Sarasota's history on display at historical center

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Posted: Friday, April 19, 2013 5:08 pm | Updated: 4:33 pm, Wed Oct 16, 2013.

SARASOTA - If you've lived on the Suncoast for a while, you're probably amazed at all the changes that have taken place. Old landmarks are disappearing, but at the Sarasota County History Center, experts are struggling to preserve historical treasures before they're lost forever.

Looking at the outside of the Sarasota County Historical Resources building off Cattlemen Road, you'd never guess the treasures inside. "Oh, we have all sorts of things. We have furniture from Bertha Palmer's time; from The Oaks, where she had her home. We have back in the back here a whole collection of…Badgers Drug Store that was on Five Points," says Larry Kelleher.

Archivist Heidi Conner is there as a consultant to preserve the wardrobe collection. "They have an assortment of items here that range from the mid-1800’s, predominately women's clothing. They also have military uniforms from World War 1 and World War 2."

"A lot of these uniforms are from McKinley Canter. He was a war corresponded in World War 2. He was Pulitzer Prize winner. He did a lot of photos and photojournalism for all your magazines back in the World War 2 era like Life and Saturday Evening Post," says Kelleher.

There are seats from long gone stadiums, old films that are being preserved, a mourning dress worn by a widow long ago, and fancy dresses worn by the fashion elite.

There's also an extensive collection from John Hamilton Gillespie – Sarasota’s first mayor and the man many credit with bringing golf to Florida. They even have the knickers he golfed in. "The knickers are stored in an acid-free box wrapped in acid free tissue. They're stuffed to eliminate any type of wrinkle. Wherever there is a crease or wrinkle, where that happens, that is where a fabric will deteriorate first," says Conner.

She says if this clothing from Sarasota's past is preserved properly, it'll last hundreds of years.

And Kelleher says that’s important, because these items help us remember our past. “If you forget about your history, how do you move into the future without knowing where you've been?"

The Sarasota County History Center is located at 6062 Porter Way in Sarasota.

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