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October 17: Archives Month - Florence Davis, SHSND Librarian

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October is Archives Month, a time when archives around the country celebrate the records in their holdings and recognize the archivists who assess, collect, organize, preserve, and provide access to information of lasting value. The North Dakota State Archives is part of the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

In September 1925, Mrs. Florence H. Davis began working as librarian of the State Historical Society. She had been known in the community for a number of years, serving as librarian of the Bismarck Public Library since 1918.

She left the Bismarck library position a few months early to spend time in Madison, Wisconsin, at the historical library there to study “methods of handling state historical material.” She dove into her duties at the Historical Society upon her return.

She was aware of a need to publicize the work of the State Historical Society, and by 1932 she was working on a weekly radio program sponsored by the North Dakota Federation of Women’s clubs, called “Flicker Tales.” One of the show topics was “When our capitols were new,” providing historical information on the radio.

She worked through a lot of major events while working at the Historical Society. She was there during an inventory and audit of items in the collection. This took around 6 months. However, she noted positively that it had “most satisfactory results” by setting up a model for “all future orderly” transactions.

She was there when the Capitol building burned, which caused an upheaval as rescued state records and displaced state employees took over the Historical Society’s space at the Liberty Memorial Building.

During the Great Depression, Florence had first-hand involvement with that era as she had the assistance of men employed through The Works Progress Administration.

Florence also had some amusing insights. At one point she noted that they needed to hire a “strong woman” as a shelf keeper, for “dusting and placing” books. She noted: “janitor men are excellent for routine, heavy work, but a failure at dusting.”

She obviously loved her work, which she did for more than two decades. As she wrote in one report a couple years before retiring: “Routine work of the small staff is, and has always been, a pleasure.”

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker


  • The Bismarck Tribune, July 3, 1925, p1; p5
  • The Bismarck Tribune, September 3, 1925, p5
  • SHSND Series 30213, Box 1, Folder 13
  • The Bismarck Tribune, March 16, 1932, p5

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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