Arts & Culture

Exploration of maritime history available through efforts by UWF, partners

Exploration of the maritime history and heritage of the Gulf Coast is now readily available through the Gulf Coast Digital History Project, featuring a digital portal established by the University of West Florida and various partners. One touch of a screen or click of a mouse allows users to explore thousands of digitized photographs, maps and other historic documents, along with a curated list of books and articles.

The digital history project seeks to foster research, teaching and learning about the northern Gulf of Mexico by creating an accessible clearinghouse of history and heritage resources. Featured collections include articles on Harold J. Brow, a commander in the U.S. Navy who earned the title of the fastest flyer in the world in 1923, images of the Port of Pensacola from the 1970s and letters Navy officer Mark X. Benson sent from the Pacific Theater to his wife in Gulf Breeze during World War II.

“This collection is a one-stop shop for students, scholars and researchers to delve into the rich maritime history of the Gulf Coast,” said Dr. Jamin Wells, UWF Digital Humanities Lab director and assistant professor of history. “The collection is robust and we are working to further expand this resource.” 

The project will launch the portal with a virtual event from 11 a.m. to noon on Thursday, Dec. 10. Registration is open to the public and the event will showcase the portal along with a panel discussion and live Q&A session. 

“High school teachers often are given a very basic or bland curriculum as the foundation for history courses, and many of them spend hours upon hours searching for and piecing together resources to supplement their curriculum and enrich their students’ academic experience,” said Williams, a Pace High School teacher and UWF history graduate student who will serve as a panelist for the virtual event. “This database provides an easily accessible and searchable tool that teachers can use to pull primary sources relevant to their coursework and to their students’ lives as residents of the Gulf Coast area. These primary sources can make a world of difference in engaging students in the work of a historian.”

The National Park Service provided funding for the project through the 2017 National Maritime Heritage Grant Program. The research team includes representatives from the UWF Digital Humanities Lab, Department of History, UWF Libraries and the Florida Public Archaeology Network. Other partners include Gulf Breeze Area Historical Society; Destin History and Fishing Museum; Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum; National Naval Aviation Museum; West Florida History Center; UWF Archives; and UWF Historic Trust.

“The Destin History and Fishing Museum is very fortunate to be a part of the Gulf Coast Digital History Project,” said Kathy Marler Blue, executive director of the Destin History and Fishing Museum and a panelist for the virtual event. “Our museum is a caretaker of the local culture and heritage and has acquired many artifacts and documents from the families of our early pioneer families of Destin. Our ultimate goal is to have our whole collection digitized in-house. This project is a wonderful venue and first step in sharing that heritage for research and information.”

To access the Portal, visit