Life in an Archive: A Visit to the Pan Am Collection

by Jason Sylvestre and Steve Hersh, Special Collections

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Guy Noffsinger explores the Pan Am collection on his latest visit to Special Collections.

Washington DC resident Guy Noffsinger has made several trips to Miami to conduct research on Special Collections’ Pan American World Airways, Inc. Records. He made sure to time his most recent visit with the “Cleared to Land” event on January 29, in which Special Collections celebrated the completion of a two-year effort in reprocessing the collection. The visit was an all-around success for Guy, who not only got to take home a print of a Pan Am Clipper that he won during the event, but also made an exciting discovery in the archives. He was kind enough to answer some questions for us to share with our Special Collections community about his latest experience in using the collection.

– How has the Pan Am collection helped your research?

The collection has been a source of wonder and reflection. For nearly fifteen years, I have been endeavored in researching the story of the world’s first aerial hijacking for both a book and documentary production. Before the recent update to the archive research tools, finding specific photos and other information was challenging at best. Now, with the updated method and two year effort into re-cataloging all the archived materials, my search results have been ten-fold in the successful discovery of previously misplaced information.

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Woodcut print of planes and globe from a 1938 Pan American World Airways timetable, 1938.

I had an “A-ha!” moment on Friday, first time ever, that when I found two documents labeled “Pan Am – Secret” that proved a long held theory about attempts at sabotage of aircraft prior to World War II. Feel free to visit www.lostclipper.com to see how some of your materials are being shared with the world.

– Do you have a memorable real life Pan Am experience?

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Pan American World Airways Boeing 747, interior image of spiral staircase and bar, c. 1970-1980.

The very first time I stepped aboard a commercial airliner was an international flight between France and the US and it was on a Pan Am 747. I still have my wings and have loved that blue beach ball of a logo for a long, long time. Now, that I have been to the archive four times (no easy task as I live in Metro Washington DC), I feel that I will soon be able to use my personal experience, along with the hundreds of images within the archive, to tell the story of the Pan Am flying boat Hawaii Clipper and how it may have been one of the first unknown victims of World War II.

– What is your favorite place to travel?

My favorite place is absolutely New Zealand!

– If you could be any animal, which animal would you be?

I would say a bird…probably an Osprey.

Life in an Archive is produced by archivists and staff at UM Libraries. Stay tuned for more stories about how UM students, researchers, donors, and community members are breathing life into UM Libraries’ unique and distinctive collections.



Life in an Archive: Records of a Library Champion

Archived Photographs and Stories Preserve the Legacy of Dr. Archie McNeal

by Koichi Tasa, University Archivist

Dr. Archie McNeal, director of the Libraries who served from 1952 to 1979, oversaw the completion of the Otto G. Richter Library.

Dr. Archie McNeal, director of the Libraries who served from 1952 to 1979, oversaw the completion of the Otto G. Richter Library. 

Throughout Archives Month, University of Miami Libraries (UML) archivists have been sharing stories conveying the importance of access to archives and the unique and historical materials preserved in them. The University Archives is a resource that houses photographs, yearbooks, student newspapers, administrative records, memorabilia, and many other materials pertaining to UM history.

Weeks ago I exchanged a heartwarming correspondence with a community member who had found an Otto G. Richter Library brochure from the 1960s while going through family albums. She wondered if we’d be interested in adding it to our collections. She also mentioned being the niece of the late Dr. Archie L. McNeal, the first director of the University Libraries who served from 1952 to 1979. With more than thirty-five years having passed since Dr. McNeal’s retirement, the donor didn’t expect anyone currently at the Libraries to remember her uncle’s name, yet I knew the name quite well.

In fact, the important legacy of Dr. McNeal and his service to the University is one that is well preserved at the Archives: Dr. McNeal led the Libraries through an important phase of collection development, during which the Libraries’ holdings grew from 273,000 volumes to approximately 1.4 million volumes. He oversaw the construction of the Richter Library, completed in 1962, and is also well known for leading a number of important scholarly research initiatives.

Searching for Dr. McNeal’s name led quickly to a number of links to online records from his tenure, including archived articles from The Miami Hurricane describing some of the library programs initiated under his leadership and iconic photos from the 1950s through 1970s featuring Dr. McNeal in action at the library (such as the ones in this post). I was honored to be able to provide Dr. McNeal’s niece with these records that document his important work at the Libraries, and am happy to share them with you as a part of Archives Month. Check out more photos of this former director in UML’s Digital Collections for a glimpse into the early years of the library and an important time of growth for our University.

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Dr. Archie McNeal and Jay F. W. Pearson, former president of the University of Miami. 

Stay tuned throughout Archives Month for stories about how UM students, researchers, donors, and community members are breathing life into UM Libraries’ unique and distinctive collections. Happy Archives Month!



Life in an Archive: Examining Operation Pedro Pan, 1960-1962

Program Brought 14,000 Unaccompanied Children to the U.S.

by Natalie Baur, Cuban Heritage Collection Archivist

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A young girl holds her doll as she arrives in the United States with the Operation Pedro Pan Program, circa 1960-1962. From “Cuba’s children in exile: the story of the Unaccompanied Cuban Refugee Children’s Program.” Cuban Refugee Center pamphlet, 1967. (Cuban Refugee Center Records, CHC0218).

Between 1960 and 1962, more than fourteen thousand unaccompanied children left their families in Cuba for a new life in the United States, many of them arriving through Miami. They came as part of a program run by the Catholic Welfare Bureau (Catholic Charities) of Miami, with the support of the U.S. Department of State, known as Operation Pedro Pan. Through the program a large number of children were reunited with family already in the United States, but about half spent their early years in their new country under the care of the Catholic Welfare Bureau. Operation Pedro Pan is an important part of U.S. immigration history, Miami history, and a powerful moment in the Cuban exile community.

In 1961, a month before her fifteenth birthday, Cuban Heritage Collection staff member Gladys Gómez Rossie boarded an airplane alone in Havana and started her journey to the home of an aunt and uncle living in New York. Eventually relocating to Miami when her unaccompanied younger brother arrived, seventeen years passed before Gladys was reunited with her parents in the United States.

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Cuban boys take a sled ride in Columbus, Ohio, circa 1960s. (Cuban Refugee Center Records, CHC0218)

Because of her own experiences, Gladys is dedicated to helping tell her own story and those of countless other Pedro Pan alumni through the power of the archives. Gladys uses materials from the Cuban Heritage Collection archives to share the dynamic history of Operation Pedro Pan with members of the University of Miami’s Federation of Cuban Students, for which she serves as the group’s adviser. Now a beloved annual event for the group, many students look forward to the Operation Pedro Pan presentation as a way to learn about the immigration experiences of their parents and grandparents through photographs, documents, and guest speakers.

Many of the memories and stories around Operation Pedro Pan are preserved and open for study and reflection at the Cuban Heritage Collection. Starting last year, Florida Atlantic University intern Alexandra Díaz processed collections relating to Operation Pedro Pan and created an online subject guide to help users explore the Cuban Heritage Collection’s holdings on the experiences of Pedro Pan families.

James Baker (right), former director of the Ruston Academy in Havana, Cuba, receives an award with Monsignor Bryan Walsh (left) at an Operation Pedro Pan alumni event in 1980 recognizing their instrumental work in organizing Operation Pedro Pan. (Ruston Academy Records, CHC5293).

James Baker (right), former director of the Ruston Academy in Havana, Cuba, receives an award with Monsignor Bryan Walsh (left) at an Operation Pedro Pan alumni event in 1980 recognizing their instrumental work in organizing Operation Pedro Pan. (Ruston Academy Records, CHC5293).

Stay tuned throughout Archives Month for stories about how UM students, researchers, donors, and community members are breathing life into UM Libraries’ unique and distinctive collections. Happy Archives Month!



Life in an Archive: Heartbeats, Lifelines, and Legacies

Connecting People and Papers of the Past and Present

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Photograph of stewardess and soldiers inside a Boeing 707 on a Vietnam Rest and Relaxation Airlift, circa 1960s, Pan American World Airways, Inc. Records collection.

by Emily Gibson and Laura Capell

It may sound anachronistic to refer to “life” in an archive when you consider that archives house the collections of people and places past. However, life is precisely what archives are all about. Case in point: the Pan Am Collection.

With over 1,500 boxes of historical materials, the Pan American World Airways, Inc. corporate records touch upon many different aspects of twentieth century history—not just in the United States, but around the world. Since it’s such a rich treasure trove of information, the collection is incredibly popular with researchers interested in an immense variety of topics.

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Photograph of stewardess seated inside a Boeing 707 engine intake well, circa 1960s, World Wings International, Inc. Records collection.

Researchers are the heartbeat of our collections. Many Pan Am researchers are former Pan Am employees or family members of former employees interested in documenting their family history. Aviation enthusiasts also like to use the collection, since Pan Am played such a significant role in aviation history. The collection is also popular with scholars researching a wide variety of historical, social, and cultural topics.

Sometimes our collections are lifelines. Take for example a Vietnam veteran who contacted UML Special Collections searching for documentation in support of his disability claim. Information from a Pan Am timetable from Southeast Asia from the early 1970s provided the final piece of information needed for the VA to approve his claim. As an archivist, it’s incredibly fulfilling to connect people with the information they’re looking for, especially when that information has the power to change a life.

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Detail of route map from 1972 timetable, Pan American World Airways, Inc. Records collection.

The Pan American World Airways, Inc. corporate records may be the linchpin of Pan Am’s legacy, but the motor driving the legacy are organizations like the Pan Am Historical Foundation and World Wings International whose missions are to educate people about Pan Am’s history and connect the people who made that history possible. These organizations keep Pan Am alive.

The Pan Am Collection includes the records of the Pan Am Historical Foundation, Inc. and World Wings International, Inc., and the personal papers of dozens of former employees, in addition to the corporate records. These collections, and the relationships we forge with the people and organizations who donate them, are a very important part of life in UML Special Collections.

Stay tuned throughout Archives Month for stories about how UM students, researchers, donors, and community members are breathing life into UM Libraries’ unique and distinctive collections.



Life in an Archive: Archives, Books, and Artistry

A Closer Look at an Artist’s Book
by Béatrice Skokan, Special Collections Librarian

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Check memory by Martin Casuso was inspired by a small archive of checks that his mother wrote in the 1970s.

Martin Casuso created the artist book Check memory in 2010 as part of a semester long project at the University of Miami Libraries Special Collections. The students from Professor Carol Todaro’s sculpture class were to use archives from the library or their personal archives to create artist books.

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The artist’s book includes fifteen short narratives typed on the back of the old checks.

“Using a small archive of checks that my mother wrote in the 1970s, I have written text based on my memory of the place or person to whom the check was written. The cedar memory box with its gilt “Mother” label, seemed appropriate to house these reminiscences. The red leather tag is the luggage tag that was always on my mother’s travel bag. It was good for binding the check pages.”

Martin’s artist book is not only aesthetically pleasing in its simplicity but captures the spirit of his mother, Titia, through fifteen short narratives typed on the back of the old checks. The stories also serve as “aide-mémoire,” capturing snapshots of life in Miami in the 1970s, taking the reader through local cultural landmarks like Belen Jesuit School or shopping at Burdines, the Florida-based department store. As a mother of two boys and an archivist, I love the beautifully crafted box of his candid memories of life with his mother in Miami linking the personal with community history.

So what is an artist’s book? In his introduction to Johanna Drucker’s The Century of Artists’’ Books,[1] Holland Cotter explains:

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This cedar memory box houses Casuso’s artist book.

“In almost every case, attention to the book’s visual presence—its objectness—is pronounced, in a manner that embraces elements of painting, sculpture, collage and filmic techniques. The conceptual dimensions of the book are similarly broadened. Some of these artists’ books are made for reading, some for looking, some for touching, many for all three. In content, they range from political statements, to formal meditations, to personal fantasies…Scholars and connoisseurs will want to study them; kids, particularly kids with hungry, highly developed imaginations, will just want to get their hands on them.”

I invite you to visit the University of Miami Special Collections to view, read, and touch over five hundred archival collections and two hundred artists’ books.

Photos by Cory Czajkowski.

Stay tuned throughout Archives Month for stories about how UM students, researchers, donors, and community members are breathing life into UM Libraries’ unique and distinctive collections. Happy Archives Month!


[1] Drucker, J., Granary Books (Firm), & Press Collection (Library of Congress). (1995). The century of artists’ books. New York City: Granary Books. P. 1



UM Libraries’ Archivists Kick Off “Life in an Archive” Series

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by Jay Sylvestre, Special Collections Librarian

October has been designated by the Society of American Archives as Archives Month, a collaborative effort by professional organizations, libraries, and archives around the nation to highlight the importance of the records we hold and to raise public awareness about the value of historical records and collections.

To celebrate Archives Month, archivists and librarians from UM Libraries’ unique and distinctive collections will be sharing stories from our experiences working in the archives at the University of Miami. The series will be called “Life in an Archive,” focusing on the stories of people who have used and/or donated to our collections.

Stories will be told from the perspective of archivists who have had the opportunity to interact with people from all over the world:

  • University Archivist Koichi Tasa will talk about leading UM alumni and their family members to photographs and records from their time at UM.
  • Cuban Heritage Collection Librarian Meiyolet Méndez and Archivist Natalie Baur will discuss helping researchers make new discoveries on Cuba and its diaspora.
  • Special Collections Librarian Jay Sylvestre and Manuscripts Librarian Beatrice Skokan will show how artist’s books, zines, and other unique materials held at Special Collections have impacted people’s lives.
  • Electronic Records Archivist Laura Capell and Visiting Archivist Emily Gibson will share stories from working with the Pan American World Airways, Inc. Records Collection.

It is interactions like these with members of our community that provide the archivists and librarians at UM Libraries with a rich set of stories to share. Stay tuned for posts this month about alumni, veterans, researchers, and donors who have allowed us to be a part of their journey. I hope that you enjoy reading our stories as much as we enjoy sharing them.

Happy Archives Month!