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Jacksonville Historical Society adds new membership level

Society welcomes teachers to use its resources for history classes.

           Recognizing that teachers throughout Duval County are tasked at this time of global health crisis with what may come to be remembered as a historic challenge in education, the Jacksonville Historical Society has added a new $25 membership level for educators, a 44 percent discount off its regular individual membership.

           While students have long enjoyed the same low membership fee, the Jacksonville Historical Society determined that opening its resources to teachers would provide a benefit to all, now and in the future. “Offering this membership is faithful to what we do, because education is the first premise in our mission statement,” said Alan Bliss, executive director. “We endeavor to ‘educate and inspire the greater Jacksonville community to value its history, by fostering understanding of how the region’s past shapes our present.’” Some local educators already access the Society’s resources for class projects, such as photos of the Jacksonville Landing, used for reference in a gingerbread creation last December by Drew Haramis’ third grade class at St. Mark’s Episcopal Day School.

The Jacksonville Landing
Third grade students from St. Mark’s Episcopal Day School created a gingerbread replica of the former Jacksonville Landing, demolished in early 2020.

           “The Jacksonville Historical Society is committed to working closely with our schools and enriching their learning experience,” said Mitch Hemann, senior archivist at JHS. “Most recently I was interviewed by several students at LaVilla School of the Arts on the history of the Great Fire of 1901. I’ve had students interview me over the phone, email and even FaceTime. I’m amazed and encouraged by their creativity, and it’s always a pleasure to work with them.”

            In February, students in Nancy Bethea’s advanced creative writing class at LaVilla reached out to the Society with a thoughtful list of questions for Hemann. At the top of the list was a question that has been echoed in stories about the COVID-19 pandemic: What effect did the Great Fire of 1901 have on our economy short- and long-term?

            In the collaborative journalistic piece, eight graders Dakota Ashton, Brianna Bugbee, and Georgia Witt noted “The Great Fire left 10,000 people homeless and tore apart more than 2,000 buildings. The economy was also affected harshly, with a great amount of money lost. After the fire, the population was about 30,000, but in less than three months the population rose by 5,000, and by 1910, it had doubled. With so many people moving in building permits were being granted. This was only the beginning of the rebuilding that is still happening today,” the students wrote. Click here to read their story.

            “Although we had to cut our journalism unit short due to the virus, the students were able to work with LaVilla’s history, interview people about LaVilla, and write in a journalistic style,” said Bethea.

Georgia Witt, Dakota Ashton and Brianna Bugbee, eighth grade students at LaVilla School of the Arts

           To become a member of the Jacksonville Historical Society, click here. Membership includes many benefits, including free admission to events, such as the monthly Speaker Series programs, the annual Gingerbread Extravaganza exhibit and Merrill House Museum tours, in addition to access to the archives and photo collections online and via staff assistance.

           Check out our online collections, visit the Research Tools page. Can’t find what you need? Send an email to and our archives staff will see how they can best assist you in teaching about Jacksonville history.

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