Archive for April 9th, 2008

Hours: 8:15-6:00pm – 8.75 hrs

Today was our introduction in the Parks and Recreation department’s archival files. Last week I was informed that we, the other volunteer and I, are going to start recording the histories of the Jacksonville city parks into a state database. The database and history research for parks over 50 years old is on course for the historic preservation department. The parks and recreation department wishes to also complete the history research on the parks that a park historian painstakingly already began. Unfortunately, his position was eliminated when the city’s departments were reorganized after budget cuts.

Much their paper files for the parks and recreation department are in the Jacksonville Armory building. The building was once used as a the headquarters for the National Guard of Florida. It was also used as a place to hold concerts and special city events. The parks and recreation department took over the building in 1973. Now their files are stored on the upper, open balcony of the auditorium where Elvis Presley and Janis Joplin once played and where Eleanore Roosevelt once spoke.

Jacksonville Armory Building

It seems as though the city reorganization has created arrested development in many of the city’s departments. Both the parks employee and the volunteer services representative remarked about how they couldn’t properly go ahead with some of their duties (be it writing new forms or organizing archives) because final organizational changes have yet to occur. If the departments put a lot of effort into a task that would only need to be changed in a few months, that would be wasting their own time and the city’s resources. Even one of the planners in the historic preservation section is in a bit of a tumultuous state because she is unaware of when or where the city will reassign her position. Take the once park historian who was reassigned to the library. The city cannot necessarily fire him but must move him to another open post where he could put his archival knowledge to use. Did he ask for that library position? I’m sure not. From what I hear he was very devoted to his research and enjoyed his work. But I’m sure that reassigning him would have certainly been better than laying him off. That is where a civil servant position differs from a corporate job. Is one type of job better than the other? I don’t know. Depends on ones own priorities and opinions on corporate versus public employment. But I divert. Let’s get back to the day’s duties.

Not only did we see where the files were located but we also discussed what the differing needs of the historic preservation office and the parks and recreation department. Joel would like to have a fairly detailed history developed while the parks and recreation department only needs a snippet or abstract for their records. We also got an introduction into the work that the former parks historian had already completed, which was substantial. Data entry into the databases will be the only need for those parks.

Joel also introduced Bryan and I to the real estate division office. That is where we will be able to access unpublished mortgages and other such information.

Bryan and I tried again to locate the cemetery plot eluded us last week. We tried looking for a deed under the funeral home’s name, we tried the cemetery itself again, we looked even further back in time with any name possible with no further success. We concluded that the cemetery company was just not very diligent with their records. We assumed that they failed to file the deed with the city. [Update: There might not have been any sold lots. See “week 2 update” post] I feel bad for the family. It must be upsetting to not know exactly where your loved one is buried.

After lunch Bryan and I did not have a lot of work to do. Joel was gone at a meeting and we have yet to get a sign-in for our computer station. Fortunately, I was able to get to know the planners in the office a little better. I was trying to find out how they gained their positions at the city. One of the more senior planners took the masters program in Historic Preservation at SCAD. (I am completely jealous of her. I would love to go to that school but I am poor and it ain’t cheap.) She obviously is passionate about historic preservation and I hope that I can learn more from her. One of the other planners has a BA in poly sci. I think that she is young and plans to develop her career further beyond preservation. But you know, it takes people of varying interests to offer any organization with a level of objectivity.

After Joel came back from his meeting, the office had their own little meeting to discuss the property action issues. This particular meeting was focused around the properties in Riverside that had been scrutinized by RAP. Our meeting was to discuss whether to add the suggestions made by RAP or not. Most them were used while others were deemed a little exorbitant.

In all, I feel as though I learned a lot about how the city operates. Which is important of course. Hopefully, I will be able to get into the nitty-gritty of research and productive work next week.


Read Full Post »