The Boca Raton Historical Society was founded in 1972 to "collect, preserve, and present information and artifacts relevant to the past and evolving history of Boca Raton". In the ensuing years, the Boca Raton Historical Society has acquired a significant collection of objects and archives that document the history of Boca Raton's community. The following is a brief description of many of the offerings housed in The Schmidt Boca Raton History Museum and available to researchers via the Research Department services.
Approximately 16,000 images from ca. 1900 to the present depicting a variety of subjects relevant to local history including images of: early agriculture; historic structures; transportation routes; the Boca Raton Army Air Field and the pioneers. Reprints of these photos are available through the Collections Department.
Clippings, brochures, pamphlets and other materials relating to various subjects pertinent to area history. Highlights include the Boca Raton Army Air Field, Mizner Development Corporation, IBM, and FAU.
The Boca Raton Historical Society is fortunate to own several important collections documenting many of the significant and everyday activities in the history of South Florida. The Chesebro Collection document the lives of a family of pioneer farmers and landscape nurserymen and includes Frank Chesebro's daily diaries from 1903-1935. The Rickards Collection contains personal letters, early Florida survey books, and miscellaneous documents from 1895 through the 1920s and covers such interesting subjects as the development of Pearl City, the Yamato Colony, and the F.E.C. Railway. The Gates Collection contains many abstracts and documents from a pioneer family involved in local real estate. The archives contains Boca Raton city records from 1925 through 1930, which record the new city's survival of boom and bust. The Boca Raton Army Air Field and Boca Raton during World War II constitute another important subject of a growing number of manuscript collections gleaned from old city records and private sources. There are currently about 300 manuscript collections with an additional 200 scrapbooks relating to Boca Raton history in the collection.
About 500 original drawings and copies of drawings of some of the most important historic structures in our community including the houses of Old Floresta, the Cloister Inn and its descendant the Boca Raton Club. Modern architects like Howard McCall are also included in the collection.
Near 500 original, copies, and published maps of the Boca Raton area from all eras plus a small collection of aerial photos and Redi Maps are available to aid environmental auditors as well as historians in the documentation of land use.
Approximately 150 oral histories have been collected from local pioneers and the Historical Society is fortunate to house copies of the Pearl City research project (Boca Raton's historically black community), which formed the basis of the 1990 book Pearl City, Florida, a Black Community Remembers. A number of the Pearl City interviews are available on line through FAU's digital library. The newest oral history projects relate to the history of IBM in Boca Raton and the growth of Boca Raton's Jewish community.
Amply used by property researchers and environmentalists, the Boca Raton Historical Society holds a collection of these tomes dating from 1956 through 1989 (with some gaps).
Bound copies of the Boca Raton News, Boca's hometown paper, cover the dates from 1955 -1982 (after which microfilm copies are available at the public library). Also available is a complete run of the mimeographed newspaper The Pelican, which ran irregularly from 1948 through 1953 and the Weekly Tattler, from 1938. The Tattler, Pelican, and Boca News from 1955-1970 have been digitized and are available in a text searchable PDFs through the Boca Raton Historical Society website. In addition, the Boca News microfilm 1970-2005 has been digitized and is searchable through Google News Archives Search advanced search.
Three Dimensional Collections
The Boca Raton Historical Society has acquired artifacts and memorabilia relating to the local pioneers, World War II, and the first IBM PC - developed right here in Boca Raton; approxiamately 2000 items in all. The Society's important collection of over 400 furnishings and decorative items from the Mizner era are on display in Historic Town Hall or in collections storage.
Books and Periodicals
A collection of approximately 750 reference books on the history of the area, historic preservation and architecture, and other topics of interest to local researchers and staff are available in the Society's non-circulating library. The Boca Raton Historical Society's own journal, The Spanish River Papers, is available on the Boca Raton Historical Society website.