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New College of Florida’s Project Contract – Industrial America Course

New College of Florida’s Project Contract

Project Description

The purpose of this project is to create a database of sources for the decade of 1880-1889 that reveal aspects of its expansive growth during this period, and to incorporate items from that database into a series of exhibits. Both the database and exhibits will be contained in a singular site with the purpose of capturing various aspects of Tampa as a “boomtown” during this period. In four short years Tampa transformed from a town to a city, in a number of respects.


Ybor’s establishment in 1885 as a center for cigar factories meant massive immigration and a fundamental shift in the role of government which had previously been charged with overseeing a small port town. The introduction of railroads had the effect of connecting Tampa to the national economy, which enabled to become one of the largest producers of cigars for the U.S. market. Throughout all of this the Tampa government had to cope with the changing urban landscape, reacting to transformation in a myriad of ways. In some instances there was xenophobia mingled with public health, in others there was an eagerness for expansion that culminated in tax breaks for industrialists, and in others there was an expansion of the state apparatus itself to account for the population growth in the area.
This project will analyze some of the nuance involved in sudden urban growth in one instance. Tampa’s growth was fundamentally tied to industry and is, to varying degrees, representative of the experiences of other communities which underwent similar expansions. By focusing on the urban landscape and government of Tampa, we can analyze how these specific aspects change upon sudden industrialization. By digitizing primary sources, we also create a utility for academics interested in exploring urban processes elsewhere. Our exhibits will contribute to public history as well, by discussing some aspects of Tampa’s history, such as the changing role of its government, which has received little attention.


Project Plan

The project will cover the first few years in the development of the city of Tampa from multiple angles. In focusing on such a short period of time – only 4 years – we can increase the depth of our analysis research. We will examine how the Tampa government responded to the explosive nature of the city’s growth, as well as the ambitions of the industrialists who had made Tampa into one of the fastest growing cities of the 1880s. We will digitize text sources from the time period and shortly after it, such as government records, personal correspondence and civic planning records, alongside physical sources like the buildings constructed in the post-1885 boom themselves. Through this depth of resources we hope to put together a (metaphorically) three-dimensional model of the development of the city, and through that examine how a city comes to be during the second industrial revolution. The site will have two sections, due to our two-pronged approach to this period of time: “Government” and “Urban Landscape.”

The front page will function as a hub from which the viewer could access the other two exhibits and database. This will also include a short summary of the purpose of the website, as well as short description of the two exhibits and their layouts. After this there will be a timeline which features some of the essential events of early Tampa history, such as the establishment of Ybor city, the completion of the Plant line, etc. There will be similar timelines in each of the exhibits which will cater more specifically to the content of the exhibit, displaying many events which wouldn’t be included on the front page time line. These time lines will have links on them that direct the user to the point in the text on the same page which is relevant to that date. Otherwise the timeline points will have a picture of some sort, a date, and a name.

Also on the front page, there will be two maps, one showing some display of Tampa’s size in 1885 and another in 1889, to emphasize how this site studies a “boomtown” in the making.

The government exhibit will discuss the dramatic changes the municipal government underwent during this four year period. This section will discuss some of the roles the city government assumed as it was forced to respond to the various effects of immigration. These roles include utility providers on a far larger scale, a maintainer of public health and economic stimulator. This section will also discuss the changes in the structure of the government itself, the changes in its personnel and jurisdiction as well as the general ideology of its elected members.

The urban landscape exhibit will involve a study of the physical transformations of the city during this period. One section of the exhibit will cover the introduction of railroads, and how the city adapted to this introduction. Another section will explore how housing changed over this period, studying how the city was affected by the factories and their accommodating structures, which appeared during this period. Finally, the exhibit will include a section exploring how the expansion of the city utilized and transformed the geography of and around the town.

Items from the larger database will be utilized in each section with a reference to them in the text and a display of the item around the main text. This display will be a box that take up only a small portion of the page itself, only so much as to attract attention but not to distract viewers too much from the main text itself. These displays will be for those interested in knowing more about the production of our narrative, or who want more specific information about whatever subject the object is related to in the text. Involved in these referential boxes will be a picture of some sort, be it of text or an actual object, a summary of the object of a size appropriate to its context, so pretty brief in most cases, and links to the object’s page on the database, as well as to other objects that are similar in their topical association. This is where the tags we use for each item become particularly useful.
The end result will be two central narratives expressed through the two different exhibits, which utilize and introduce larger concepts through displays of sources which refer the reader to other objects and concepts expressed through descriptions of them. We want a site that can tell a story but also offer extra avenues for the more curious visitors.


Project Technologies

The project will utilize Omeka to create the exhibits and store the database items. The website will utilize the “Seasons” theme. Google maps will be utilized in the project to point out landmarks in present-day Tampa. An alternate program will be utilized, if there are no sufficient pre-existing maps for the purpose we outline, we will find a program that can show a geographic region, and color in that map the area which could be considered “Tampa.” TimelineJS, with which we will create 4 different timelines. A “higher quality” (revise for specific requirements) digital camera to pictures of items for Omeka. n the process of researching we will also use the scanners housed in the archives, microfilm, and the computers on which they keep some of their digitized materials. Googledocs spreadsheets will be used to prepare and sort items in the formal database.

Project Timeline

  • Finish Research at Tampa Municipal Library: March 2
  • Finish text and design draft for “Government” exhibit: March 11
  • Finish text and design draft for “Urban Landscape” exhibit: March 18
  • Have several peers review our site: March 27
  • Draft of Final Project: March 29
    • includes accessible and stylized exhibits and database of materials.
  • Peer Review Assignment in Class: March 31
    • Peer Review Assignment due: April 7
  • Final Project due: April 21


Zach: For research, due to our circumstances, we will always go together or I will go alone if Leo isn’t able to. We will go to the same archives in Tampa and decide who will do what based on whatever specific plans we have that day. We will both be in charge of cataloging the items we find in our research on Omeka. Both of us will try our best to have metadata entries that compliment each other, but we will have creative discretion in designing metadata for each item.

In creating the website I will be in charge of handling the “Government” section and homepage, while Leo is in charge of the “Urban Landscape.”