A Snap from the Past

Some say if you take a picture, it will last longer. For us at Governor’s House Library, this common saying holds truth. Among our collections, we preserve photographs related to the Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board’s archaeological projects. So on this winter day, let us take a look at some snapshots from a dig during the sunny summer of 1977.

That year an archaeological excavation took place at the De Mesa Sanchez House, under a grant from the National Park Service. Students from the Florida State University Field School – with the direction of Dr. Kathleen Deagan and Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board – completed the dig from March through September.

Two black and white photographic negatives from a contact sheet. A group  eight people stand together in front woods in both images.
Negatives of the excavation crew at De Mesa-Sanchez House in 1977. (UFDC)

The De Mesa Sanchez House – located on St. George Street – dates back to Florida’s First Spanish Period (1565-1763). The original structure consisted of an one-story, one-room coquina house. It changed hands many times by the 1970s. The archaeological team sought to uncover the evolution of the house’s architecture as well as the story of its residents.

Two black and white photographic negatives from a contact sheet. The left image shows a seated person holding a trowel in a pit. The right image shows two people water-screening artifacts.
Negatives of the excavation crew at De Mesa-Sanchez House in 1977. (UFDC)

With care, the archaeological team used shovels and trowels to excavate the site. The students in their field laboratory used water-screening to analyze the smallest materials. They bagged and labeled each of their findings for further research at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville – where it is still found today.

Two black and white photographic negatives from a contact sheet. A woman is smiling and laughing in an excavated well in both images.
Negatives of the excavation crew at De Mesa-Sanchez House in 1977. (UFDC)

Besides taking plenty of field notes, the students also captured many snapshots of each other (and of course the site). Their pictures and notes allow us to visit their dig and experience the summer of 1977 with them. You can still find their field notebooks, maps, recording forms, and photographs filed away in the Governor’s House Library.

To read more about the 1977 excavations of the De Mesa Sanchez House, visit the University of Florida Digital Collections by clicking here.

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