HistoryMiami Museum’s 1.5 million photos a research lure
Written by Camila Cepero on March 22, 2016
Almost 2,000 researchers a year now pore through specialized slices of the history of Miami, South Florida and the Caribbean at HistoryMiami Museum’s Archives & Research Center.
The center at 101 W Flagler St. provides the chance to consult historical materials that it has been collecting, preserving and making accessible since 1940. No other organization has dedicated so much time to Miami’s history.
The research opportunity appeals to a broad range of individuals.
“We see students, artists and scholars,” said Maria Estorino, vice president of museum collections. “We see business people and people who work for local government.” She describes the visitors to the center as a “healthy mix.”
The 2,000 people the center helps include those who visit in person as well as those they help on the phone or email through “remote reference.”
Collection highlights include:
•Visual materials such as 1.5 million photograph prints and negatives from 1883 to present.
•Archives and manuscripts like personal papers and organizational and business records.
•The Woodrow K. Wilkins Archive of Architectural Records with architectural drawings pertaining to Miami-Dade County.
•The Charlton W. Tebeau Library containing non-circulating materials such as books, pamphlets, city directories, yearbooks, magazines and newspapers, including scarce local newspapers.
•Over 37,000 museum artifacts mostly from the 20th century, but ranging from pre-Columbian pieces to contemporary items including tools, furniture, boats, aviation materials, clothing, musical instruments and religious objects.
•An additional 550 cubic feet of archaeological material.
“One of our greatest strengths is our images,” Ms. Estorino said, referencing the astounding 1.5 million photograph collection. The center has not digitized the entire archive collection, but the bulk of what is digitized is from the photo archives.
The center has a strong commitment to making it as easy as possible to access the archives, Ms. Estorino said.
Visitors can immerse themselves in the history of Miami by spending time with personal papers such as diaries and scrapbooks, organizational records such as correspondence, architectural records such as rendering and plans, and photographic collections such as photo albums and photographers’ works.
According to Ms. Estorino, the most popular topics include:
•Local history and neighborhood history.
•Information about structures such as buildings.
•Local African American history.
The center’s online catalog provides information such as descriptions, availability, holdings, call numbers and notes about published materials in the collection. Digital photo archives contain selected images from different photo collections and can be downloaded as low-resolution copies for personal use.
“It is encouraged that folks contact us,” Ms. Estorino said. “If we get a sense of what they’re looking for we can direct them.” However, advance notice is only explicitly required for museum artifacts or architectural drawings.
“The artifacts require appointments because it depends on the size of the artifact and perhaps the condition,” Ms. Estorino said. Some pieces may have limited or restricted access in certain circumstances like the possibility of detriment to the object
Dedicated space at the center includes a reading room, photocopier and a public access computer. Photography is allowed for personal reference only and not for use in a publication or to project or display, Ms. Estorino said.
A $10 museum admission is required, but visitors to the center receive a research pass that is valid for a month. This is advantageous to visitors who work on projects that are long-term or just take longer than one day.
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