SAHS Speaker Series: Bob Nawrocki

Our next speaker is Bob Nawrocki, M.L.S. He serves as the St. Augustine Historical Society’s Chief Librarian. His talk, “The Meyer Family: Photographers of St. Augustine and Tin Can Tourists,”will take place on Monday, September 24, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. in the Flagler Room at Flagler College.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at Bob’s research process!

SAHS Speaker Series: Bob Nawrocki 1

What drew you to this discipline?I was a history major in college and spent three semesters interning at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society (now the Buffalo History Museum). I spent three semesters in the library and one in the manuscript department. My first job was with a local historical society in York, PA. After that I was hooked, and I’ve spent my entire career in archives and information management. 
What is your research process like? The simple answer is to just keep digging until you find the information you are looking for. I always have several projects in the fires and keep a list of questions I need to answer for each project. The key is to keep looking since you never know where the next bit of information is going to come from. I have a small project on a short-lived tourist train set up in the 1960s. While helping a patron research attractions in St. Augustine, I found a reference to a whistle from the train being sold when another attraction went out of business. So I had one new piece of information but it just opened up other questions about where the rest of the train equipment ended up. Librarians are trained in how to find information and I use these skills to work on my projects when I have time. 
Why this topic? I use photographs as a research tool and when I started with the Research Library, I was drawn to the photographic collections. I kept running across Meyer photographs and wondered who he was. Further research showed a father and son who documented St. Augustine from the 1870s to the 1920s as amateur photographers. The original glass plates in our collection included the work of Richard Aloysius Twine, an African American photographer who documented Lincolnville in the 1920s. Photos are time machines that provide a window to the past that can say more than 10 pages of text. I hope to make more people aware of the Meyer and Twine photographs and the rest of our photographic collection. 
What is the best part of your field?It is working with people and their questions. Patrons come in looking for information about their family history, authentic details for their work of historical fiction, or the history of their house. We also get historical researchers delving into some aspect of St. Augustine history.  We receive questions in person, on the phone, in the mail or via email. They are passionate about their research and we try to help them as much as possible. Many times while helping a patron, we run across something that answers other questions we have in a file we would not have thought to look at. Every day is a treasure hunt.