Fashion, Beauty, and the Challenge of Identification: A Seminole Tribune Story

 

By Tara Backhouse, Collections Manager

 

Here at the Museum we’ve partnered with the Seminole Tribune, the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s own newspaper, to care for thousands of photographs that their hardworking reporters took for the Tribe for over 30 years.  From STOF events and community milestones, to personal vacations and news from Indian Country, these reporters really went to the ends of the earth in order to document decades of happenings.  You can imagine that is a lot of photos.  We estimate there are around 30,000!  Since they were transferred to the Museum in 2015 we’ve been working hard to get them cataloged and into our database, so that we can keep track of them and preserve them for the future.  I’m happy to report that we are almost halfway there, with over 15,000 cataloged into our database!  This is impressive if you consider that these are not the only objects we’re cataloging.  Seminole history doesn’t stop, and neither do we!  Come see us if you want to learn how and why we take care of the things we take care of.  It is definitely an eye-opener for most people.

 

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A screenshot from our collections management database: this is what a well identified photograph looks like in our system

These days, photographs are digital, and the newspaper has no need for our services with their current work. However, we are happy to help care for the pictures they took in the past, because they are a treasure trove of information about recent Tribal life and activities.  It’s our mission to help preserve those things, and it’s also our mission to bring this history back to anyone in the community who wants it.  One of the ways we do this is by providing copies of photographs in our collection to community members who want pictures of themselves or families.  In order to do this, we need to gather identifications, because not all of the photos come with any identifying information.  Getting photographs identified is harder than it sounds, and that’s because of the number of photographs we’re working with, and the fact that we have to preserve them once they are cataloged, and they can’t be traveled around and handled by lots of people.

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By storing photographs and documents in acid-free containers, out of direct light, and in conditions of stable temperature and humidity, we can ensure these objects last for generations

 

We can overcome the latter problem by showing people copies or digital versions of the photographs at a community event, for example, but it’s still an issue of scale. We can’t spread out 30,000 photographs on a table, so we have to choose a selection to take with us.

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This is just some of the 30,000 photographs we took custody of in 2015 and we had quite an organizational job ahead of us before cataloging could take place

And choosing the best selection of photographs is difficult. The people we run into may not know anything about the selection we have chosen to share at that time, but they might be very familiar with a selection of photographs that is waiting back at the Museum.  That is why the online collections section of our website comes in handy.  Here, people can search for names, places and events in order to find photographs they are interested in:

http://semtribe.pastperfectonline.com/

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Other ways we can share smaller subsets of pictures are through the Seminole Tribune itself, and through the Museum’s blog! (Hint: that’s what I’m doing now)

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Recently I came across just one such subset. Last month I cataloged a bunch of similar portrait-style close-up photographs of well-dressed people.

 

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People are often wearing patchwork or other types of traditional Seminole clothing and posing thoughtfully for the pictures.

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 Traditional clothing is a popular category at STOF clothing contests, and in this portrait Jimmy O’Toole Osceola wears an early 20th century style bigshirt and turban combination (ATTK Catalog No. 2015.6.13240)

 

Maybe they were doing this because they were all ready to participate in a clothing contest, such as the ones held every year Tribal Fair.  People spend a lot of time making clothing for these contests and then get together to show them off and compete in categories. Indeed, some of the photographs are labeled with the initials “TF96” on the back, and we know that refers to the Tribal Fair celebration in 1996.

 

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This portrait of an unidentified man wearing a patchwork jacket and cowboy hat was taken at the Seminole Tribe of Florida Tribal Fair celebration in 1996 (ATTK Catalog No. 2015.6.14286)

But we’re not sure that all these photographs were taken at a Tribal Fair event. Clothing contests also take place at other times and on other reservations.  And some may not have been taking during contests at all.

 

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Rita Gopher takes part in a clothing contest in Immokalee in 1999 (ATTK Catalog Numbers 2015.6.14274 and .14275

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As the Museum and THPO’s first executive director, Billy L. Cypress often showed off traditional garb like this, so this photograph could have been taken at any number of events (ATTK Catalog No. 2015.6.13280)

 

We wonder how often the newspaper was in the habit of taking such stunning pictures of so many photogenic folks? Was it only for a couple of years?  Could it be for at any event or any location? Do you know any of the people that we haven’t identified in this blog?  Any information we can gather helps us preserve and share the past.

These are nice portraits, and we imagine that if you were the subject of one, you probably didn’t get a copy at the time.  It wasn’t that easy 15 or 20 years ago, when film had to be commercially developed and printed.  These days we can make digital copies quickly and we’d be happy to do that for you.  Maybe you’re looking for a nice photo of a family member?  Or maybe you just want to see what the Seminole Tribune reporters were up to from the 1980’s to the early 2000’s.  The easiest way to see our photographs is to browse over 11,000 through the online collections on our website.  Try this shortened link to bring up just the Seminole Tribune photograph collection:

 

https://tinyurl.com/y86latru

 

But if you’re in the area, you can also come to the Museum library to see the photographs.  We’re happy to help and it’s easier if you make an appointment.  Just call 863-902-1113 and ask for the Library.   See you soon!

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It’s Bigger on the Inside

 By Tara Backhouse and Misty Snyder

Hello Everyone!

Last February we brought you exciting news of our inventory project! Ok, you may be scratching your heads now, wondering how inventory can be exciting.  If so, than you need to read Misty’s blog from February!  As she demonstrates, any project with person-sized boxes is exciting.

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It is also exciting because of the story behind the inventory, and the story of what we inventoried. We have a collection of nearly 200,000 items, and that collection is always growing.  In the last 10 years, it has grown by over 700%!  We now have over 2000 historic objects and pieces of art, 20,000 newspapers, maps, documents, works on paper, and audiovisual materials, and at least 145,000 photographs. Hundreds of our documents, letters, maps and newspapers date from the 19th century, and they tell us about the Seminole War period and the Seminole Tribe’s journey to self-determination.  The postcards and photographs from the post-war late 19th and early 20th century show the Tribe’s journey to federal recognition and financial success.

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The Museum is a special place. We serve the Seminole community and we are dedicated to preserving Tribal history as well as its current events.  We continue to collect photographs, documents and audiovisual material that document the Tribe’s activities in recent decades. In fact, most of our photographs have come from the Seminole Tribune, the Tribe’s newspaper. The Tribune photographers have traversed all six Seminole reservations and associated communities for the last 30-40 years, documenting important people, events and community life, as well as featuring historical pieces about the Indians of Florida. These photographs tell the story of a tribe famous for leading the charge in Indian sovereignty during the decades they charted that path.

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A 2015 donation of 30,000 photographs was quite a challenge to organize!

 

We were honored to have taken custody of these photographs. However, they rapidly filled our vault, and we wondered how we’d have space to properly house these objects.  Also, we wondered how we’d be able to keep taking important donations for years to come.  We knew we couldn’t make the vault bigger, so what was our next option?

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Large Fixed Shelving Filled Up Fast and Left Two Much Empty Floor Space!

 

With the help of a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services we were able to begin a renovation project in the fall of 2016. The first step was to inventory and pack the collection, and this is when Misty had to use the person-sized boxes!

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This step was complete in early 2017 and after the contents of the vault were moved to museum-quality off-site storage, we got into the nitty gritty of the demo phase.  The carpet and dropped ceiling were removed.  Then a layer of concrete was poured at the back of the vault in order to create a raised area where the movable shelving could be installed onto rails.  The edges of the ceiling were sealed to prevent pest problems, and HVAC vents and lighting apparatuses had to be re-engineered in order to suit the preferred open-style ceiling.  Then the entire vault was painted a bright light color, to maximize the illumination in the space.  After that, five long rows of movable shelving were installed.

For the final part of the renovation project, we had a custom stainless steel table installed over a special oversized flat file that we left room for in the front of the vault. This table gave us a workspace while providing storage for historic maps underneath.

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I think you’ll agree, the new vault looks great! We estimate that the new shelving will double our storage capacity, providing much needed space to continue to preserve Seminole history.  We’ve started to bring the collection back and it’s good to see the shelves and drawers starting to fill up!

It will take time to unpack and re-install all the material, but we expect to complete the process by the end of the year.  And we’ve got a lot to catalog in the meantime!  We’re anxious to show everyone the beautiful new “bigger on the inside” vault in early 2018.  Let us know if you’d like to see it!

In the meantime, you can see amazing items from all our collections check on our Online Collections Page here: http://semtribe.pastperfectonline.com/)

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This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services [MA-30-16-0122-16]

An Alphabetic Opportunity at the Museum

Hello again from the Museum’s Collections team!  We are happy to host many volunteers and work experience participants throughout the year.  This summer an enterprising young journalist used our library resources to design an alphabetic tour through Native American history, with a special focus on Florida.  This proved to be a good way to explore an interest and consider a possible career.  Please enjoy Randean’s article, and let us know if we can help you explore something!

 

Native American History A to Z

By Randean Osceola, summer intern at the Ah-Tha-Thi-Ki museum.

My name is Randean Osceola, and I am a part of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, I am a member of the Wind Clan family. I am an upcoming freshman at Sagemont high school. This summer I decided to be an intern at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum through the summer work experience program (SWEP). I’m not doing this to pass time or earn money; I’m doing this to get better at reading and writing, and because my mom wanted me to. I decided to write this article because I wanted to inform people about our past.

A: Abiaka Jones “Sam” was the head of a band of Miccosukees during wartime. Seminoles joined him on his quest against the United States. For this reason his “campaign” against the U.S. was one of the most successful. His legacy is a big part of why we are here today.

B: Chief Billie Bowlegs, “Billie Bolek”, was a leader of the Seminoles in Florida in the second and third parts of the Seminole war against the United States. He resisted at first, but eventually moved to Indian Territory.

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C: Chief Cowkeeper was the Hitchiti speaking Oconee chief at Payne’s Prairie. He challenged Jonathan Bryan, who was trying to steal Native American land. He was torn between peace and war, but later decided to fight for his land.

D: Dunlawton Plantation Sugar Mill Ruins was a Seminole war battle site. It was destroyed in 1835. In 1846 attempts were made of reestablishing the sugar mill, however those attempts failed.

E: Everglades was a safe place for the Native Americans during wartime. While the Seminoles knew the ways of the Everglades, the soldiers were lost.

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F: Fort Brooke, located on the west coast of Florida, was significant in the Removal era. In March 1841 Wildcat, a war leader, went to Fort Brooke to have a meeting with the soldiers. It was in Fort Brooke that President Tyler allowed the Seminoles to stay in Florida for a time, but they were not allowed to leave their land except to go to Fort Brooke. They would receive no food or water.

G: Geronimo “Go-Tay-Thlay” was an Apache chief and a medicine man. Geronimo led his followers on a series of escapes from the soldiers. However, he eventually surrendered to General Nelson Miles where he stayed in captivity until his death.

H: Hills Hadjo was a Seminole leader during the 19th century. He was an active part of the Seminole wars. He was one of the chief instigators of the second uprising.

I:  (The) Indian Removal Act was signed into law by Andrew Jackson on May 28th, 1830; this gave Jackson the Mississippi land in exchange for Indian land.  Only a few tribes went peacefully, many resisted and later agreed, but only a few stayed in their homeland.

J: John Quincy Adams was a U.S. president who differed from earlier presidents Jackson and Monroe in his policy towards the Indians. He was determined that there should be no forcible removal of any tribes. Adams forbade the state of Georgia from surveying the Indian lands.

K: (Chief) King Payne he was the son of Chief Cowkeeper and one of the leading chiefs in the Seminole Tribe. He led his people against the Spanish and the Americans during wartime.

L: Lake Okeechobee was desired by many soldiers during wartime, however none were successful. Not long after the soldiers were rejected, a Seminole resident, James B. Brighton used the land and made another reservation.

M: Muscogulges was the referred name to the Creeks, Seminole, Yahmasee, Tuckabatchee, Hitchiti, Koasati, Timuca, and many other ancient tribes. Rather than naming each one the soldiers referred to the Native Americans as Muscogulges.

N: Naiche, was the last chief of the Chirricahua Apache Tribe. He was the youngest son of Chief Cochise. He spent 27 years in captivity along with some of his people, until he was released in 1913. Naiche and his people continued to fight bravely against the U.S. and Spain until death did them part.

O: Osceola “Billy Powell” was a military leader during the Seminole wars. He stood up for his people, as a force to be reckoned with. If it wasn’t for Osceola we wouldn’t be here today.

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P: “Payne’s Prairie Preserve State Park”, is land that was home to many Seminoles. It was the site of action during wartime, and now has a visitor’s center with displays on the war.

Q: Quanah Parker, he was a war leader of the Comanche people. He fought in the Red River war during 1874-1875 with Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie.

R: Rain-in-the-face was a Native American leader. He was a warrior at a young age: having fought in a December, 1866 battle against Captain William Fetterman’s troops during the Civil War.

S: Seminoles are Native American people originally from Florida. Many live in modern day Oklahoma, but the descendants of the unconquered still live in Florida. The Seminole Tribe of Florida is one of the federally recognized tribes of today.

T: The Trail of Tears was the name given to Andrew Jackson’s actions towards the Native Americans to vacate their lands. He forced them to go to Indian Territory- they set off on foot. A Choctaw Indian told the Alabama newspaper that it was a “Trail of Tears and Death.”

U: The Ute people are the oldest residents of Colorado, their home is in the mountains and vast areas. They are said to have lived there since the beginning of time-there is no proof of them ever not being there.

V: Captain (Joseph) Van Swearingen, was recognized because of his actions during the Battle of Okeechobee. His brave actions lead him to death. The U.S. army troops made a fort in Martin County Florida during the Second Seminole War, they named it after him.

W: Wilma Mankiller, she became the first female Cherokee leader. She won many awards for her leadership and was even Women of the Year in 1986.

X: Xega or “Jaega,” were Indians identified by 16th century Spanish explorers. There is little information about the Jaega tribe, but there are known links to the Ais tribe. The Jaega tribe and the Ais tribe are joined together by marriage. Just west of Boynton Beach in an area of agricultural reserve people have found what seem to be Jaega remains.

Y: Yoholo-Mico, was a Creek Indian. He protested the Indian Springs Treaty. He was the head man of Eufaula town, as well as an outstanding warrior.

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Z: The Zunis are from New Mexico. Spaniards found their land and demanded they move out. Instead of submitting the Zuni’s resisted. The Zuni’s are still apart of New Mexico today.

 

Bibliography of resources available at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum Library:

Wright, Leitch Jr. Creeks and Seminoles. Lincoln: University of Lincoln Press, 1986. Print.

Hann, John H. Indians of Central and South Florida 1513-1763. Gainesville: A Florida Heritage, 2003. Print.

Wood, N.B. Lives of Famous Indian Chiefs. Des Moines: Marc Woodmansee, 1906. Print.

Mahon, John K. History of the Second Seminole War. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1985. Print.

Horan, James D. The McKinney-Hall Portrait Gallery of American Indians. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1972. Print.

Covington, James W. The Seminoles of Florida. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1993. Print.

Counting what Counts

An Inventory Adventure

By

Misty Snyder, Collections Assistant

Completing an inventory doesn’t sound like the most exciting thing to the majority of people…

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… but it is a very important component of Collections Management. Here at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum we have 8 main collections. These include:

 

1) Permanent Archival Collection- all items that are essentially paper in nature (newspapers, postcards, photos, government reports, books, periodicals, reference works, maps, and  manuscripts).

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2) Oral History Collection- oral histories and other recordings from the Seminole community, subject to controlled access procedures.

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3) Audiovisual Collection –non-accessioned film and audio recordings of various Seminole events.

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Tribal Spirits: Indians of the Americas

4) General Reference Photography Collection – a non-accessioned collection of photos and slides that depict Seminole life in Florida.                                   pic5

Color photo of women in traditional clothing cooking in a chickee.

5) Library Collection – books, journals, and unpublished manuscripts relating to Native American culture, museum practices, and the archaeology of Florida, accessible to the staff, general public, and Tribal community.

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“American Indian Art Magazine”, Spring 1979.

5) Permanent Artifact Collections – all non-paper-based historic items such as baskets, clothing, militaria, archaeological collections, beaded items, dolls, artwork, sculptures.

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Female palmetto fiber doll w/ one row of patchwork.

 

6) Teaching Collection – a non-accessioned collection that consists of objects used by education and outreach staff at presentations and events.

7) Exhibit Collection – a non-accessioned collection containing objects that can be permanently exhibited or loaned out with STEP traveling exhibits.

8) THPO Collection – archaeological materials obtained largely from surveys conducted by the Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) since 2003.

(To see more amazing items from these collections check out our Online Collections Database here: http://semtribe.pastperfectonline.com/)

The current inventory project includes the first 4 of these collections, which are housed in the Archival Vault, and serves two purposes: to satisfy our Collections Management Policy of a biannual inventory of our collections and to prepare the collections for offsite storage during the completion of a vault renovation. This renovation, made possible through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ “Museums for America” collections stewardship program, will install high-density movable shelving in the Museum’s main building vault. The new shelving will double our current storage capacity, providing much needed space to continue to grow the collections as well as to properly house items.

In order to install compacted shelving in the archival vault, EVERYTHING needs to be removed from the vault and stored elsewhere, and to do this, it must all be accounted for through an inventory.

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The types of items that were inventoried range from artwork on paper, historic newspapers, rare books, government documents, manuscripts, photographs, postcards, maps, and a large variety of audiovisual and ephemera materials.  Many have already been cataloged and housed in archival materials.  But some of the items, not yet cataloged, have needed some extra attention. For example, we removed enough rubber bands from recently acquired photos to make a rubber band ball the size of a softball! Just think of all the photographs that were saved from the deteriorating effects of being bound this way.  Not quite a world record, but we were impressed …

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World-record rubber band ball (according to Google)

After insuring that each item was adequately protected we securely packed them into over 200 moving boxes and recorded their respective locations.                       pic10

Some of the boxes were big enough to hold a person!

   And we used four of these giant rolls of bubble wrap. I’m all packed up and ready to go!

Very soon the collection will be transported by museum moving specialists to offsite museum quality storage where it will be stored in a temperature and humidity controlled environment while the renovations take place. So far we have inventoried over 140,000 items, including over 100,000 photos!

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             “97,873 Ahh, Ahh, Ahh…”

These photos have come to us from multiple sources, one being the Seminole Tribune. (The Seminole Tribune is the official newspaper of the Seminole Tribe of Florida and is published monthly. You can access Seminole Tribune articles online here: http://www.semtribe.com/SeminoleTribune/)

We have just a little more to go to complete this part of the project and are getting ready for the big move. Being new to the Museum, it has been a true adventure getting to inventory the entire archival collection. The work has been both fascinating and laborious – and a great introduction to the priceless wonders cared for here at the Ah-Tah-Thi-KI Museum each and every day.

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services [MA-30-16-0122-16]

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Young Scholars Visit and Research

By

Mary Beth Rosebrough, Research Coordinator

Weiss School in Library

Elementary school is a pleasant memory for most of us, isn’t it? Playing on the swings, jumping rope, learning the cool 9 times table rule, yet does anything strike terror into a parent’s heart more than hearing your child say, “I have to do a Science Fair project”?  Ugh, the dreaded images of procrastination and meltdowns, late nights and running out of construction paper.  It’s a parent’s nightmare!  If you have or know a child who has ever completed a project by themselves, please alert the media!

But then there is the National History Day project. Started in 1974 in Ohio by a professor at Case Western Reserve, it has over a million participants competing every year.  And every year a small portion of that million contacts or come visit us in a quest to win.  Here in the research library, behind a locked door at the back of the museum, we help numerous students research their innovative ideas.  This year has been no exception. As the Research Coordinator I have fielded many requests for information and visit appointments.  Most are from high school students but not always.  Sometimes middle school students want to study here too.

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This past December we were lucky enough to host the Weiss School for gifted children. Driving down all the way from Palm Beach Gardens, a good two hour drive, eight students in sixth and seventh grade, four chaperones and one teacher, Mr. Steve Hammerman, came and toured the museum before “hitting the books” after lunch.  This precocious bunch had lots of questions.  Did you know that is a sign of intelligence?  Intellectual curiosity is a hallmark of a good student and Bam! Bam! Bam! – the barrage of questions was furious!  What a great experience!  Who doesn’t love a student eager to learn?

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Steven Hammerman, history teacher extraordinaire, was a particularly dedicated and earnest guide. He skillfully led the students (6 girls and 2 boys) through the choppy waters of forming a real hypothesis as we stood in the library discussing their focus.  I was able to explain to them, as they were interested in the Seminole conflict of the 1800s, the newest thinking about the ethnogenesis of the Tribe.  We know, and research is verifying, that the Seminole Tribe of Florida is descended from not just Creek people who migrated into Florida but also from the peoples who were already here.  We also spoke of the Tribal view of the Seminole Wars.  Let me change that to War, singular.  Tribal members have often expressed to me that the time of the 1800s was really one long conflict with intermittent escalations.  Those are what historians call “wars”.  But really the 50 years before the end of the Civil War was one long tumultuous, murderous episode of betrayal and fear.  Our Exhibits Curator, Rebecca Fell, talked about this concept while she and her team installed our current exhibit about Seminole struggle and survival during that war-filled century.

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But I digress….the students from the Weiss School were interested in topics surrounding the conflicts of the 1800s: Andrew Jackson, General Jesup, how the conflicts changed the lifeways of the Tribe and how they survived. They were excited to find a concentration of books on Seminole life and the Seminole War(s).  Most students worked in small groups reading and taking notes from the books on the shelves.  Some were interested in the historic documents we had laid out on the Archival vault table with names like Andrew Jackson and Fort Brooke.  It was a pleasure to teach them how to handle rare documents and watch them begin to comprehend the special care we take to preserve the history of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

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The day was a great success and Mr. Hammerman was very pleased with the progress the students made in learning how to research, how to find sources (hint: look at the sources used by the author of the book you are reading), and how to form a hypothesis and write a paper using the materials available (one of the most valuable things I learned in college – thank you, Dr. Andrew Frank!). All went home with just a little more knowledge of the Seminole Tribe of Florida and a greater appreciation of what it took to survive and thrive! We had a great day hosting young gifted scholars who were excited to learn and excited to be here.  What could make a better day than that?