You know those large, bronze markers with text all over them? You’ve seen them along the roadside and at historical sites around the state. They’re the result of Florida’s Historical Marker Program, managed by the Florida Division of Historical Resources. The Division works with a select group of experts, the Historical Marker Council, to make sure the markers are placed at sites of significance to Florida’s history and heritage. Council members are appointed by the Florida Secretary of State and serve 2-year terms; members generally include historians, archaeologists, and architectural historians from around the state.
If you’ve ever thought about getting a marker for a site you know of, the process is pretty straight-forward. First, visit www.flheritage.com/preservation/markers/index.cfm to learn more about the program, to see the criteria for markers, and to download the marker application. The application isn’t complicated but does require some background information, such as research into the site you’re nominating, permission of the land owner or manager to place the marker, and photos to show where the marker should go. You’ll also be asked to provide a draft of the text you want to appear on the marker, which has a word limit. The website includes a list of markers around the state, to give you some examples. Be sure to fill out the application completely and feel free to call the Marker Program staff if you have any questions!
Once your marker application is submitted to the Division, it’ll be reviewed by staff to make sure it’s complete; they’ll contact you if they have any questions. The application then will be scheduled for the next Marker Council meeting. These take place about quarterly, although they don’t have a regular schedule as it depends on getting all the Council members together for a conference call. During the call, which you are welcome and encouraged to participate in, Council members will discuss the merit and importance of the marker application to make sure the site under consideration meets the state significance criteria. The Council are sticklers about things like punctuation and grammar, so make sure your text is proofed carefully and don’t be surprised if they find some corrections. The Council also will make sure the text is historically accurate and will ask for citations and published sources if they have questions.
If the marker is approved (and most are), Marker Program staff will contact you with instructions for ordering the marker. A marker with the same text on both sides is about $1,900; a marker with differing text on each side is about $2,100. Prices vary depending on cost of materials at the time of order, location where the marker is shipped, and length of text. Although the Division does not pay for markers, some grants may be available to help with the cost. When your marker is delivered, it’s a great opportunity to hold a community event to celebrate placing the marker!
FPAN staff are happy to assist with marker ideas and applications! Some FPAN staff have served on the Marker Council, so know what the Council looks for and what will get kicked back for correction (for example, the Council dislikes lists of names! they want facts about the site and why it’s important to the state’s heritage, not a list of who owned it). Contact your regional FPAN office if you’re interested in getting a Florida Historical Marker for your local heritage site.
Della Scott-Ireton, PhD, RPA
Florida Public Archaeology Network