USF Honors College Class Discovers 500 Years of Florida History in the USF Tampa Library

“It should be required viewing by all in Florida.”

-the Honorable E.J. Salcines

A desire to introduce his USF Honors College major works/major issues class to the historic treasures of Special Collections  led Andy Huse to devise a semester-long project that would provide them with a hands-on research experience. Huse, a USF Tampa Library Special Collections assistant librarian and USF Honors College instructor, knew from past projects that first-hand research can be a transformative experience for undergraduates. Having an intimate familiarity with the library’s Florida Studies collections, he knew that this would be fertile ground for a range of research projects and that the 500th anniversary of the discovery of Florida by Ponce de Leon was approaching.

USF Honors College students in the Spring 2012 research colloquium
Instructor Andy Huse (back row, left) with his USF Honors College students in the Spring 2012 research colloquium

The class of 11 students approached the assignment with great interest, choosing wide-ranging topics from the initial discovery of Florida 500 years ago to the development of professional sports in the state throughout the past 100 years. Anthropology major Jessica Alleyn spent several days a week in Special Collections, digging through 30 boxes of primary source material such as tuberculosis bonds and yellow fever immunity cards in order to piece together meaning for her extensive history of infectious disease and mosquito control in the state.

Senior Mary Elizabeth Weigel focused on Florida archaeology — from Jacques LeMoyne’s depictions of early habitats to the actual unearthing of sites around Crystal River, an apparent focal point of pre-Columbian Native American ceremony and commerce. Archaeological discovery in Florida is unique in that many sites are located under water offshore and in rivers, sometimes preserved in porous limestone formations.

The Florida Studies collections at the USF Tampa Library have many champions. Among them are retired District Court Judge E.J. Salcines. Of this project, Salcines says,

“This unique and timely online project is a well-done introduction to Florida history using 21st century technology.  It should be required viewing by all in Florida.  This is the 500th anniversary of the European encounter with La Florida (1513-2013) that spread throughout North America.  It was the start of Florida’s 3 major industries:  cattle; citrus; and tourism; plus Christianity in America starting in our Florida missions.  Bravo! to Andy Huse and his team of researchers.”

Experience the online exhibition “500 Years of Discovering Florida” for yourself, then contact the USF Libraries Development office here or by calling (813) 974-4433 to support student research of this kind.

Click to visit the online exhibition “500 Years of Discovering Florida”


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