Public History Students Advocate for a National Historic Landmark

Public history graduate students Erin Montgomery, Sarah Schneider and Holly Baker presented a strong case to the National Historic Landmarks Committee of the National Park System Advisory Board on why the Norman Film Manufacturing Company (Norman Studios) in Jacksonville, FL should be a National Historical Landmark.

Under the guidance of Dr. Anne Lindsay, the landmark nomination was written as part of a Seminar in Historic Preservation course offered in spring 2015. Students taking the class conducted primary and secondary source research on the site and the historical context of silent film and “race film” production during the early 20th century. The research involved visiting the site and traveling to Indiana University to view a collection of archival materials on Richard E. Norman. As part of their course work, they also participated in webinars with the National Park Service to learn how to write and format the nomination.

“Writing a National Historic Landmark nomination allowed me to gain invaluable, hands-on experience in the field of historic preservation,” said Sarah Schneider, who is currently conducting research for her thesis in Washington, D.C. “I was able to see in practice how historic sites are preserved and learn how to work through the entire process of researching and writing a nomination.”

In November 2016, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis announced Norman Studios as a National Historic Landmark. “It was powerful to meet with community members who have worked to preserve Norman Studios for many years and without whose effort the site and its history may never have been remembered,” said Schneider. “I’m grateful that I could play a part in helping preserve the site and its role in silent film and “race film” history for the future, while gaining such valuable professional experience in the process.”

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