A World War II ration book, a photo of Oviedo’s Mitchell Hammock Road when it was dirt, and historical information about the city’s first African-American cemetery were just some of the artifacts collected by UCF graduate students as part of a recent project to preserve the community’s past using today’s digital tools. Nearly 3,000 historical items were scanned as residents came to Oviedo’s Lawton House with boxes, bags and scrapbooks full of photos and documents.

Spearheading the initiative, UCF history graduate students in the Intro to Public History class were able to put their skills to work in collaborating with the Oviedo Historical Society, EZ Scan Photo and UCF’s RICHES (Regional Initiative for Collecting History, Experiences, and Stories) of Central Florida to coordinate the event. They conducted research on the city, evaluated submitted artifacts and conducted 14 oral-history interviews.

“At the beginning of the semester I was excited to learn that we would be working with my hometown and the Oviedo Historical Society to learn more about their unique history,” said student Sarah Thorncroft. “I was elated with the turnout from the community and the artifacts they brought to share with us.”  

Desta Horner, president of the Oviedo Historical Society, said the preservation project is needed because the city is in transition.

“A new downtown is being developed and the historic center of town is being demolished. It is important to save the heritage of the original Oviedo community and share it,” she said. “The History Harvest was the perfect opportunity to secure a digital record of our transition from a farming settlement of 300 to a thriving modern community of 33,000.”

Some of the items were donated to the Oviedo Historical Society and others will be entered into the university’s RICHES Mosaic Interface, an interactive web network, to be available to the public. The interface is the central Internet location for content created through RICHES and links to other repositories around the state.

Digital scanning company EZ Photo Scan, which is based in Central Florida but has worked on similar projects around the country, donated equipment for scanning in support of the preservation series and provided staff to facilitate the scanning. The History Harvest was partially funded by a grant from the Florida Department of Cultural Affairs through the UCF Public History Center’s Historic Preservation Series.