Jacksonville Historical Society
By: Karrah Johnson & William Weber
History is all around us, and at the Jacksonville Historical Society, they house many interesting archives and documents that give meaning and life to past things that might have been forgotten. With time moving faster and faster, it’s good to stop and take a look at what came before us.
Built as a hospital 140 years ago, the two story brick building just outside the heart of downtown has housed victims of the yellow fever, typhoid epidemic and people displaced by the great fire of 1901, playing a prominent role in Jacksonville’s history.
The building was renovated in 2012, and instead of playing a part of Jacksonville’s history, it now holds it.
Assistant Director and Archivist Taryn Boette says, “Whether people know it or not, there’s great interest in history”
This is so true for the historical society. Established in Spring 1929, the Jacksonville Historical society is dedicated to protecting and preserving the city’s history. It’s massive archive fills rooms and has material dating back to the early 1800’s.
Taryn Rodriguez-Boette is at the center of the organization. As the associate director and archivist, Boette is responsible for systematically organizing the thousands and thousands of archives in the collection’s backlog – a tedious task neglected by past directors.
“We have been collecting since 1929, but It had never been organized by an archivist so it was difficult to use,” said Boette.
But Boette didn’t want to just organize the archives, she wanted to bring them to the 21st century.
“What I have been doing in the last 2 and a half years is organizing the collection, bringing it up to archival standards and using a cataloging software that’s used nationally, past perfect museum software,” said Boette.
Past perfect is an online cataloging system that allows people to search the archives of anything from anywhere. But Boette’s noticed one area of history everybody’s interested in.
“Geneaologists — those keep us entertained and keep us in business because it’s become very fashionable to look for you family history.”
With companies like ancesotry.com and 23 and Me, finding family history is one the rise. People are dying to know where they came from to adding more meaning to their lives.
At the Jacksonvile Historical Society, the archives are a way for academics and history buffs to relive the past, but for some people it’s a whole lot more personal than that.
George Hapsis been helping organize, transcribe and catalog items at the historical society for over 60 years. George was born and raised in Jacksonville, so his work here has a more personal meaning.
“Ive had a few—architects in the Jacksonville area that have passed away and I’ve known most of those people—fortunately some of their work and their collections have come here,” said Hapsis.
What me and you look at as history, George experienced first-hand. He’s seen the city grow, and known the people responsible for it.
“Some of these people were friends of mine. I worked for a couple of them,” said Hapsis.
Whether it’s archiving or reminiscing about the past, the Jacksonville Historical Society is a place where people can get lost in history and learn about the past and present to better the future.