Florida House Visits Smathers Library

On April 18, 2024, the Smathers Libraries hosted a visit from the Trustees of Florida House on Capitol Hill who were meeting at UF and touring various locations on campus. Florida House operates as the state’s embassy in Washington, D.C., and many of the Trustees are UF alumni. When planning their visit with Karen Thomas, UF Director of Community Relations, they expressed an interest in visiting the library to learn more about our distinctive collections and initiatives. We were thrilled to host almost 60 visitors representing all regions of the state as well as staff from Capitol Hill.

Over lunch, Dean Judith Russell welcomed the visitors and provided them with an overview of the Smathers Libraries. The group enjoyed seeing a 1982 video clip from a television program called Dialogue with Bill Nelson, in which then Senator Nelson interviewed the director of the Florida House, Nancy Elliot, and Rhea Chiles, who founded Florida House along with her husband, Senator Lawton Chiles. The group also learned about several digital initiatives relating to the Latin American & Caribbean Collection including the UF Digital Collections, the Digital Library of the Caribbean, and the Celebrating Cuba project.

Following lunch, the group visited the Grand Reading Room and the Judaica Suite in the Smathers Library Building to view a selection of materials from various collections in the Department of Special & Area Studies Collections and to interact with librarians and archivists. Of course, Florida-related materials were a major focus for the tour and the visitors enjoyed seeing objects from the P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History including the Jerry Chicone Citrus Label Collection, literary manuscripts of Florida authors Zora Neale Hurston and Marjorie K. Rawlings, artifacts from the University Archives, Florida maps from the Map & Imagery Library, and political papers including the Bill Nelson Papers and the Lawton Chiles Papers. Additionally, the Trustees had asked to see materials from the Price Library of Judaica, the Latin American & Caribbean Collection, and the Panama Canal Museum Collection. In addition to learning more about UF’s preeminent collections, the Trustees also were interested in identifying objects that could be exhibited in Florida House on Capitol Hill.