A history professor known for his groundbreaking research and archival work on early Spanish Florida has been appointed to the Florida Historical Commission (FHC) by Governor Ron DeSantis.
Michael Francis, the Hough Family Endowed Chair of Florida Studies at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus, was named to the commission along with four others on September 3.
"It's such a unique privilege to serve on this committee," said Francis. "My area of research is the Spanish colonial era. So, I'm particularly interested in Florida's archaeological and colonial history."
The Florida Legislature established the FHC in 2001 to enhance public participation and involvement in preserving and protecting the state's historic sites. Members are considered to be experts in their respective fields.
Francis will serve a two-year term on the Commission. He will review grant applications, vote on proposed nominations to the National Register of Historic Places and advise the Florida Division of Historical Resources concerning policy and preservation needs.
Along with being a professor, Francis is the executive director of La Florida: The Interactive Digital Archives of the Americas. The project brings early Florida's diverse population to life through short videos, interactive maps and a searchable population database housed at the USF St. Petersburg campus.
The repository received national attention when it was unveiled in March 2018.
"It's a digital portal designed to introduce a global audience to Florida's rich colonial history,” Francis explained. “It's a place where anybody at any level can go and have free and open access to the site."
Francis previously served on the FHC for one year. The temporary appointment is a highlight of his career.
"It was wonderful. I think one of the most exciting things I got to see were the incredible 19th and early 20th century buildings and sites that I think so many Floridians are unaware of in existence."
Francis was appointed to the commission along with Rick Gonzalez, an architect in Juno Beach, Kathleen Kauffman, a historic preservation officer for the City of Gainesville, Judith Bense, founding member of the FHC and anthropology professor at the University of West Florida and Clifford Smith, a historical archaeologist and senior planner for the City of Sarasota.
"When you look at the other members of the committee, it's such a distinguished collection of people who have dedicated their careers to the promotion and preservation of Florida's extraordinary rich legacy," Francis said.