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FLORIDA HISTORY RESOURCES: Florida's Waterways by Michele Wilbanks

Getting Started at Special Collections

The Special Collections library at the University of Florida is on the second floor of Smathers Library East, with the reference desk in the beautiful Grand Reading Room.  On your first visit, you will be asked to complete a short registration form and review the policies of the room and use of the materials - Plan Your Visit  .  We recommend that you email us at a week before you come to use our collections, so that we can retrieve materials from off-site shelving, preservation, and digitization facilities.  

You can search our library catalog and our digital collections site from any computer.  You can also search our finding aids, or inventories, of manuscript and archives collections, so that you know what boxes of materials you'd like to see.  Our primary sources on the Everglades and the Cross Florida Canal have links to the finding aids of the collections listed.

Finding Aids: A finding aid is a text document providing a description of the contents of a collection, just like a table of contents outlines the contents of a book. By using a finding aid, a researcher gets an understanding of a collection in its entirety, sees the relationships between its component parts, and locates the portions of a collection pertinent to research. Finding aids sometimes provide narrative portions describing the background of a collection (how and when it was formed, how the archives acquired it, etc.), and how the archival staff has arranged or ordered the materials in the collection. 

Definitions of Sources

Primary sources are the evidence of history, original records or objects created by participants or observers at the time historical events occurred or even well after events, as in memoirs and oral histories. Primary sources may include but are not limited to: letters, manuscripts, diaries, journals, newspapers, maps, speeches, interviews, documents produced by government agencies, photographs, audio or video recordings, born-digital items (e.g. emails), research data, and objects or artifacts (such as works of art or ancient roads, buildings, tools, and weapons). These sources serve as the raw materials historians use to interpret and analyze the past.

Primary Sources on the Web: Finding, Evaluating, Using", American Library Association, January 12, 2015.

Secondary sources describe, discuss, interpret, analyze, evaluate, and summarize information of primary sources.  Secondary source materials are commonly books or articles in journals or newspapers and serve to explain and supplement the primary sources.

Public Services Coordinator

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Michele Wilbanks


This libguide was co-authored by Terrence Phillips (, now at Gateway Community College in New Haven, CT.

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