Young Visitors Encouraged to Archive Their Lives

by Sarah Block, Library Communications

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Local girls from the GEM Program view rare and unique materials at Special Collections.

During a field trip to the University of Miami Libraries Special Collections and University Archives, a large group of middle and high school-aged girls learned about the impact of historical preservation. They ran their fingers over the lead-free pages of rare books, compared photos old and new documenting the University and its mascot, Sebastian, and they took home an important message in the world of archiving: save your diaries.

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Campers study the pages of an illuminated manuscript with Manuscripts Librarian Beatrice Skokan.

“It’s important that you see yourselves as historians,” Cristina Favretto, head of Special Collections, said to the thirty campers from the Girls Empowerment and Mentoring (GEM) Summer Arts and Science Program during their visit on July 16.

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A visitor observes campus life captured in an Ibis yearbook.

The visitors from GEM explored a wide range of items from the past now preserved at Special Collections: gold-painted and palm-covered books from the Caribbean, century-old City of Miami brochures, and handmade booklets called zines. “All provide a unique historical perspective for researchers,” Favretto explained.

University Archivist Koichi Tasa presented a display of UM publications and memorabilia that document the University’s history. “We preserve items that show how the University has changed over the years,” Tasa said. Through photos, campers observed the development of the Coral Gables campus, which they had toured prior to their stop at the Libraries.

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A group gathers around a display of UM publications presented by Koichi Tasa.

The group has visited a variety of the city’s historic and cultural sites through the GEM Program, a five-year-old initiative of the Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department. “GEM challenges and inspires girls to develop their creative potential, improve their self-esteem, and to become strong communicators and leaders,” says Vivian Greer-Digon, GEM’s program manager. “We empower them with tools and connections for success. Arts and science make it possible.”

Favretto said she hopes the young women’s visit to the Libraries will inspire them to think as archivists. “Document your family, your school, your interests, and your point of view,” she urged them. “Document your lives.”

Photos by Brittney Bomnin.