The time is 1880-1920. Ephemeral Cities is an integrated collection of maps, documents, museum objects, photographs, and ephemera that breathe life into the static renderings of the historic fire insurance maps created by the Sanborn Fire Insurance Company.

A key feature of this collection is its use of geographic information systems or GIS. Highly detailed and historically accurate maps for each city over time have been rectified with known Earth coordinates. The foot print of a building on a given site in 1880 can be compared with footprint of the building there in 1900 and 1920, even on the site today.

Another key feature of this collection is its use of names. Collected and analyzed for data-mining are city directories, social directories, telephone books, and other name rich resources. When combined with the historic maps, Ephemeral Cities can identify the occupants of a given site. What's more, it can tell you where an individual worked as well as lived. And, if the information has been digitized and indexed, ... where that individual was born, married, died, and burried.

The depth of information extends beyond actuarial information. Searches of people, places and events are linked here to newspaper articles, archival materials, books, even artifacts such as a barber's tools, a cigar manufacturer's cigar labels, or the canned goods sold by the turn of the 19th Century grocer.


Funded in part by the Institute for Museum and Library Services, this demonstration project focuses on three key Florida cities: Gainesville, the site of the largest university; Tampa, the West coast hubof commerce and finance; and Key West, an island rich with Bahamian and Cuban influences. We anticipate extending the project to other Florida and Caribbean Basin cities over time.

Ephemeral Cities is the joint project of Florida International University, the University of Florida, and the University of South Florida with active localized participation of five libraries and one cooperative library unit: University of Florida Libraries, Florida International University Libraries, Alachua County Library District, May Hill Russell Public Library of Monroe County Public Library, University of South Florida Libraries, and the Florida Center for Library Automation; four museums: Alachua County Historic Trust/Matheson Museum, Inc., Key West Art & Historical Society, Tampa Bay History Center, and the Henry B. Plant Museum; and two public records offices: Alachua County Clerk of the Court, and City of Key West; as well as the citizens of Florida who graciously allowed their personal collections and artifacts to be digitized for this collection.

This project relies heavily upon the digital collections of the University of Florida Digital Collections, the University of South Florida Digital Collections, the State Universities of Florida's PALMM Collections, the Ancient Records Project of the Alachua County Clerk of the Court, the Mile Markers Project of the Monroe County Public Library, the Heritage Collection of the Alachua County Library District, and the Florida Memory Project of the State Library and Archives of Florida. MORE