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Plant City Photo Archives expands to include history center

Pictured at a backyard Woman’s Club of Plant City social, circa 1935, are, left to right, Frances Hull, Blanche Shore, Mary Coleman, Evelyn Glazier, Ida Moody, Gladys Smith, Margaret Thompson and Geneva Ramsdell.

Photo courtesy of Plant City Photo Archives

Pictured at a backyard Woman’s Club of Plant City social, circa 1935, are, left to right, Frances Hull, Blanche Shore, Mary Coleman, Evelyn Glazier, Ida Moody, Gladys Smith, Margaret Thompson and Geneva Ramsdell.

PLANT CITY

Photographs line the walls, images of Plant City's beginnings, of strawberry farmers, hardworking families and boys sent off to war.

Each image represents a solitary flash, a moment captured amid the happenings of daily life.

But there is more to the story at Plant City Photo Archives.

"You have to know who is in the photo and the history behind it, otherwise it's just a picture," executive director Gil Gott said.

To offer a more comprehensive view of Plant City's past, the photo archives museum, 106 S Evers St., recently expanded to include a history center. More than 60,000 photographs and an unrecorded number of documents, periodicals and books are now available for viewing. The materials date back to the 1800s.

"The addition of the history center is not so much of a change as it is a clarification of what we have been doing," said Ed Verner, president of the archives. "Our focus has always been to capture the story that goes with these pictures."

The new center features a documents library and computer where visitors can search historical information related to greater Plant City and west-central Florida. Copies of scanned materials are available to students free of charge. Others can purchase copies for a small donation or buy the photos on CD.

"I had a man come in who was decorating his office in old photographs," Gott said. "People come to see the photographs for all different reasons. We're just happy to share them."

Verner said students benefit the most from the digitalization of historical materials.

"When young people can put a picture with what they are being told, it has more of an impact," he said.

Verner grew up in Plant City, as did his mother and grandmother. He served two terms as president of the East Hillsborough Historical Society and founded the archives in 2000, after acquiring the collection of late photographer Bill Friend.

The museum houses several collections, including that of retired journalist and photographer Panky Snow. Snow donated copies of the Courier newspaper. The paper was formerly housed in the building now used by the archives.

Still, some of the museum's most interesting materials are brought in by individuals, Gott said.

"People will bring in their grandfather's old World War II photos, and it's amazing the stuff that you see," he said. "We welcome people to bring in photos for us to scan, and then we'll give the originals back to them."

Verner said he learns something new about Plant City and its citizens every time he steps through the archives' front door.

"I'm always surprised by what a small world it is," he said. "Someone will come in, see a photo that we have had for years and tell us something new about it."

Gott spends most of his days at the archives, digging deeper for information. He works with a team of volunteers. They call themselves photo investigators, and they will visit people's homes if necessary, just to put a name with a face in a photograph.

"People underestimate the value of knowing their history," Gott said. "Our history shapes our culture. It's part of who we are."

Sarah Whitman can be reached at swhitman@sptimes.com or (813) 610-2426.

. If You Go

Plant City

Photo Archives

and History Center

106 S Evers St., Plant City

Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Tuesday through Saturday.

Admission is free.

For information, call (813) 754-1578.

Plant City Photo Archives expands to include history center 10/21/10 [Last modified: Thursday, October 21, 2010 5:30am]

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