The USF Tampa Library’s Special Collections department holds some fascinating items. That, you probably know. You may not know, however, what researchers actually do with the historical records, photographs, and newspapers there. We sat down with UNC Chapel Hill doctoral student Sarah McNamara to learn how she is using the Ybor City collections for her master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation research.
Born and raised in Tampa, Sarah has always nurtured an interest in Tampa’s role in history. While working on a paper on Ybor City as an undergraduate at the University of Florida, a professor referred her to the USF Libraries Florida Studies Center within the USF Tampa Library’s Special Collections Department. This initial exploration of local history led to a deep dive into the archives. In her graduate work, McNamara uses records from Ybor City’s mutual aid societies, digitized copies of La Gaceta newspaper, and photographs of striking workers in weaving together her thesis on women’s activism and incorporation into the international Popular Front movement. Her research seeks to show that these activities were more than mere labor strikes or communist movements, that they were, in fact, the beginnings of the civil rights movement.
Says McNamara, “Using the Special Collections at USF is essentially going straight to the source. It’s a fantastic archive with an immense amount of local materials, but combining the available information from the Centros, newspapers, and oral histories with government records, Works Progress Administration reports, and other items that connect the city to larger policies and broader events makes it come alive in new ways.” Sarah credits Assistant Librarian Andy Huse with facilitating her research with his knowledge of the collections and willingness to help when she must work remotely due to her University of North Carolina coursework.
Investment in the USF Libraries Florida Studies Center’s collections enhances research opportunities for students like Sarah. Additionally, your support of graduate assistantships and research fellowships enables USF students to gain valuable experience working with the collections, which contributes to successful careers.
Contact The USF Libraries Development Office to advance these and other student success and research efforts.