Digitizing St. Augustine, Florida

There is a lot of great digitization work going on these days. The Washington Post is running an article on efforts underway at the University of South Florida to digitize St. Augustine parish documents dating back to 1594.  Here is a taste:

Inside a Catholic convent deep in St. Augustine’s historic district, stacks of centuries-old, sepia-toned papers offer clues to what life was like for early residents of the nation’s oldest permanently occupied city.

These parish documents date back to 1594, and they record the births, deaths, marriages and baptisms of the people who lived in St. Augustine from that time through the mid-1700s. They’re the earliest written documents from any region of the United States, according to J. Michael Francis, a history professor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

Francis and some of his graduate students in the Florida Studies department have spent the past several months digitizing the more than 6,000 fragile pages to ensure the contents last beyond the paper’s deterioration.

“The documents shed light on aspects of Florida history that are very difficult to reconstruct,” Francis said.

Eventually, the digital images of the records will be put online for anyone to view.

Francis’ project is timely because the state is celebrating its 500th anniversary this year.