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UWF Project Digitizes Gulf Coast History

U.S. Navy

The University of West Florida has opened up a new portal to hundreds of years of Gulf Coast history. 

“I get to work with a wide range of students who are really interested in exploring our maritime history and heritage,” said Dr. Jamin Wells, an assistant professor of history at the University of West Florida and is one of the project leads for the Gulf Coast Digital History Project.

“I had a really tough time finding sources and the material for students to use until I got out into the community and I visited all of these smaller museums and historical societies. And I realized that there is so much history scattered among all of these institutions along the Panhandle. So this project is an effort to create a clearinghouse for researchers, really anyone interested in exploring our really rich maritime history.”

The Gulf Coast Digital History Project was made possible through a grant from the National Parks Service. The project has digitized thousands of documents and images for students, teachers, or just plain history buffs to study and enjoy.

"We have lighthouse-keeper records from the late 19th Century, we have some of the earliest Destin Fishing Rodeo materials (from) the 1950s on up, we have correspondence from the Pensacola Navy Base from the 1840s and 30s, it’s really a large swath of material.”

The project highlights historical archives from the 19th and 20th Centuries taken from sources all around the panhandle and Gulf Coast.

“We initially said we were going to do 5,000 different items, and at the end of the project here over 6,300 unique items have been scanned. It’s really remarkable trove of material that anyone can access from their home.”

To get the project off to a good start, Dr. Wells says they will be holding a virtual launch session featuring a tour of the project, a pre-recorded panel discussion with teachers, students and others involved in the project. 

“We are going to (demonstrate) how to use this website and access all of these materials. And then we are going to have a question-and-answer session as well.”

The virtual launch project is Thursday at 11 a.m. You can preregister to join the event here.

Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.