by Sydney Tucker
I am interning at Small Planet Pictures on a documentary called America: Revised. The goal of the documentary is to bring the history of the First Coast, St. Augustine, and the Spanish Empire into the traditional historical narrative (i.e. Pilgrims, Mayflower, Plymouth Rock, British). The documentary has been bidded on by PBS. So, once the final project is finished with the last round of edits, and we get the stamp of approval from the PBS offices, the documentary will air on their channel.
When I entered the internship with Small Plant Pictures, the project had already been going on for about a year. The rough outline of the script and historical information for each episode were already in place by the time I was brought onto the team. The majority of my research was based around locating images, finding historical documents, or finding maps from a specific time period and area.
Locating Images of Historical Figures
In episode 4, the documentary discusses the brief British period in St. Augustine (1763-1784). In that episode is a reference to the six British governors of St. Augustine: George Johnstone, Lieutenant-Governor Montfort Browne, John Eliot, Montfort Browne (again), Elias Durnford, and Peter Chester. The project manager, Robbie Gordon, wanted images of each governor, so while they there are being discussed in the episode there can be a visual aid for the audience.
My task was to locate these images. The most difficult part of this process was ensuring that, for example, the George Johnstone depicted in an image was the same George Johnstone that was the governor of Florida. Since British rule was so brief in Florida, a governorship of Florida was just a blimp on all these men’s impressive resumes
Also, because these men were not written about the mainstream historical narrative, locating portraits of these men were externally difficult. Since these men would not be able to be found in a traditional American textbooks, images of these men could not be found in the “traditional” locations of historical documents (i.e. Library of Congress, Florida State Archives, etc.) Instead, the majority of these documents resided in personal collections and were therefore inaccessible to the public.
The result: I was only able to locate images for two of the six British governors, Elias Durnford and John Eliot. The portrait of Eliot is in a private collection at the Eastnor Castle—hence the watermark on the image below. Fortunately, Eastnor Castle allows for film crews to come to their property and shoot
Locating Historical Accurate Maps
Since the four episodes of this documentary cover the history of the First Coast from Ménendez’s landing in 1565 to the Florida statehood in 1845, its pivotal that the episodes include maps in order to keep the audience aware of the expansion and contraction of the Spanish empire and the exploration of Florida. The tricky thing about maps is, the shape of a map varies based on the time the map was made. Locating maps from the same time that is being discussed is sometimes required in order to ensure historical accuracy. Plus, the different map shapes allude to how much of Florida had been explored by the Spanish which aids in telling the historical narrative.
In episode 3, there is a map sequence that shows the exchange of Spanish kings in 1702. My assignment was to find maps from around this period of time.
I ended up finding 3 maps–from 1700, 1710, and 1705. As you can see, the maps made before 1710 only depicted the panhandle and upper Florida. This suggests that exploration of Florida had not extended past Northern Florida. While this is interesting from a historical point of view, it may not make the best visual for a historical documentary. So, I added the map from 1710 in order to give the editor of the project a full map of Florida and a wide variety of opinions