Over on our Instagram, we’re celebrating the great outdoors with the National Archives! We knew we had the perfect story to share, but it was too long to fit in one caption. From August 7 to September 18 1973, six Flagler College students spent six weeks “time traveling” back to Spanish colonial-era St. Augustine to learn what life was like for 1750’s Floridians. The project, titled “Man of the 70’s: Coping With Change” was created by Sociology professor Michael Sherman with the help of Robert Steinbach, Director of Research and Interpretation of the Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board. Funding was donated by the Florida Citizens’ Committee for the Humanities and the National Foundation for the Humanities.
About 20 students spent a semester studying the historical and cultural context of 18th century St. Augustine, including religion, economy, professions, and more. From that, 6 students were chosen to participate in the “live-in” experiment. The Preservation Board donated the use of two reconstructed properties on St. George Street for the students to use as their homes. They were divided into two families; one was a fisherman’s family and the other a farmer. Each family had a husband, a wife, and a child. To ensure historical accuracy, they assumed the traditional family roles that would have existed at the time; the men provided food for the family, and the women spent their days cooking, cleaning, and gardening.
The students learned a variety of survival skills to 10 days before the project officially began, like using a dugout canoe, making casting nets, how to kindle a fire, and how to cook using historical tools. Once the “live-in” began, they had no contact with the outside world, even those who visited to observe them. The only modern convenience they were allowed was modern plumbing and fresh water! The entire experiment took place during the hottest and wettest part of the year in Florida, so they were truly exposed to the elements.
The overall goal of the project was to see if the students felt that simpler times were happier. They determined that although there was more connection and quality time spent together, they also dealt with similar problems of the 70’s, and were arguably more difficult. All in all, we’re sure the Flagler “live-in” project was one those 6 students will never forget!