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Historical Commission Collections
Broward County > Library > History > Historical Commission Collections

The following collections rank among the most valuable and useful in the Broward County Historical Commission holdings:

The Historical Commission archives contain a large collection of original government documents, including the county’s early probate records from 1916 to 1940, Sheriff’s correspondence and records, license applications, school records, County Guard records, voter registration cards from 1900 to 1946, deed records, Napoleon B. Broward Drainage District material
and the manuscripts of several early county officials including the first county engineer, H. C. Davis. These documents provide a vital and irreplaceable source of information on the county’s people and governmental institutions.

Over 1,200 maps ranging from 16th century sailing charts to modern road maps and development plats make up this collection. The majority of the maps are reproductions. Rare original maps include items from the 18th and 19th centuries while a collection of plat maps document Broward’s 20th century urban development in detail. A number of the rarest maps have been matted and framed to archival standards. The Judge L. Clayton Nance Collection of Florida maps makes up a significant part of the map collection. Rare maps from the Commission collection were exhibited in the Broward County Main Library along with maps from the Library of Congress in 2002.

Tape-recorded interviews with Broward County’s pioneer residents offer priceless eyewitness accounts of the county’s past. The Commission’s collection of over 300 tapes include interviews conducted since 1972, 120 of which are interviews conducted by Broward’s first county historian, Dr. Cooper Kirk. A number of these interviews have been transcribed and a project is underway to digitize the important information on these tapes.

The Commission’s extensive photographic collection includes over 20,000 images of the Broward County area and its residents dating from the late 19th century to the present. Comprehensive aerial photographs of the county dating from 1947, with some random images from as early as the late 1920s, are among the most commonly used items in the Commission’s archives. They attract daily use by environmental consultants, real estate developers and others to document past land use in compliance with current environmental regulations. Nine filing cabinets house the Hollywood Sun-Tattler collection of photographs which appeared in that paper mostly from the 1970s and 1980s. This collection includes images of both prominent and everyday people who lived in the county. Postcards, movie film and videotape also make up part of the collection. The Commission has worked with the Wolfson Media Center to have deteriorated movie film, some from the 1920s, transferred to video tape. The collection also includes hundreds of slides, primarily taken in the 1970s, of historical buildings and sites, many of which no longer exist today or have been drastically changed.

The Commission has almost 1,000 reels of microfilm in its collection.
The newspaper microfilm collection includes a nearly complete set of Fort Lauderdale newspapers (Sentinel and News) from 1913 to 1964, as well as issues of smaller Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood and Pompano papers, early issues of the Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, Miami Herald and Metropolis, Palm Beach Post and Tropical Sun, and the only known microfilm run of the Hollywood Sun-Tattler in Broward County.

Census schedules, early land records, aerial photographs from 1947 and 1955, Chancery Law records from 1915 to 1966 covering divorce and property matters and architectural drawings from several local architects are also available on microfilm.

The Historical Commission’s collection of microfilmed Seminole War records, including military reports, topographical engineering records, and post returns is quite extensive.

A microfilm reader-printer is available for use by the public.

The Historical Commission’s reference library of over 2,000 volumes focuses on the history of Broward County and Florida. The library contains books ranging from rare 19th century volumes to the most recent publications, as well as periodicals, an extensive collection of city directories dating from 1918 to the 1980s, high school annuals from the 1920s to the 1990s, and the Cooper Kirk Library of historical volumes donated by the Kirk family.  Through a cooperative effort with the Broward County Libraries Division the commission's book collection is listed on the library's on-line catalog available at : Broward County Library Catalog 

In addition to the book collection noted above, the Cooper Kirk collection consists of extensive notes, photocopies, manuscripts and other documents collected and assembled by Dr. Kirk during his years as the Broward County Historian (1972 – 1989.) The collection contains information on a wide range of Broward County history with an emphasis on such topics as Major William Lauderdale and the Second Seminole War, Governor Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, and the creation of Broward County, as well as notes extrapolated from local papers from 1909 to 1929.

A variety of artifacts illustrating the uniqueness and diversity of Broward County and South Florida’s history are housed at the Historical Commission. Among the most rare items in the collection are the only known surviving relics (musket balls, gun flints and pottery) from one of the three Fort Lauderdale’s erected in the vicinity during the Second Seminole War. 

Artifacts recovered from professional archeological excavations within the county during the last 30 years also form part of the holdings. The Historical Commission maintains a small artifact collection and borrows artifacts from various historical societies, museums, and private collectors for exhibit purposes. Because of current space restrictions the Commission’s artifact collection is limited.

One of the most unique collections held by the Historical Commission is the early employee records for the Florida East Coast Railway. These date from 1918 to 1950 and contain priceless information on a large number the people who once worked for the company.

The Commission’s general reference collection include vertical files containing manuscripts, newspaper clippings, pamphlets and notations on a wide range of subject matter collected over the years. Of particular interest are the biographical files which include obituaries and pioneer biographical data forms. These forms are currently being added to a searchable data base.