Graduate student Mark Miller listened intently as Sanford resident Walt Smith shared stories about Seminole County’s past during last weekend’s History Harvest at UCF’s Public History Center.

“He makes history come alive,” said Miller, who was one of the students helping collect and digitally archive artifacts for the History Harvest.

Smith and others participated in the event by bringing school-related artifacts for the students to scan and providing oral-history interviews.

The event in Sanford marked the culmination of a year’s worth of planning for UCF graduate history classes. Dr. Scot French’s Local and Community History class hosted the event March 2.

“It’s all about giving them the opportunity to have hands-on experience. It also gives them a focus for a research project on a specific community,” said Dr. Rosalind J. Beiler, director of Public History at UCF.

The plans for History Harvest began more than a year ago when guest speaker Douglas Seefeldt from the University of Nebraska visited Beiler’s Introduction to Public History class. Seefeldt, who now teaches at Ball State University, experienced a colleague’s History Harvest in Nebraska and shared the idea with Beiler.

The artifacts and histories collected by French’s class will be entered into the university’s RICHES Mosaic, an interactive web interface, and made available to the public.

Digital scanning company i/o Trak, which is based in Central Florida but has worked on similar projects around the country, donated equipment for scanning. Rick Lippert, a longtime Seminole County resident and president of i/oTrak, said the students “did an excellent job interacting with people and in making the objects come alive.”

Lippert said the Public History Center represents a great potential for future digital history projects. The university leases the 1902 building that previously served as a high school, elementary school and Student Museum for Seminole County Public Schools. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

 “They are a treasure trove of our history. I grew up in Seminole County … and I can just walk through [the building], and this is a living history,” Lippert said.

The History Harvest represented something larger than an academic project to those who contributed donations. For the Seminole County residents, the event provided an opportunity to become closer to their own histories.

“I’ve never been to one of these before. I didn’t know what to expect,” said resident Algerine Miller, who brought many photos of her family and other African-Americans in Seminole County.

 When Winter Springs resident Linda Moscato read about History Harvest in a newspaper account, she immediately recognized the location of the event and decided to bring in some documents for scanning.

“I’ve been here many times. I love this place so much and I’m so glad UCF is part of it now,” said Moscato, who said she hopes more people come to realize how important the building is.