Fridays in October designated for history preservation

Published on: September 30, 2010


RUSKIN – You know it needs to be done…some sort of preservation of those precious pieces of the family history. But, how…and when…and where – those are the stumbling blocks.

Take those old school books from Wimauma High School you came across in that long forgotten packing box. They’ve begun to crumble, but a few digitally preserved photos certainly would remind the grandkids what hitting the books meant before iPad.

What about that packet of Daddy’s letters to the family back in Ruskin, scribbled literally in a cold foxhole on the front lines as his unit pushed across Belgium that lonely holiday season in ’44? Mom would so love a more permanent record that could be handled, passed around.


Melody Jameson photo
Planning applications of 21st century technology to preserve 20th century historical artifacts, local historians Dr. “Mac” Miller (left) and Dr. Paul Menair (right) discuss how best to conserve precious old photographs and delicate documents from the past. The two history buffs will be making permanent photographic copies on CDs of artifacts from around the South County on Fridays during October for the John Ruskin History Project and for owners of the historical information. They also are planning to record local oral histories.

And, someone really needs to get Aunt Hildie recorded before her course is run and her keen recollections of vacationing in the cabins at Gardenville Beach, spooning in the pier pavilion with her handsome Edwin, are as lost as the cabins and pier and pavilion are today.

But, when? Where? How?

Answers: on Friday evenings during October; in downtown Ruskin, with the help of the John Ruskin History Project.

For two hours, from 4 to 6 p.m., each Friday, beginning October 1 and continuing at least through October 22, local historians Dr. Arthur “Mac” Miller and Dr. Paul Menair will photograph or interview history subjects, as appropriate, and then digitally create two permanent records – one for the subject owner, one for the history project. Miller, college professor emeritus, is a lineal descendant of the Miller family which colonized Ruskin during the first decade of the 20th century. Menair, who recently purchased a home in the older section of Ruskin near the site of the first Ruskin College campus, is an attorney formerly practicing in Atlanta.

The history conservations will be conducted in the Big Draw Studio located in the center of the Ruskin Plaza shopping center on the east side of U.S. 41 in the center of downtown Ruskin. The local Big Draw, now in its third year, itself has historic connections, originating in Great Britain and inspired by John Ruskin, an English social critic who encouraged his fellow citizens to draw freehand as a means to expressing innate creativity and dealing with human foibles. The Ruskin, Florida, Big Draw also has spawned several similar events this year along the Suncoast.

The history conservators, Miller said, welcome almost any artifact – aging photographs, old tools and hand implements, outmoded kitchen ware and tools, school books from decades past, very old reading books, documents such as deeds or letters or telephone directories or maps, and anything else that relates to the last 100 years that the South County region has been inhabited by farmers, ranchers, loggers, turpentine gatherers, phosphate workers, tomato and vegetable packers.

Such three-dimensional objects will be photographed and those photos scanned into a computerized system then producing two CDs, Miller explained. The owners of the historic objects will retain their items and receive the permanent record CD, free of charge, he added.

In addition, anyone wishing to contribute to the area’s history record with oral recollections of life across South Hillsborough County during the 20th century is welcome to speak for recording, Miller noted. These contributors also will receive a CD containing their slice of life remembrances and recollected true anecdotes to keep as part of their own family histories.

Miller, whose parents played prominent roles in the initial Ruskin settlement, nurtured the first Ruskin College, building one of the remaining historic homes and who has spent most of his 70 odd years in the South County, pointed out that several surrounding communities share the historic longevity. The Adamsville, Gardenville, Gibsonton area clustered near the Alafia River, Riverview which was preceded by “Peru” founded on the south shore of the Alafia, “old” Sun City south of the Little Manatee River and the Wimauma-Balm area, along with Ruskin, all can justly claim lengthy histories, he said.

“Descendants of the old families which built these communities probably have tucked away in their attics and closets many objects that recall our history,” Miller asserted, “and we would like to make a record both for them and for the project.

“Whether you came here in ’08 or ’98, though, everyone contributes to our history,” he summed up, “and the objective of the John Ruskin History Project is to preserve it for our yet unknown future generations.”

Copyright 2010 Melody Jameson