Transforming Historic Records into an Interactive Museum Tool


Working with the Museum of Seminole County History, UCF Director of Public History and Associate Professor, Dr. Scot French wanted to transform an aging Jail Book into a digital format. Local business E-Z Photo Scan stepped in to volunteer its resources to make this hope a reality. Click here to read about this collaborative effort in creating an interactive museum tool.

Counting Kills in the Debary Hall Game Ledger

From 1904 to 1941, the DeBary family recorded the kind and amount of game killed on hunts on or near their namesake winter retreat. Along with the game bagged on registered hunts, the family documented various notes from these excursions, including weather conditions, hunting locations, wildlife observations, the amount of guns or people involved in each hunt, and remarks on the training and health of their hunting dogs. For this project, I focused only on the recordings documenting the wild game killed on the property. The following charts were generated to help visualize and understand the data within the ledger. After transcribing and organizing the game record’s scrawled cursive into spreadsheets, I was able to use Shiva VisualEyes tools to chart this raw data into coherent and interpretive graphs. The following charts not only exhibit a very diverse makeup in the kinds of game killed at DeBary Hall, but they also show a gradual decline in the amount of game hunted at DeBary Hall over the span of the 37 years recorded in the ledger.

This rundown will examine each chart created and make deductions from their findings. Afterwards, I will explain the significance of the ledger and its data to revealing new details of Florida and US Southern history in general.

Before diving into the numbers killed, the first question that should be asked is this: What game did the DeBarys and their guests hunt the most of? These pie charts break down the kills by kinds of animals.

94% of the animals killed by the DeBarys were quail and snipe. Quail took up 66% of the ledger’s recorded kills, equaling 6,172 killed over the ledger’s 37 year span. Snipe took up 28% of the ledger’s total kills, equaling to 2,564 bagged. Considering that each of these birds have their own space for recordings in the ledger, this find was expected. The “quail” hunted here was the Northern Bobwhite, which thrives in pine forests like those that once dominated the landscape around DeBary Hall. Choice habitat plays a part in quail’s strong presence in this document, but the DeBary family might have also raised quail on their property to hunt them in the field. Considering that there is photographic evidence of the family raising pheasants, another popular game bird, and that there are notes within the ledger observing quail as “very wild,” it is safe to assume that the DeBary household at least dabbled in raising and managing quail populations on their acreage.

The “snipe” recorded in the ledger refers to Wilson’s Snipe, a shorebird that is hunted more for sport than meat. Known for flying in a fast, zigzagging path, Wilson’s Snipe are challenging game to take down for a marksmen. Their tendency to migrate January through February made them key targets for the DeBarys as they finished out the winter at the hall.

5.96% of the remaining game were either ducks, bass, or doves. 356 ducks were recorded within the ledger. Though ducks make up a mere 3% of the game killed, this group was the most diverse when it came to specific species represented within the ledger. The DeBarys recorded six kinds of duck being shot within their game record. They were the Hooded Merganser, the American Black Duck (Blackhead), the Mallard, the Blue-Winged Teal, the Lesser Scaup (Broadbill), and the Ruddy Duck. 156 bass were fished at the hall, making up 2% of the game recorded, and Mourning Doves, totaling at 54 recorded kills, make up 0.6% of the ledger’s game.

The rest of the kills documented in the game record are represented in the 0.4% of “various” game interspersed between the most common game killed. The next pie chart will break down that 0.4% between the nine animals that make up the “various” category.

Within the variety of creatures that make up the remaining 0.4% of kills represented in the ledger, rattlesnakes and rails make of 0.1%, 25% of the various game category in the first pie chart. 14 rattlesnakes, presumably Eastern Diamondbacks, were all killed in one day. The 11 rails (shorebirds) were killed randomly, and they were made up of 3 distinct species; the King Rail, the Greater Yellowlegs, and the American Coot. The 6 Killdeer recorded in the ledger met death in one day like the rattlesnakes, making up 0.06%. Raccoon and Foxes, numbering 4 kills each, make up 0.04%, while alligators and rabbits make up 0.02%, or 2 each, and a single deer and a lone Bald Eagle make up the remaining game percentage with 0.01% each.

All in all, 13 kinds of animals were killed at DeBary Hall. Of these creatures, only two of them were considered endangered or threatened during the ledger’s time span, the Bald Eagle and the American Black Duck, which have now recovered since then and are of least concern for now. This research exhibits that the Debarys did not kill a substantial number of animals facing near extinction. However, a gradual decline in kills is observed in the ledger when one tallies the amount of game killed per season.

This line chart demonstrates a decline in all game numbers over the time period recorded in the DeBary Hall hunting ledger. A “season” represents the time the family was in Florida. The DeBarys usually came into Florida by early November/ mid-December, and they would stay until the coming of Spring in early March. This chart generates the sums of the quail, snipe, and the rest of the game killed each season.On average, snipe and all the other game decline one kill per season. Quail, despite being game that was more or less raised  by the family, declined 6 kills per season on average. Even considering that the 1924 and 1925 seasons were banned by state legislation to help bird numbers recover, the lines representing game show far more decrease than increase in kills over time. This bar chart also exemplifies this conclusion in the data.

With a gradual decline so evident within this data, it begs a bigger question; what is responsible for this obvious declivity? There are two possible answers to this question, and each can be supported by more data held within the pages of the ledger.

The first viable answer is a reply already stressed by environmentalist and conservationists abroad. Continued human migration, habitation, and transformation of Central Florida’s natural environment throughout the early 20th century led to loss of habitat and thus a decline in wild species, particularly game animals, within the peninsula. Though much more research and data is needed to substantiate this claim for this area along Lake Munroe, it is a safe assumption to make. Though the population did not boom in Florida like it did after WWII, tourists and farmers were already infiltrating and establishing their presence in the peninsula, and with this influx of people, the environment suffered. Between increasing human population, the infamous land boom, the expansion of agriculture and ensuing dredging of wetlands, the introduction of invasive plants and animals (even in the ledger, one can see complaints of nonnative water hyacinth choking the waterways and grounds for birds),and the late-Victorian bird-feather craze that brought unrestricted hunting into the state and decimated thousands of birds,  Florida already suffered multiple blows to its natural resources and ecosystems, prompting some of the earliest conservation groups to retaliate even before the 1904 season was recorded in the ledger. Though it does not concretely exhibit the effects of habitat loss and development on the environment, this ledger can be used to help prove this point further at least. Because of inconsistent recordings, I did not tally the bevy observations listed in the ledger (these are notes chronicling the amount of quail groups, or bevies, seen during a hunt), but such data might strengthen the notion that wildlife species were dwindling because of human activity.

On the other hand, the ledger could also prove the second possible answer to what is causing decline in game kills, and that reply is simply growing disinterest toward hunting over time by the family. An analyse of the average days hunted in each season could improve this supposition into a plausible explanation for the declivity in kills. However, just from hindsight gained while doing this project, I noticed the amount of hunting days to be closer to equal to days hunted previously; the amount of days hunted  in 1906 is still quite comparable to those hunted in 1936. It will take a reexamination to see if such data really even matters to proving disinterest as the likely culprit to the decline of kills.

Despite begging bigger questions to be answered, this project did succeed in doing one thing; it shows how incredibly valuable this ledger, and other hunting ledgers like it, are at revealing the environmental conditions of the past and enriching the ecological history of Florida and the US South. By recording the game killed, these documents offer an intimate glimpse into historic wildlife numbers that were not as documented as they are in more recent decades. The addition and comparison of other hunting ledgers inside and outside of Florida can reveal just how much the environment changed in North America and abroad as industrialization began to take firm hold of society, and such data can show the true impact of human activity over the lands and waters of the Earth over time and development. Though this project only uncovers one small Central Florida regions wildlife numbers, it can be used as a template for similar future studies and slowly began a reevaluation into how wildlife numbers in the US and beyond have responded to, responds to, and will respond to human activity in the past, present, and future.

James A. “Drew” Padgett

Sanford: Then and Now

Telling the Story of a Small Town in the Digital Age

Contributed by Callie Henson, History Graduate Student

The community of Sanford, FL began as a small steamboat shipping town and blossomed into one of the most productive celery and citrus cities in Florida from the onset of the 20th century until the 1960s. Sanford’s story is told by photographs in an Arcadia publication, Images of America: Sanford.

This project focuses on the way in which small, once-booming towns, in this case Sanford, FL, use their history to create and maintain their own community narratives. Using a simple digital slider tool called Juxtapose JS and the familiar historical trope “then and now,” the project attempts to reveal how these types of stories can be crafted and altered drastically. The tool also adds a level of interactivity and serves as a dynamic way to compare the photographs, as opposed to a book of printed photos.

The study uses photographs collected from local residents, the Sanford Museum, Sanford City Halland other local sources as historical artifacts and compares them directly with current photographs of the exact same physical places. This study uses photographs from multiple points in a building or location’s history to reveal that the story of that place can radically change. This study employs four different categories to measure these changes and evaluate the variations in the narrative: Dilapidated, Enriched, Maintained, Vanished. Ultimately, it’s the choices of the people who shape the town, both historically and in how they present the narrative.

Dilapidated Sanford: Sanford Ave

First Photo: 1980s
Second Photo: 2009

Photo I have, but need to find on my computer/camera: Summer 2015 (Becomes Enriched Sanford with newest photo)


Enriched Sanford: NAS Sanford