by Antonio Raimondo
My internship at the St. Augustine Historical Society Research Library has allowed me to go back in time and see St. Augustine through the eyes of the citizens in the early 1820s. My job is to index local St. Augustine newspapers from the early antebellum period. The majority of the material written at that time focused on national headline news. I carefully read through the material and search for information relevant to the city of St. Augustine’s role in the early years of Florida’s statehood. At times it can be difficult to interpret all of the information that is written in the newspapers. I did not realize the limitations that come with working with older material. The language used and the format of the newspapers can be a bit intimidating. Some of the microfilm is worn and is at times difficult to read. I quickly realized how much time and care it takes to read and analyze old historical documents.
The historical society has organized all of their collections of newspapers on microfilm. One reel can hold up to five years worth of newspapers. I spent a majority of my time reading these newspapers on a large machine that is able to read the microfilm. The first newspaper I analyzed at the historical society was titled The Florida Gazette, which ran newspapers from July 26 to December 22, 1821. At the moment I am indexing the East Florida Herald, which has over three years of newspaper on one reel.
Once I began my project I realized how much time it would take to complete just one reel. I wanted to place all of my focus on learning how to correctly interpret and analyze early St. Augustine newspapers. My day at the St. Augustine Historical Society begins at 9:30am and usually ends around 1:30pm. I come in everyday and see people and tourists’ appreciating the vast collection of history the society has to offer. I am very appreciative of my opportunity to intern at the St. Augustine Historical Society.