploration
    • Florida -- colonization
    • Florida -- History -- Spanish Colony
  • More specifically, SCA has the McGregor Collection of rare books. This collection focuses on Renaissance travel and early America, and has several resources that are specific to Florida. The link above connects to the McGregor page on the Rare Books Collections research guide, and has instructions on how to search the McGregor collection through the library's catalog.
  • Digitized resources relating to early Florida include the Caribbean Collections, which contains Florida related books, as well as numerous early maps of the Caribbean.

Image: "Kaarte van de Golf van Mexico en het Zuyd America: waar in Porto-Bello en Panama aangewezen werden," Special Collections & Archives, Florida State University Libraries, Tallahassee, Florida. http://purl.flvc.org/fsu/fd/FSU_G43901700R8.

Florida Industry & Agriculture 

 

  • Manuscript resources related to Florida industry and agriculture can be found within the Florida classification in the finding aid database. There is not a classification or subject that is more specific to this topic, so keyword searches may be necessary to find further material. The following represent a selection of related collections:
  • To narrow your search in the library's catalog, it is helpful to search subject headings and limit location to "Strozier, Special Collections." Books that appear under these subject headings likely also are tagged with other relevant headings that can be browsed as well. Subject headings relevant to Florida agriculture and industry include, but are not limited to:
    • Railroads -- Florida
    • Agriculture -- Florida
    • Industries -- Florida
  • To find digitized materials relating to Florida industry and agriculture in Diginole, search the Florida History and Heritage collections.

Image: "Saturn V Moon Rocket," Claude Pepper Papers, Claude Pepper Library, Florida State University Libraries. http://purl.flvc.org/fsu/fd/FSUPhotoF(01). 

Tallahassee History 

  • If you are interested in the history of Florida State University or any of its predecessors, Heritage & University Archives (HUA) has an excellent research guide available for collection highlights and further guidance on how to navigate our FSU-related collections.
  • To find manuscript collections on local history, there are several classifications that may contain relevant collections: Heritage and University ArchivesFlorida Collections, and Florida State University Collections. There is not a classification specific to Tallahassee history, so in addition to browsing these areas, a keyword search is also recommended. You can also browse through the collections tagged with the subject Tallahassee, though this is also not exhaustive.
  • When searching the library's catalog for rare books, it can be useful to search for subject headings and limit the location to "Special Collections". Books tagged with these subject headings may also have other relevant tags that you can browse through as well. Some relevant subject headings for local history are:
    • Tallahassee (Fla.) -- History
    • Leon County (Fla.) -- History.
  • The digital repository also has numerous collections that are available online for this topic within Florida history, the following are a selection of these.

Image: "Greetings From Tallahassee, Florida," Heritage Protocol Postcard Collection. Heritage & University Archives, Florida State University Libraries, Tallahassee, Florida. http://purl.flvc.org/fcla/dt/1927503. 

The Civil War in Florida 

  • To search Special Collections & Archives' (SCA) manuscript resources related to early Florida, use the archival finding aid database Archives Space. This database has the American Civil War classification that collects our Civil War Manuscripts. This classification is not exhaustive, so we encourage you to also use your keywords or search terms to search Archives Space in its entirety. 
  • To narrow your search in the library's catalog, it is helpful to search subject headings and limit location to "Strozier, Special Collections."
  • When searching the library's catalog for rare books, it can be useful to search for subject headings and limit the location to "Special Collections". Books tagged with these subject headings may also have other relevant tags that you can browse through as well. Relevant subject headings for the Civil War include:
    • Slavery
    • Florida--History--Civil War, 1861-1865
    • Florida--Politics and government--1861-1865
    • Confederate States of America--History
    • Reconstruction (U.S. history, 1865-1877)
  • The digital repository also has numerous collections that are available online for this topic within Florida history, the following are a selection of these. Browse Civil War Era Materials to find unique primary sources.
  • To learn more about the history of slavery and post-war reconstruction in Florida, Special Collections has a dedicated research guide.

Image: "Document citing medical absence for Lieutenant Hugh Black," Captain Hugh Black Papers, 1840-1913, Special Collections & Archives, Florida State University Libraries, Tallahassee, Florida. http://purl.flvc.org/fcla/dt/2877032.

Florida Politics 

  • To search Special Collections & Archives' (SCA) manuscript resources related to Florida Politics, use the archival finding aid database Archives Space. This database has the Florida Political Collections classification that collects our Florida Political Manuscripts. This classification is not exhaustive, so we encourage you to also use your keywords or search terms to search Archives Space in its entirety. 
  • When searching the library's catalog for rare books, it can be useful to search for subject headings and limit the location to "Special Collections" or "Claude Pepper Library." Books tagged with these subject headings may also have other relevant tags that you can browse through as well. Relevant subject terms for Florida Politics include:
    • Florida--Politics and government
    • Florida--Politics and government--1821-1865
    • Florida--Politics and government--1865-1950
    • Florida--Politics and government--1951-
  • The digital repository also has numerous collections that are available online for this topic within Florida history, the following are a selection of these.
  • Please note that to access some of the Florida Political Collections and books, you may have to visit the Claude Pepper Library in the Claude Pepper Center, 636 W Call St. Clicking here will show you which manuscript collections physically reside there.

Image: "Florida NOW News: National Organization of Women," National Organization for Women, Tallahassee Chapter Records, Claude Pepper Library, Florida State University Libraries, Tallahassee, Florida. http://purl.flvc.org/fsu/fd/FSU_MSS2008003_B17_F08_001.

Locating Materials in Special Collections & Archives

FSU Libraries Catalog Advanced Search - https://fsu.catalog.fcla.edu/fs.jsp?ADV=S
The FSU Libraries Catalog is the best source of information on rare books collections. It also includes description of some archival collections, with links out to finer description in the Finding Aid Database (see below).

  • To limit to Special Collections holdings, use Location: “Strozier, Special Collections”
  • Limiting by year (“Published from”) is often useful to Special Collections researchers
  • Filter search results using terms in left-hand column
  • Click through search results to get full records for books or collections
  • Anything mentioning “Special Coll” in Location information is available through the Special Collections Research Center reading room in 110 Strozier Library
  • To request specific books in reading room, use the Title and Call Number (Location)

Finding Aid Database - https://archives.lib.fsu.edu
The Finding Aid Database is the best source of information about our archives collections. 

  • Searches can be limited by record type; keyword, title, creator, and subject; and by date
  • Filter search results using terms in right-hand column
  • Click through search results to get full records for collections or archival items
  • Researchers can browse by topical area by clicking on “Classifications”
  • Most collections available through the Special Collections Research Center reading room in 110 Strozier Library
  • Some collections note that “Users may access this collection at the Claude Pepper Library” - Claude Pepper Center, 636 W Call St
  • To request specific items in the reading room, use the collection title, collection Identifier, and box number (citation)
  • Collections belonging to non-FSUL repositories can be accessed by using the contact information on the Repository’s page

Digital Library - http://diginole.lib.fsu.edu/digital_library
The FSU Digital Library Includes digital copies of Special Collections & Archives items, born-digital collections, and digital objects hosted for other organizations

  • Use keyword search at the top of the screen, advanced search in the tool bar, or click through themed collections to discover digital objects
  • Sort or Narrow results using terms in left-hand column or search within a collection using the search box on the right side.
  • Click through Search Results to get full records and see digital copies
  • Summary tab - see a digital copy
  • Item Description tab - information about the digital object
  • Click through “Subject(s)” to find related digital items
  • Check the “Is Part Of” field to find related items in Special Collections & Archives

Developing Keyword Searches

Keywords are what we use to search databases, but rarely does a single keyword produce perfect or complete results. Resources may not be described how you expect, and this is why approaching a search with multiple terms will produce the best outcome. 

When formulating keywords, focus on:

  • Identifying the main concepts of your topic or research question
  • Brainstorming synonyms and antonyms
  • Spelling out any words that are abbreviated
  • Avoiding abstract concepts as search terms

Example Search

Research Question: What is the history of the Everglades and how are they a unique ecosystem?

Keywords: Everglades, Florida, swamp, marsh, wetlands, mangroves, ecosystem, flood control, Lake Okeechobee, Florida Bay, cypress, Miami, manatees, alligators, sawgrass, Kissimmee River, biodiversity, coastal prairie, aquifer, environmental restoration

The Florida State University Libraries
Library Hours | Maps and Directions | Employment | Giving to the Libraries | The FSULib Blog | Library Homepage

Florida State University Libraries | 116 Honors Way | Tallahassee, FL 32306 | (850) 644-2706