New College of Florida was founded in 1960. Its students and faculty frequently joke that 55 years isn’t that new at all. But it is far too new to have an obvious connection to the Great War (1914-1918). As a result, Kana and I will keep our college’s home, Sarasota, as the focus of our project.
I have lived in Sarasota since I was six. My family and I moved here in July 2000 and I like to think that I know the town well. When it comes to what this Florida beach-town was like in the 1910s, however, my knowledge is limited. Luckily, I spent last summer working at the Historical Society of Sarasota County. Through this, I am familiar with local historians (trained and amateur) as well as the County’s archives.
Kana and I have yet to visit the archives to see what related materials are present. We have, however, been in email contact with Jeff LaHurd, the County’s paid “History Specialist.” Based on our email exchanges, along with a number of articles that Mr. LaHurd published in the local Sarasota Herald Tribune, the archives have a number of primary resources related to the city during World War I.
Preliminary internet research has revealed that, at the beginning of America’s involvement in the international conflict, Sarasota was “the smallest city in the country to have a naval militia trained and ready to go.”1 That’s really cool! And I’m sure that there’s a lot to learn about this unique group.
Beyond archival work, I am hopeful at the prospect of obtaining oral histories. While extremely few WWI veterans are still alive, Sarasota, a well-known retirement destination, is home to many folk who were likely children of those who served. I am going to use my contacts at the Historical Society to see who of interest is willing to chat.
Kana and I will be sure to make our way to the County archives before Wednesday’s class. Until then, we’ll keep looking at other blogs and websites to draw inspiration.
1. Jeff LaHurd, “Sarasota’a ‘sailor lads’ served in the Great War,” Herald Tribune, 9 Nov. 2014, http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20141109/ARTICLE/141109707/0/search?tc=ar (accessed 17 Jan. 2014).