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Five Reasons to Save the Broward Historical Commission

A couple of weeks ago we wrote about how the Broward Historical Commission lost all its funding in the recent round of budget cuts -- and how it's set to be absorbed by the already-beleaguered library department.

We stopped by the brand-new commission offices -- paid for with county tax dollars and still smelling of fresh paint -- to meet newly ousted director Dave Baber. A history buff through and through, he graciously showed us around the building... including a peek into the normally-closed archives and a look at some really cool stuff. Some highlights:

1. A chronicle of Florida's stunningly rapid development. Here's a picture hanging in the commission's hallway of the intersection at Oakland Park and U.S. 1, circa 1953...

...and here's the same spot 11 years later. That shopping mall in the top left corner is where you'll find a Target and some teabaggers today.

2. A fancy waterless sprinkler system.
Instead of spraying damaging water on all the archived documents, this one releases a cocktail of gases that's safe to breathe, yet suffocating to fire. This is one part of a $2.4 million renovation to the commission's digs that you paid for... but it could prevent irrevocable damage to one-of-a-kind documents.

3. Jail records from the early days.
Yes, Broward's history extends back past 1965, and they were lockin' folks up just as zealously then. (Okay, maybe not quite as zealously. We'll have to check on when exactly Mike Satz took office.)

4. Amazing maps. Drawers and drawers of them. If we had more hipster graphic designers in this town, they'd be jimmying the locks here.

5. Did we mention a newly renovated building? It used to be the West Side School, and they still have some old wooden desk-chairs tucked away in the archive rooms. The commission was just getting settled in when the budget axe came down... in fact, a new sign on the building's entrance went up the day after this year's history-ignoring budget was approved.

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Stefan Kamph
Contact: Stefan Kamph

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