“A world without archives is us without any sense of orientation, any sense of who we are, any sense of locality. Archives are vital as much for our past as for our future.”

—Dr. Gus Casely-Hayford, former Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art

With a staggeringly rich and diverse pool of current and former residents, businesses, and organizations from which to gather cultural treasures, it’s no wonder Riverside Avondale Preservation is, literally and figuratively, brimming with historically important information. I’m honored to help RAP organize, understand, and eventually exhibit some of the unique and interesting objects and records it has accumulated over the decades. From the family heirlooms, personal effects, and French Primary School mementos that remain from the Buckland family to the historical items donated by Riverside Avondale residents and the more modern educational and marketing materials contributed by RAP itself, a priceless collection has formed, telling the story of our people, city, and community.

In the next few months, we’ll be implementing best practices for inventory, documentation, and storage of the RAP archival collection so that its contents remain safe and accessible to the Riverside Avondale community for many years to come. After careful review of the many documents, photographs, books, decorative objects, and more on the RAP property, we plan to display some collection highlights with educational content in the downstairs common areas of the Buckland House. So please stay tuned!

Some early favorites have emerged, including a French Primary School class of 1928 photograph featuring some children who became prominent Jacksonville residents, a 1927 issue of Jacksonville Today magazine featuring Charles Lindbergh’s famous nonstop flight from New York City to Paris, and an abundance of piano sheet music featuring the Jacksonville-beloved Cohen Brothers Department Store (open from 1912 to 1959) stamp on the front cover. In one way or another, they all represent Jacksonville’s place in the world and, likewise, its mark on the world. Already, it’s a wonder to learn about the fascinating company kept right here in Riverside Avondale and their continuing influence today, and we’re just getting started.

Elaine Slayton Akin is an Arkansas native and moved to Jacksonville in 2021 by way of Nashville, Tennessee. Elaine has a B.A. in English from Lyon College (Arkansas) and an M.A. in art history from the University of Memphis (Tennessee). Prior to RAP, she worked in programming and development in arts institutions and museums, such as the Thea Foundation, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and First Art Museum. She also veered into more hands-on creative work directly with artists, including Nashville-based sustainable fashion designers Ceri Hoover and Elizabeth Suzann. Most recently, she worked as the Member Relations Officer at the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens.

As a part-time Archivist for RAP, Elaine shares her time working and volunteering at Riverside Presbyterian Church in communications and community outreach. She lives, works, and plays in Riverside Avondale and is excited about the future of this cornerstone community of Jacksonville, as well as what we can learn from the objects and records left behind by our predecessors. In her spare time, you’ll find Elaine traveling, walking the neighborhood with her husband Tim and dog Enzo, or freelance writing about art at a coffee shop.