Saving History in the Digital Age

By Dave Scheidecker, THPO Research Coordinator

It all started with a lightning strike. One random act of nature on the island of Egmont Key started a chain reaction… and a wildfire. That wildfire cleared a large area of the island of dense overgrowth, revealing ground and ruins that hadn’t been seen in decades. This gave the archaeologists of the Tribal Historic Preservation Office a chance to survey the island where members of the Seminole Tribe had been held prisoner 160 years before. The survey led to a renewed interest in the Seminole History of the island that is now under threat, being washed away by erosion and climate change. These efforts led to new collaboration with the University of South Florida 3D Lab, a project to digitally preserve the Island before it is gone!

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The USF 3D Field School team plan their scanning strategy for the day.

In order to record the Island, we first had to receive permission from the state rangers and the park service. Then the USF professors and students took the Egmont Key Ferry Service to the island, riding with other visitors while bringing with them supplies, including multiple FARO 3D scanners and even a quad-copter drone! The team set to work, arranging the scanners to get the best possible angles to record structures like the Egmont Lighthouse and Battery Charles Mellon. The drone flew overhead of the lighthouse, the cemetery, and the old helipad built where historians believe the prison that held Seminole captives had been located. All of this information was then brought back to the 3D lab and sewn together by the students into lifelike computer models.

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The students of the USF Field School arrange FARO laser scanners to get the best possible overlapping views of the Egmont Lighthouse.

We try to preserve the history so that it isn’t lost to the sands of time, and in this case with the sands of the eroding shore. This has been done by recording and sharing the stories of what has happened, and what has gone before. But historians don’t need to be limited to historic methods, and new technologies give us incredible new ways to share these stories. When this projects is complete, people will be able to visit Egmont Key on their computers and even their phones. They’ll be able to walk through the lands like the Seminole ancestors did, and experience their stories in new ways. Long after the island may be gone, the story will be preserved online for the generations to come.

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The combined scans come together in the lab to replicate the buildings on Egmont Key. When finished, this will be a full color virtual explorable model!
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A New Chapter: We Come for Good

By Domonique deBeaubien, THPO Collections Manager

It’s a long standing joke within our department that we operate out of a tin can. Our tiny modular building, built as a five year temporary home, still stands nestled between the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and a pristine cypress dome.   This little shabby structure looks a bit out of place in such a serene setting, but our office stands as a (not-so) subtle reminder that our Tribal Historic Preservation program can handle just about anything.

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Aerial view of Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and THPO modular building

It’s been a long journey getting to this point; the establishment of a Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) doesn’t come with a guide book.  In fact, it doesn’t come with any instructions at all, so each THPO must carve their own path through this tangled wood of historic preservation.  Working within the field of tribal historic preservation is notoriously complex and demanding.  THPOs across the United States are charged with the preservation and management of a tribe’s invaluable cultural resources, and must operate within a complex dynamic of state, federal, and reservation law.  At the same time, a THPO must also uphold the values and beliefs of the tribe that they serve.  As you can imagine, this isn’t often an easy task.

The STOF-THPO is made up of four different sections (Tribal Archaeology, Compliance, Collections and Archaeometry) who all work together to protect the Seminole Tribe’s cultural resources.  On a daily basis we conduct archaeological field work, review lengthy field reports, investigate archaeological objects, drink coffee, lead tours,  make new and exciting maps, participate in community events, and much more! Every day brings a new challenge that supports the preservation of Seminole cultural heritage.

So how is it done, you might be wondering?  The STOF-THPO was officially founded in 2002 by order of Tribal Council.  On the eve of the THPO’s 15 year anniversary, the Seminole Tribe of Florida has partnered with University of Florida Press to publish “We Come for Good: Archaeology and Tribal Historic Preservation at the Seminole Tribe of Florida.”

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We Come for Good: Archaeology and Tribal Historic Preservation at the Seminole Tribe of Florida

This volume serves as a guide to share the challenges, battles, and victories of the Seminole Tribe’s THPO program.  We Come for Good offers a unique tribal based perspective on how a THPO operates, builds internal capacity, and strives every day to become a leader in historic preservation.  So if you really want to know how it’s done, then all you have to do is read the book!  So please join us in celebrating this monumental achievement.  Grab your own copy online, and sit back and enjoy the journey.

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THPO Field Technician Shawn Keyte reviewing We Come for Good.  He really really likes it. 

Geocaching

By Oscar Carrasquillo Rivera, Maintenance Shift Supervisor

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What is Geocaching?

Geocaching is a real-world treasure/scavenger hunt that’s happening right now, all around you, anywhere and anytime. It’s very similar to a 160-year-old game called letterboxing; compared to that geocaching has only been active for about 15 years, and has tons of great stories and videos, especially online. There are over 2 million active geocaches and over 6 million geocachers worldwide. So of course we are planning on joining the fun. Here at Big Cypress AH-TAH-THI-KI Museum we like adventures, exploring and learning new things, whether it’s from the past, present or future. If you have never played Geocaching before, here is a new adventure that the whole family should definitely try out if you’re feeling adventurous.

Geocaching 101

There was a geocache close by before, but because of some unfortunate reasons it has been deactivated. Due to popular request the Museum is looking into activating one in the very near future for anyone to come and earn them bragging rights.

I myself have seen how competitive some of these families can get. At one time or another I used to see anywhere from 1-2 to sometimes 9-15 people exchanging stories as well as artifacts, notes with small stories, objects, figurines from as far as from the other side of the world. It’s unbelievable how creative and how small but meaningful it may be. In a way Geocaching helps different families and cultures of the world come together.

All you have to do is go to https://www.geocaching.com understand the rules, sign up, download the app on your smart phone and start scavenge hunting adventures with your GPS.

It could be hidden in something tiny, camouflage, or something big.

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Will you find it….. come on, I’m sure you will.

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Although our adventure is easier but still beautiful, here’s a link of an example(s) you may encounter on another adventure:

Epic Adventure, — Wet Surprise (GC1YV80) — Geocache of the Week Video Edition

 

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Attending the Grand Opening of the New Hollywood Gym

By Tennile Jackson, Collections Assistant

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of joining fellow Seminole Tribe of Florida staff, and members of the Tribal community, to celebrate the grand opening of the Howard Tiger Recreation Center in Hollywood. Described as a historic day for the Tribe, the inaguration provided attendees with a firsthand look at the gym’s amenities and enlightened many about the history of the Recreation Department.

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The new Center was constructed over the past year and was built to replace the original gym established over 40 years ago. The two-story facility features a full size basketball court, fitness center, Boys and Girls Club, and culture department. The Center is also home to the Seminole Sports Hall of Fame collection consisting of several trophies, photographs and plaques honoring Seminole athletes. During the construction of the new gym, the items were temporarily housed at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum for safekeeping. As many may recall, selections from the collection formed a popular exhibit during their stay at the Museum. The items are now back at the gym and currently on display in the Center’s lobby.

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The event began with a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by a large crowd gathered outside the building eagerly awaiting entry. As we made our way through the doors, many bypassed the lobby and headed straight into the brightly lit gym whose entrance was off to the side. Upon entering, we were greeted by colorful banners, basketball hoops suspended from high ceilings, and a glossy hardwood floor emblazoned with symbols representative of the Tribe.

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Members of the Tribal Council and the family of Howard Tiger sat at center court as Moses Jumper Jr. stood between them and acted as the emcee. Throughout the ceremony, many individuals shared sports related stories from their youth while others expressed their gratitude to the Tribal Council who made the construction possible. Several of the speakers also paid tribute to the late Howard Tiger, who established the Tribe’s Recreation Department and mentored a number of the people who took part in the ceremony. The decorated military veteran and gifted athlete was honored with a bronze bust, unveiled at the dedication, to be permanently displayed in the Center’s lobby (pictured above).

The inauguration of this new gym is a testament to the Tribe’s ongoing commitment to serve the Tribal community and impact the lives of future generations.  I was thrilled to be a part of this momentous occasion.

 

Where the Wild Things Are!!

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Figure 1 Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum pond

 

     by:  Ellen Batchelor, Head of Security, Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum

When you think of the Ah-Tha-Thi-Ki Museum, the last thing most people would think of would be wildlife, but the fact is, IF, you time it right, are really quiet, and VERY lucky you just might get a chance to see some. Visitors a couple weeks ago from Germany  actually got to see a panther and a bobcat on the same visit! At first we were thinking someone just had a very active imagination, but when investigating it further, we discovered tracks and then actually saw the bobcat while returning to the museum!

Figure 2 Florida Panther
Figure 2
Florida panther

 

Figure 3 Florida bobcat
Figure 3
Florida bobcat

On most mornings it is not unusual to see several squirrels, a variety of birds, alligators and raccoons, while hearing the frogs, crickets, cicadas and birds but ,we have occasionally been able to spot, bear, deer, hogs, fox, opossums and turkeys. Rey Becerra, our resident animal expert, is available to answer any questions visitors might have about local wildlife. We have 2 hawks in residence. Ellen a Red shoulder hawk that was found on the boardwalk, as a very young bird, and then there is the Red tailed hawk Sable , we also have a crow, Charlie. They are all part of the animal presentations given here on campus from time to time, along with several turtles, various snakes (venomous and non-venomous) and various other “critters”.

Figur 4 Red shoulder hawk, Ellen
Figure 4
Red Shoulder hawk, Ellen

 

Figure 5 Red Wing hawk, Sable
Figure 5
Red Tail hawk, Sable

We also have a resident alligator we call Sally.  Each year, she hatches a couple dozen baby gators who “hang around” until she hatches babies again.  They then move to the other pond or to other areas of water on our campus.  (Museum staff refers to them as the 1-year-olds, or the 2-year-olds, etc.)

Figure 6 Florida alligator, Sally
Figure 6
Florida alligator, Sally

Another big attraction at the museum each year is the arrival of hummingbirds. They arrive in late April and stay until mid to late July. It is quite a treat to see them zooming around in front of the museum and in the cypress dome. They “dive bomb” each other while feeding from the fire plants that are planted around the museum campus. Visitors and employees alike seem to be fascinated with their activities. There are over 300 species of hummingbirds, but only a few breed in the United States. A few hundred however, travel into the states as part of their migration. We feel so lucky to part of their route.

Figure 7 Red Throated hummingbird
Figure 7
Ruby Throated hummingbird

Let’s not forget that there are other kinds of wildlife! The flora of the Ah-Tah- Thi-Ki Museum is spectacular. The beautiful and lush ferns that take over the floor of the cypress dome at different times of the year are quite a sight as you wind your way around the twists and turns of the raised boardwalk. Parts of the dome stay wet for a few months out of the year making the plant life more lush and full than usual. You can find many species of ferns in the confines of the acres that make up the rear portion of the museum’s boardwalk. There are also guava, fig, plum, Custer apples, bananas, and grapes that grow in the area.You will also find several varieties of orchids.

Figure 8 Some of many ferns at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum boarwalk
Figure 8
Some of many ferns at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum boardwalk

There are also many trees and plants that are used by the Seminoles for medicine. Both modern and traditional medicines are used today. Signage along the boardwalk tells about some of the more commonly used plants, while also informing the visitor of the local wildlife that inhabits the area.

Figure 9 The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum's boardwalk
Figure 9
The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum’s boardwalk

Our winding boardwalk is just a little over a mile long. It is open to visitors year round, except when we have to close it due to lightening, or the occasional emergency repair. It winds through a cypress dome located directly behind the museum and was once home to Chairman James Billie’s camp. The twists and turns are themselves interesting enough, however, you add the element of not knowing exactly WHAT is around the next curve, making it a new experience every time! Most of my mornings start out with a trip around the boardwalk, and I must say it is a grand way to start the day. You can find me there on hot, cold, even rainy days. I keep waiting to turn the corner and get the photo of my life!

Figure 10 Florida wild iris
Figure 10
Florida wild iris