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Inaugural SPOHP Folklore and History in Virginia Team to Launch in October

Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (SPOHP)

From October 21-26, 2014, UF history students will travel to eastern Virginia to discuss folklore, traditional crafts, and rural development with residents of Mathews and Middlesex Counties. The inaugural trip will feature two oral history open houses in Virginia, a methods workshop, and an interdisciplinary panel open to the public. Oral history research conducted during the week will build on a foundation of 45 interviews conducted on the Middle Peninsula by SPOHP graduate coordinator Jessica Taylor over the past two years.

The field research team headed to Virginia is comprised of past and present interns, staff members, graduate students and four undergraduate University Scholars. During the research trip, students will explore past and present oral traditions in eastern Virginia as well as economic challenges unique to the area. Mathews and Middlesex, once centers of production for ship captains working with deadrise fishing boats and dredge nets, have suffered economic decline in recent decades paralleling the erosion of the wider Chesapeake's marine environment.

As the repository for archival collections of foundational American folklorists Stetson Kennedy and Zora Neale Hurston, the University of Florida is poised to expand the study of folklore and tradition. Conducting interviews with residents in Virginia will gives UF students a chance to see the places and lifeways around which local folklore grows and survives, with firsthand access to resources like vernacular architecture, boatbuilding, and local fishing technologies spanning three centuries, all in the setting of familiar national folklore like Jamestown's settlement, Bacon's Rebellion, and the Nat Turner slave revolt.

"A Festival of Oral History and Folklore," one of the trip's major initiatives, will take place over two days at the Mathews County Memorial Library. On October 22, an evening panel event at 5:30 will discuss "The Folk of the Tidewater: What Can We Learn From Eachother?" and an open house "Share Your Story" event to record memories and traditions will be held October 24 at 10:00 a.m.

The SPOHP research trip to Virginia is supported by the Fairfield Foundation, Mathews Historical Society, University of Florida Office of Research, Middlesex Historical Society, UF College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Deltaville Maritime Museum Turner Education Fund, UF Phi Alpha Theta, Milbauer Program in Southern History, Mr. Allen J. Krowe, and Mr. Gene Ruark.

For more information about these oral histories and the panel, please visit the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program's website, call the office at 352-392-7168, or e-mail SPOHP graduate coordinator Jessica Taylor (

Rosemary Hill Observatory named one of the 25 best college observatories:

Rosemary Hill Observatory is #4 on the list of 25 Best College Astronomy Observatories. See full story here.

UF Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere Awards Public Humanities Grants, Promotes Campus-Community Partnerships

Contact: Sean Adams,, 352-392-0796

The UF Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere (CHPS) announces the first recipients of its new Programs in the Public Humanities grants to promote cultural engagement in and around Gainesville. The humanities engage in creative expression, analysis of ideas, and questions of value to improve the human condition. Through disciplines like history, philosophy, literatures and languages, the humanities investigate the ties that connect cultures, encourage conversations about social and historical relationships, and propose solutions to enhance cultural understanding and education. The public humanities, then, bring these conversations to the forefront of our everyday lives by promoting academic and community partnerships in planning events and programs to strengthen our shared communities.

The Public Humanities grant opportunity, supported by the CHPS Rothman Endowment, encourages and enhances collaboration between the University of Florida and individuals, groups, and organizations in the community by offering grants up to $3,000 to support public programs rooted in one or more of the humanities disciplines. This year, the CHPS awarded four Public Humanities grants to fund the following local projects which will take place between May 1, 2014 and May 1, 2015.

"The Heart of a Culture: the Santos of Xavier Colón" Exhibition
UF University Galleries (Amy Vigilante) and City of Gainesville, Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department (Russell Etling)

The University Galleries has partnered with the City of Gainesville, Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department to create a major new exhibition on the Santos carvings of artist Xavier Colón. Santos are hand-carved religious artifacts that play an important role in the cultural identity of Puerto Rico. This CHPS public humanities grant will support the development of a full-color catalogue that will provide historical, religious and cultural context to the exhibition and be freely distributed to exhibition visitors. (Exhibition dates: Sept. 27, 2014 – Jan. 3, 2015 in the Thomas Center's Main Gallery).

Gainesville Modern Architectural Film Series
Gainesville Modern (David Forest) and the UF School of Architecture (Martin Gold)

In partnership with the UF School of Architecture, Gainesville Modern will produce a film series that both celebrates Gainesville's cultural legacy of Modernist architecture and reflects how more modernist, sustainable urban design will benefit Gainesville in the future. With sponsorship from a CHPS public humanities grant, the series will include three film screenings (Citizen Architect, Coast Modern, People Who Live In Glass Houses) followed by moderated discussions. A panel of experts in the field will facilitate discussion via public forums. (Event dates TBA.)

Race, Class, and Gender in the Panama Canal Zone: An Original Play and Discussion
Deborah B. Dickey (Playwright and Director), the Panama Canal Museum Collection at UF Smathers Libraries (Rebecca Fitzsimmons)

The University of Florida Smathers Libraries, Alachua County School District, and playwright/director Deborah Dickey have collaborated to write and produce an original play that explores the lives of women in the Panama Canal Zone during its construction. Utilizing the resources in the UF Latin American Collection and the Panama Canal Museum Collection, the play will focus on the racial, gender and cultural segregation in Panama from 1900-1914. This CHPS public humanities grant will support a public staged reading at the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre, a post-show public discussion, an educational outreach event, and scenes performed for English classes in the Alachua County School District. (Performance dates TBA.)

Exploring Local Diversity and African Traditions: A Community Storytelling Series Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (Paul Ortiz) and Yopp! Inc. (Bethany Hunter)
In partnership with the UF Department of History, Yopp! Inc. and the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program will host a ten-month storytelling series at the Union Academy/Rosa B. Williams Recreation Center. The series will celebrate diversity within Gainesville and promote our rich cultural heritage through sharing many African traditions and stories. With a CHPS public humanities grant, the series will foster dialogue in our local and global community by hosting professional storytelling sessions after school and on weekends for four hours a month. Community members will be actively invited to share their own stories alongside planned events. (Event dates TBA.)

By drawing on expertise from UF and community partners as co-applicants, these public humanities projects create new and exciting opportunities for collaboration between the university and multiple community organizations. Furthermore, these projects encourage community building, cultural understanding, and personal reflection on the values and experiences that connect us together as neighbors, colleagues, and community members to create a civil and morally responsible society. Through projects like these, the Center for Humanities and the Public Sphere seeks to promote broad civic engagement with the communities in which we live and teach.

For more information or for event details, please see or find the UF Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere on Facebook or Twitter.

Lillian Guerra of the Department of History has been awarded an American Council of Learned Societies fellowship for 2014-15

Lillian Guerra

Her book project, "Making Revolutionary Cuba", addresses a gap in scholarly and public understandings of the origins of Cuban social and political radicalism by exploring the pivotal period between 1946 and 1959 when a consensus on the need for anti-imperialist revolution reached its peak. She analyzes the social policies of the state before and during the Batista dictatorship as well as the role of messianic discourse in shaping public support for a radical program of dramatic socio-economic change. Based on previously unknown archival collections and oral history, this book reveals that the civilian-led struggle was far more responsible for Batista's fall than Fidel Castro's guerrillas; the opposition movement's success hinged more on morally defeating Batista in the public's mind than on defeating the state militarily.

UF Grad Wins National Nikon Film Competition

Short Film Bests More than 400 EntriesJosh McLawhorn

University of Florida graduate Josh McLawhorn this week won first place in Nikon's nationwide Everyday Cinema Contest for a short film titled, "Almost Ready." The contest invited entrants to create a 120 to 180-second movie that "transforms an everyday moment into an extraordinary cinematic story."

McLawhorn, a photographer and video producer for Impact Visual Media, worked as a professional video producer for just over a year before besting more than 400 entrants to win nearly $18,000 of Nikon's top photography equipment.

The short film depicts a young man waiting for his girlfriend to get ready for a date. While the man wonders what is taking her so long, the film reveals the girl's heroic quest to get ready, including bathing in a crystal clear spring, letting the wind "blow dry" her hair, searching a stream for river rocks to wear as earrings, crushing berries for lipstick and fleeing a menacing animal.

McLawhorn attended the University of Florida Honors Program and served as the photographer for the Student Honors Organization. He graduated from UF in 2012 with a degree in biochemistry. A graduate of the Leon High School Class of 2008, McLawhorn was a National Merit Scholar and a member of Youth Leadership Tallahassee, Class III.

The film features McLawhorn's girlfriend, Gabriela Rodeiro, who also graduated from the University of Florida in 2012 with a degree in biochemistry.

McLawhorn's interest in photography was piqued on two cross-country bicycle trips he completed over the summers of 2009 and 2012 for Bike and Build, an organization that recruits young riders to perform housing builds and give talks about affordable housing as they complete coast-to-coast bike trips.

In addition to his professional video work, McLawhorn teaches a movie making class to home schooled middle and high school students.

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