2011 - Panel 8 - Cuba and Haiti: Archival Experiences at the University of Miami
Panel 8, May 31, 2011, 9:00 am-10:30 am
Moderator: Meiyolet Méndez, University of Miami
Presenters: Maria R. Estorino, University of Miami; Béatrice Colastin Skokan, University of Miami; Meiyolet Méndez, University of Miami
Rapporteur: Sarah Yoder Leroy, University of Pittsburgh
After Meiyolet Méndez welcomed everyone and introduced the speakers, Maria R. Estorino spoke about building the Cuban Heritage Collection (http://library.miami.edu/chc/) at the University of Miami Libraries. After giving some background on the history of the connection between Cuba and the University of Miami, and the interest in collecting Cuban materials by the University of Miami Libraries over the years, she described the official formation of the Cuban Heritage Collection in 1998, which brought together collections documenting Cuba, the exile experience, and the culture and literature of the Cuban diaspora, which had previously resided in different areas of the libraries. The Cuban Heritage Collection received a grant to build a space for the collections, and in 2003 the Roberto C. Goizueta Pavilion opened. The Cuban Heritage Collection serves the university, the larger academic community, and the general public, and focuses on four main areas: 1) collection development, 2) preservation and access, 3) teaching, learning and research, and 4) outreach. It brings together, preserves, and makes available primary and secondary materials in all formats, including digital resources. It works with faculty to support instruction at the university, and supports research by sponsoring undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowship. In addition, it coordinates events and exhibitions which reach the general public. Some challenges for the future include ongoing assessment of the collections, building more faculty relationships, and working with a changing donor base, as new demographics and associated relationships emerge.
Béatrice Colastin Skokan followed with a presentation on documenting the Haitian diaspora at the University of Miami Libraries. Miami-Dade is a center of Haitian life in the U.S., where Haitians are the second largest non-English speaking group after Hispanics, and the second largest immigrant population after Cubans. They are a marginalized group, and Special Collections at the University of Miami has made efforts to collect primary source materials documenting the social and political life of this group. The current focus is on collecting papers and documents of local activist groups. It also sponsors public events and outreach, such as the special event entitled Documenting the Fringe, which included a reception and discussion on documenting counter-cultural activism. Special Collections holds the Max Rameau papers (1998-2010) which document his activism for the homeless and the poor within the South Florida communities of the African diaspora. Materials are often acquired through donations from community leaders, and developing relationships is a key component in making this possible. Collecting oral histories is another way they are filling content gaps and documenting intangible culture.
Meiyolet Méndez's presentation was entitled "Blueprint for a Collaborative Instruction Model: a Multi-Disciplinary Approach", and she spoke of developing partnerships with librarians working in other departments of the library in order to enhance the work of both. For example, the Cuban Heritage Collection's desire to increase the use of its archival and digital material, and the Education and Outreach's aim to incorporate the use of primary documents in information literacy sessions lead to a natural collaboration. Working together, the two librarians could identify classes with a Latin American/Cuban component, and introduce the Cuban Heritage Collection's digitized primary materials in an instruction session. The blueprint for collaboration is as follows: identify a department in the library you want to know about, contact the librarians there, meet and identify common goals or needs. Reach out according to your strengths and prior relationships. If you are interested in instruction, identify programs or classes where you might work collaboratively. Document your activities. There are also possibilities for non-instructional collaboration, such as events and exhibits, where volunteering and agreeing to do something new are ways to stay aware of activities in other departments.
Questions & Comments:
Peter Bushnell (University of Florida) asked if there was a charge for non-University of Miami users. Special Collections and the Cuban Heritage Collection are open to all.
Gayle Williams (Florida International University) mentioned that it was a shame Lesbia Varona wasn't in attendance since she would have so much to add.
Marisol Ramos (University of Connecticut) mentioned that she appreciated the presentation because it is so hard to find materials about the Haitian diaspora, and she is excited to find someone doing this. She is trying to collect Haitian ephemera as well. She is also collaborating with archivists at her institution, and wants to promote more collaboration among librarians.
Gerada Holder (National Library and Information System, Trinidad and Tobago) wondered what the collection strengths were with regard to the Caribbean countries. Colastin Skokan indicated that the University of Miami's strengths are Jamaican and Haitian materials and the Caribbean Documents collection, which includes slave registers from Trinidad and Tobago, significant rare books, and 19th century materials.
Diane Napert (Yale University) asked whether gifts come with restrictions. Estorino said they are working on a standard deed of gifts for personal papers and organizational papers.
Paul Smith (University of California, Los Angeles) asked whether there is an organization in New York creating an archive of Haitian materials, and whether there was any Haitian migration to Quebec. Colastin Skokan answered that the migration distribution is South Florida, New York, Boston, and Quebec. The University of Miami is starting in South Florida, but some oral histories have been conducted with artists in New York as well. The Schomburg Center may be collecting Haitian diaspora material, but she wasn't sure.