Jerry Wilkinson Research Library

The Jerry Wilkinson Research Library is a non-circulating library and reading room at the Keys History & Discovery Center. The Research Library archives and special collections are owned by the Florida Keys History and Discovery Foundation, Inc.

The official opening and ribbon-cutting of the Research Library was held September 10, 2018. The Research Library is currently open for use on an appointment-only basis.  Please fill out our Research Appointment Request form and your will be contacted to confirm a scheduled date and time.  If you are unable to complete the online form, call 305-922-2237 for further assistance.

Mission of the Jerry Wilkinson Research Library

To protect, preserve and create resources and enrich understanding of Florida Keys history for present day and future generations.

Scope of Collections

The Jerry Wilkinson Research Library currently houses a rich selection of donated archival and special collections. These collections, which are being processed, include:

  • The Jerry Wilkinson collection: featuring research, documents, manuscripts, books, maps, charts, plans and photos, our largest personal collection was donated by regionally renowned historian Jerry Wilkinson, president of the Historical Preservation Society of the Upper Keys.
  • The Jim Clupper collection: documents, artifacts and records donated by the family of deceased local librarian and archeology enthusiast, Jim Clupper.
  • The Willie Drye collection: research and manuscripts gathered by the author in support of Drye’s book Storm of the Century: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935.
  • Original early 1900s photographs, letters and maps previously belonging to Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway Chief Engineer, William Krome.
  • Artifacts from the earliest Keys inhabitants and hand-carved reproductions of Native American tools.
  • Newspapers: bound volumes of four Florida Keys newspapers: the Free Press, Keynoter, Reporter and Key West Keynoter – dating from 1963. These newspapers served to illustrate and bind together the colorful social fabric of the Florida Keys for many years. However, print production for both newspapers was halted in April 2018, so preservation of these widely-read local papers provides a valuable resource for researchers and the community.
  • Various unique documents, photos, pieces of artwork, memorabilia and other historical materials, including previously not yet digitized microfilm of Keys Veterans News from the early 1930s and invaluable oral histories dating from the 1970s.
  • Popular and rare books, magazines and periodicals, including History Talk from the Florida Upper Keys.
  • Historical records of Florida Keys organizations such as the Daughters of the American Revolution, Pigeon Key Museum and Garden Club of the Upper Keys.


  • To acquire, identify, preserve and provide access to unique and wide-ranging collections of research materials, including books, newspapers, periodicals, manuscripts, scholarly research materials, archives, art, photographs, audio-visual materials, ephemera, memorabilia and other items related to Florida Keys history.
  • To provide research services and access to the collections to historians, researchers, students, visitors, genealogists and the general community.
  • To interpret and highlight relevant themes, such as genealogy and family histories, from the Library’s collections through public exhibitions, educational displays and presentations.
  • To draw scholars to the Florida Keys and enhance the KHDC’s growing reputation as an institution which enriches and clarifies understandings of Florida Keys’ history. This purpose is consistent with the Jerry Wilkinson Research Library’s vision to be the recognized institution providing a cohesive narrative of the Florida Keys’ History through ongoing research.
  • To foster research and publication as a direct result of access to the unique materials in the archival collections.
  • To provide an educational resource, especially to students, in the fields of Florida Keys history, culture, and environmental history.
  • To serve as the repository for official records of KHDC of permanent historical value.

Donating to the Keys History & Discovery Center Collection

The Jerry Wilkinson Research Library has grown because of generous donations from individuals who have a passion for preserving and sharing Upper Keys history. If you have documents, photographs, etc., that you are interested in contributing please review the acquisition criteria below.

Acquisition Criteria

In developing the Library’s archives and special collections, the principal objects targeted for acquisition and care are:

  • Material produced in the Florida Keys;
  • Material used in the Florida Keys but created elsewhere;
  • Materials not made or used in the Florida Keys, but related to the history of the region and collected for research, exhibit and educational use.

Archives, special collections and materials acquired for the collection should be complete, in good condition and as fully documented as possible.

The decision to acquire a material is based upon number of factors:

  • Supports the mission and goals of the Jerry Wilkinson Research Library;
  • Significance, such as association with an event, person historical period or geographical area
  • Representative of other materials of its kind;
  • Physical condition;
  • Availability of human and financial resources to acquire, document, preserve and preserve the material;
  • Opportunities for use for research or education;
  • Any restriction on use or disposition of the object;
  • Attributes that make the object a threat to users or other objects.

Original material will be accepted into the Photo Archives at the discretion of the Curator, Director or Archivist.

The Library does not accept donations of object(s) of questionable origin (legal or ethical). The organization will not accept materials associated with the destruction of historic or archaeological sites or in violation of the terms and conditions of state and federal
laws and statutes.

If you believe you meet the criteria above, please complete the potential donation form  to provide us with a description and a Discovery Center staff member will reach out to you. If you are unable to complete the online form, call 305-922-2237 for further assistance.