USF Libraries | Special & Digital Collections | Exhibits

Browse Exhibits (20 total)

Swing Along: The Music of Early African American Composers


This exhibit was created to showcase a selection of music that was digitized from the USF Libraries African American Sheet Music Collection to celebrate African American History Month in 2019, and to illuminate the authors behind the music. 

"We Wanted Some Basic Human Rights": The Civil Rights Struggle in Tampa


This web exhibition examines the history of the Civil Rights Movement in Tampa and its environs. It utilizes documents located in the Special Collections Division of the USF Tampa library. This exhibition was produced during a Spring 2016 seminar on the Civil Rights Movement, taught by Dr. K. Stephen Prince of the USF history department. Students consulted more than fifteen archival collections housed in the USF Tampa Library Special Collections, selecting a representative sample of documents to reproduce here. Short analytical headnotes will guide readers through the narrative. Links to the documents are also provided.

     The title of this web exhibition is drawn from a 1978 interview with Betty Wiggins, an African American civil rights activist and community leader in Tampa.

Jazz in Florida


     The Jazz in Florida Archive is ongoing project to document and preserve Florida’s place in jazz history. The project features student research and writing under the direction of Prof. Andrew Berish.

     The archive will contain oral histories, photographs, manuscripts, sheet music, letters and other materials related to jazz in the state. We hope these materials connect jazz fans, musicians, educators, students, scholars, and industry professionals to a living, interactive digital database that bridges the gap of personal (oral histories and stories), local (Florida, and more specifically the Tampa Bay Area), and national jazz history.

     In focusing on the local, the archive hopes to serve as a model and inspiration to other archival and research projects attempting to document jazz’s diverse local languages.


The Tampa Bay Estuary: An Oral History of Community Collaboration to Restore Ecological Integrity

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Welcome to the Tampa Bay Estuary Oral History Project with an introductory video by our sponsor TECO Energy.

Enter and navigate the exhibit by clicking on the chapter titles to the left.

Florida Digital Postcards Exhibit

Florida Digital Postcard Exhibit

The Florida Digital Postcard exhibit is a curated presentation of the digitized images from The Hampton Dunn Florida Postcard collection housed in the University of South Florida Libraries Special Collections.  An output of the first stage in the full-scale digitization of the collection, this exhibit features over three hundred postcards on Hillsborough County.  Drawn mostly from the first half of the twentieth century (and many from the Golden Age of Postcards), the images bring to view the streets, waterways, industry and society from the founding of modern Tampa.  The exhibit provides a visual history of significant events and everyday life, of buildings and travel, of nostalgia and progress that characterized Florida.  Inscribed with brief narratives of correspondents, the cards record the voices of travelers, businessmen, separated friends and family who passed through this place in history. Filled with alligators and airplanes, palm trees and bridges, the postcards raise questions about how people approached this exotic and fruitful land in the days before air conditioning. The cards invite us to join them in the past and re-envision the place we inhabit now.

Hampton Dunn Collection of Florida Postcards, 1900-1985

The Hampton Dunn Collection of Florida Postcards 1900-1985 is one of several eclectic archives donated to the library by the famous Floridian journalist, Hampton Dunn (Camp, Collecting Florida).  With over 16,100 items, it is the most significant collection of Florida postcards in the world. The images on the cards consist primarily of views of specific locations, and so they provide an ideal opportunity to trace the construction of place in Florida. Organized in 34 boxes by county, the collection covers the entire state, though only the cards from Hillsborough County are ready for digital exhibition. This unique and extensive collection offers a treasure-trove of information for a wide variety of audiences, from the collector to the student.  The ongoing digitization project aims to make the collection fully accessible in extraordinary ways.  The pilot phase of the visualization will be available in early 2016.

History of Postcards

Ubiquitous yet ephemeral, the post card reached its height of popularity in the 20th century. Begun in Europe in the 1870s, the postcard was always aimed at a popular audience.  At first, people worried that the open messages would be read by “servants,” and they mistrusted a mode that required only a “ha’penny stamp,” and hence could be available to most classes of people (Staff 7).  Businesses however recognized the advertising potential of the postal card, and sales in the first years exceeded everyone’s expectations.  German advances in lithography led to the “Golden Age” of postcards (circa 1905-1911), with a higher rate of production and sales across America and Europe.  These golden era postcards initiated the transition from ephemera to collectible.  Postcards were the “craze,” which coincided nicely with the rising tourism industry in Florida. After the Great War, postcard production shifted to the United States, with the rise of white border cards, and drawn and airbrushed images.  For more detailed history and information about postcard production, see

After stamps and coins, postcards have been the most popular collectible in the US, and golden age postcards continue to be highly sought.  The postcards in the Hampton Dunn Collection feature many cards from the Golden Age, as well as some real-photo postcards, undivided back cards, white border cards, and many colorful airbrushed images.  With the advent of personal electronics and Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest, travelers have become less reliant on post card mementos, and the once familiar beach-side racks of sunny Florida images are disappearing.  Historians have noted that postcards initiated a shift from long-form Victorian correspondence. The even more abbreviated styles of communication of Twitter, Facebook and text messaging make the postcard appear by comparison rich in textual possibilities.  Certainly our current epoch-shifting change in digital communications allows us to view the postcard with renewed curiosity for what it can reveal about epistolarity. 

Florida and Place-making in the Twentieth Century

From the courthouse in Tampa with trolleys and horse-drawn carriages in the narrow, gas lit street, to the magnificent arches of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, these postcards show us the development of human interactions with the environment, the construction of Florida as a place now inhabited by nearly twenty million people.  The full digitization project has as its central purpose the discovery of place-making in Florida, both as a historical process recorded by thousands of people who lived or traveled through the state, AND as the objective of the present user-experience. That is, by virtually traveling through the postcards in a digital exhibit, the present day Floridian (or visitor) also experiences a sense of place-making that engenders an ethic of care.  The postcards are arranged into three primary categories that represent dominant representations in the collection: military Florida, waterways, and cultural attractions.  Many of these places enjoyed by people of the past either no longer exist or exist in conditions that testify to the enormous changes we have witnessed in this state.


Military Florida highlights the role that politics, war and military culture serve in the history of the state. The geographical situation of Florida, poised on the Gulf Stream between North and South Americas, made the land attractive as a military site from the first European contact in the fifteenth century, and military forts are some of the oldest permanent structures dotting the state. Tampa, in particular, played (and continues to play) a strategic role in U.S. defense.  This exhibit focuses on the many representations of MacDill Air Force Base, and includes some older military sites, such as the Fort Hesterly Armory and the old U.S. Garrison at Fort Brooke.

The Florida Waterways features the most precious and controversial environmental resource of Florida: its water. From its 1350 miles of coastline, to its legendary springs, to the one-of-a-kind Everglades wetlands, Florida’s waterways have been deservedly featured on postcards throughout the century. This exhibit features the glorious Hillsborough River and Tampa Bay, and the numerous buildings, bridges, and parks that capitalize on their functionality and beauty.

Tourists have been traveling to see the sites of Florida since the turn of the 20th century, and Disneyworld wasn’t founded until 1971. The Cultural Landmarks exhibit curates the images and stories of the roadside attractions, glamorous hotels, monuments, and memorials that emerge out of Florida’s cultural mélange. This exhibit features the former tourist attraction of Sulphur Springs, complete with alligator slide, the Arabian architecture of the grand Tampa Bay Hotel, now Plant Hall at the University of Tampa, and the turn-of-the-century Romanesque Sacred Heart Church in downtown Tampa.

After visiting, please take a moment to provide feedback on this exhibit.

For more information:

Camp, Paul Eugen.  Collecting Florida: The Hampton Dunn Collection and Other Floridiana.  Tampa:  University of South Florida, 2006. Print.

Cresswell, Tim.  Place: An Introduction.  Second edition.  Malden, MA and Oxford UK:  Wiley Blackwell, 2015. Print.

History of MacDill Airforce Base

Jahoda, Gloria.  River of the Golden Ibis. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1973.

Manzo, Lynne C. and Patrick Devine-Wright.  Place Attachment: Advances in Theory, Methods and Applications. London and New York: Routledge, 2014.  Print.

Mormino. Gary R.  Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams: A Social History of Modern Florida.  Gainesville, FL:  University Press of Florida, 2005. Print.

Sacred Heart Parish History

Staff, Frank.  The Picture Postcard and its Origins.  New York and Washington: Frederick A. Praeger, 1966. Print.

The Lafayette Street Bridge  Lucy D. Jones, MA in History from USFSP Florida Studies Program, 2006.


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The "Witch Hunt" at USF: Experiencing the Johns Committee Through Primary Resources

This exhibit will introduce viewers to the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee (or Johns Committee) through primary sources held by USF Tampa's Special Collections and made available online through the library's digitization unit.  The Florida Legislative Investigation Committee digital collections consists of materials from the John Egerton Papers, John Allen Papers, and the University of South Florida Archives curated for exhibition by archivist Andrew Huse.  Materials for this exhibit draw from these collections as well as those of Sumter Lowry, Terrell Sessums and Governor LeRoy Collins.  

Besides providing an overview of FLIC at USF, this exhibit will link to various materials that can be found in the collections named above.

We tend to think of the events surrounding FLIC as being of another place and time, quietly and comfortably in our past. But a careful study of race, politics, sexuality, fear, and hate reveals that while the Johns Committee has been defunct for 50 years, the social forces that created it are still prominent in the United States. 

Navigate the exhibit by clicking on the chapter titles to the left.

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Once Upon a Homecoming

Once upon a time in what would become Bulls Country, there grew a university with no traditions, no dormitories, no mascot, no athletics, and a small-campus identity.  Here at the University of South Florida, traditions slowly developed as its programs and amenities grew, culminating in an annual Homecoming celebration. Homecoming festivities are an opportunity for USF students and alumni to show their school spirit.  Although homecoming has developed gradually with the growth of USF, today it is a major attraction that features a week of campus events, athletic games, parties, carnivals, a parade, and much more.  Please join the Tampa Library’s Special Collections for this photo exhibit documenting the history of homecoming at USF, named after the theme for the festivities of 2014, “Once Upon a Homecoming.”  

Navigate the exhibit by clicking on the chapter titles to the left.

Curated by Andrew Huse.

Alicia Appleman-Jurman: Her Story and Beyond

Alicia Appleman-Jurman was only 11 years old when the Nazis invaded & occupied her homeland of Poland.  Alicia survived World War II & the Jewish Holocaust.  Alicia: My Story is the inspiring account of her survival and recounts through the eyes of one the brutality perpetrated on millions.

Importantly, Alicia's story portrays those targeted by genocide not as victims, but as agents in their own survival.  Following her life between ages 9 and 18, the memoir empowers young persons, and young women in particular. In showing Alicia's resilience, courage, and humanity in the face of extraordinarily horrific events, this exhibit seeks to inspire the ideal of tikkun olam - making the world a better place.

The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee is a proud sponsor of Alicia Appleman-Jurman: Her Story & Beyond - An Interactive, Student-Focused Website forHolocaust Education.

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USF Armenian Studies

Armenian Studies at the USF Libraries 

The Armenian Studies Initiative builds research collections in English, Armenian, and other languages; offers programming in Armenian history and culture; positions Armenia squarely in the historical and policy debates about genocide and its prevention; engages with the Armenian community, especially in the southeastern U.S.; and enhances intercultural dialogue about the shared experiences of the survivors of oppression and attempted annihilation.

Greek Community Documentation Project


Tarpon Springs preserves a strong Greek character and unique maritime heritage. The City of Tarpon Springs has collaborated with USF Special Collections to create this online exhibition documenting the history and culture of the Greek community.  Built on the framework of the permanent exhibit The Greek Community of Tarpon Springs at the Tarpon Springs Heritage Museum, we have substantially expanded it with new materials.

Oppenheimer Family


On the morning of December 8, 1941, the Nazi SS forced Erika Mannheimer and her family from their home in Bad Wildungen, Germany and sent them to Riga Ghetto in Latvia. After a 3 day journey by train, without food and water, they reached the ghetto where they found "empty houses, burnt out synagogues, over crowded cemeteries, and bodies lying in the streets, swimming in their own blood." Erika was 18 years old.

In 1946, Erika documented her experiences traveling from ghetto to work camp to concentration camp, 11 locations in all, from December 1941 to January 1945. She lost 11 members of her family, from 3 generations, at the hands of Nazi perpetrators, but survived to tell her story. Her son, Richard Oppenheimer, graciously shared her diary, family photos, and documents with the University of South Florida Library to honor Erika's life and memory in this online exhibit.


The University of South Florida: A Historic Overview

For such a young institution, the University of South Florida has a colorful and remarkable history of innovation and growth.  Opened as a university bereft of dormitories or athletics, USF has climbed the ranks from obscure upstart to a major player among the nation's institutions of higher learning.  Created with student input and text, this exhibit provides an introduction to USF history, largely from a student's perspective.


Art of the Poison Pens: A Century of American Political Cartoons

Art of the Poison Pens: A Century of American Political Cartoons is a testament to the long-standing and vital role that the visual arts have played in the construction of an American political identity. Sometimes cartoons mock, cajole, poke, prod, offend and embarrass their subjects, while at other times they are lamentations during times of challenge and distress.

With examples ranging in date from 1871 to the present, Art of the Poison Pens explores more than a century of American political history through the lens of humor. Here we feature the work of Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartoons winners placed alongside several relatively unknown cartoonists who plied their trade in local newspapers.

This exhibition was drawn from The Mahan Collection of American Humor and Cartoon Art in the Special & Digital Collections Department at the University of South Florida Tampa Library. Dr. Charles Mahan, Dean and Professor Emeritus in the USF College of Public Health, donated the materials in 2006. Dr. Mahan began collecting political cartoons, animation art, and comic strips from auctions and antique stores in 1950, and the collection grew in depth and breadth to include letters from cartoonists and notes from many personal meetings between the collector and the artists.

A version of this exhibit first appeared at the Tampa Museum of Art from August 4 – September 16, 2012, in conjunction with the City of Tampa’s role as host of the 2012 Republican National Convention.

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The History of Minstrelsy

This exhibit explores the history of minstrelsy, its significance in American history and theater, and its enduring legacy. Utilizing materials from the USF Tampa Library's Special Collections African American Sheet Music Collection, it is possible to trace the history of blackface minstrelsy from its obscure origins in the 1830s to Hollywood jazz superstardom in the 1920s.

Minstrelsy in America, for all of its frivolous humor and popularity, was an exploitative form of musical theater that exaggerated real-life black circumstances and reinforced dangerous stereotypes during the 19th and 20th centuries. The fact that blackface minstrelsy began in the antebellum period and endured throughout Reconstruction, Jim Crow and the Great Migration, with performers collecting and adding cultural aspects from each era to their performances, hints at the impact, popularity, and complexity of the minstrel show.

White supremacy and the belief in black inferiority remained at minstrelsy’s base even though the structure of the performances and subjects discussed in the music varied over time. The genre shaped the nation’s views on race for over a century and reinforced white superiority well after the abolition of slavery. While some today assume that minstrelsy’s blackface has roots in the American South because of the genre’s focus on black degradation and slavery, minstrelsy was born and evolved initially in the North.

For the majority of whites living in the pre-Civil War North, slavery and black people were a distant reality, one that evoked mixed emotions. If slavery was the commodification of black labor, minstrelsy, with its focus on presenting authentically black songs and dances, was the commodification of black culture. However, the depictions of blacks in minstrel performances were exaggerated, dehumanizing and inaccurate. Instead of representing black culture on stage, blackface minstrel performers reflected and reinforced white supremacy.

After emancipation in 1865, African American performers, seeing minstrelsy as an opportunity for advancement, contributed a humanizing element to their portrayal of blacks even though they also performed in blackface. Black performers during the Jim Crow era combined blackface with the newly popular genre of vaudeville and brought a black political agenda to their stage performances. During the 1930s, minstrelsy lost its widespread popularity to jazz but could still be seen in aspects of American society such as film. The popular film The Jazz Singer (1927) was about a white man wanting to become a blackface performer and featured Al Jolson, the most well-known performer of the decade. At the time, the film was the biggest earner in Warner Bros., and its success indicated that the age of minstrelsy in American history was far from over. Even in the twenty-first century, the racial stereotypes derived from minstrel shows can still be seen in popular culture.

Click here to enter the exhibition.


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Portraying Courage: Holocaust Survivors in Voice & Image

In the Fall of 2010, the USF Tampa Library Department of Special and Digital Collections partnered with the Florida Holocaust Museum to present an exhibit entitled “Art and Autobiography: Holocaust Survivor Portraits by Nava Mentkow.” This digital exhibition of portraits and testimonies is presented as a lasting effort not only to share Nava Lundy's (nee Mentkow) sensitive and poignant portraits, but to preserve each survivor’s history and provide a meaningful multimedia experience.


"When you listen to a witness, you become a witness."

-  Elie Wiesel


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Five Hundred Years of Discovering Florida

This exhibit was prepared by eleven students for an Honors College class "Major Works/Ideas" in the Spring of 2012.  Under the supervision of librarian-instructor Andy Huse, each student's assignment was to present an aspect of Florida's history or culture using only materials from USF Tampa Library's Special Collections.  The summary below is culled from their written introduction.

"In this exhibit, we will explore the history of what is now the state of Florida, including the culture of the Indian tribes that predated European presence by thousands of years, the technological advances that allowed the peninsula’s population and economy to develop into one of the largest of the 50 states, and the development of the tourism industry (and other related fields) that became the state’s trademark into the 21st century. We will present a narrative of Florida’s development based on historical photos and documents, as well as modern texts and accounts of the state’s history."


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Living a Genocide: The Children of Darfur


Children bear the brunt of any armed conflict and tend to be viewed as victims, although they are rarely given a platform to describe their experiences. This online exhibition features drawings by Darfuri children living in refugee camps in Eastern Chad. They represent eyewitness accounts of atrocities committed by the Janjaweed militia group and Sudanese government forces as they attacked unarmed civilians in the Darfur region of Sudan from 2003 through 2006. These children's drawings are going to be adduced at the International Criminal Court as testimony against those charged with planning and executing the atrocities in Darfur.

Speaking Out About Genocide: The Voices of Survivors, Upstanders, and Experts



Throughout the 20th century, genocides were perpetrated across the globe.  Governments attempted to exterminate entire classes of their citizens based on religion, race, or ethnicity.  Tribal and clan prejudices led to civil wars where hundreds of thousands were killed, injured, and/or left homeless and displaced to refugee camps. 

This exhibit explores the history and reality of genocide through the voices of the people effected.  Survivors describe, sometimes in graphic detail, their lives before, during, and after genocide.  Activists and scholars discuss how genocides happen and what can be done to stop genocide in the future.

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Florida Water: History of Reliance, Abuse, and Restoration


Water is an all-important topic in the past, present, and future of Florida.  In many ways, water defined Florida at every stage of its history.  Water shaped the peninsula of Florida when European explorers and cartographers attemped to map the territory.  Agriculture, fishing, and tourism all rely upon clean water for profits.  Florida's role in warfare and shipping would not be possible without access to water and the state's strategic location between the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean.

This exhibit showcases sources on all of these topics and more.  It also traces humanity's slow and often reluctant realization that Florida's natural resources are unique and irreplaceable.  With control of Florida's resources comes responsibility and stewardship.  The future health of Florida's water is ultimately determined by how we behave today.

Using materials held in the University of South Florida Tampa Library's Special Collections, this exhibit reminds us of water's importance to Florida's history and future, all the while displaying a variety of resources for use in further research. 

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Selling Sunshine: Florida's Citrus Industry


This exhibit explores the history of Florida's citrus industry through various materials held by University of South Florida Tampa Library’s Special Collections: post cards, sheet music, rare books, promotional materials, industry documents, and political correspondence.  If Florida's identity is irrevocably entwined with the citrus industry, some of these materials served as the glue that joined them in the public's mind. For Florida boosters, it was not just a matter of marketing citrus.  They sold a bit of Florida sunshine in every crate of citrus and carton of orange juice.

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