New Project to Archive Efforts of UM’s LGBTQ+ Student Organization

By Koichi Tasa, University Archivist

tasa_headshot_largeI am currently working for the first time to archive a collection of electronic records with my colleague Laura Capell, Head of Digital Production and Electronic Archivist. The commemorable organization of focus is UM’s undergraduate LBGTQ+ group SpectrUM. We will archive messages and e-flyers documenting their organizational efforts in support of UM’s lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, queer, and questioning community.

The collection was inspired by President Frenk’s December 2015 message on campus initiatives for inclusiveness towards LGBTQ+ students. I contacted SpectrUM to join their mailing list and have continued to save electronic records for the use of future students and researchers. We will make a decision shortly on how to provide access to the collection. For the time being, you can find more information on the collection in the finding aid.

SpectrUM's logo from their Facebook page

SpectrUM, organized in 1992, has expanded on the work of The Gay Alliance, which formed in the 1970s.

Working on this collection made me wonder about earlier gay and lesbian organizations at the University. Some historical information is available in The Miami Hurricane Archive Online. There I found an article from 1985 titled “Gay Student Seeks to Inform” by Sal O’Neill. O’Neill, who was a senior at that time, wrote about an earlier group called The Gay Alliance, formed in the early-to-mid 1970s. “The Alliance had weekly rap sessions in the Alliance’s office in the Student Union. They also sponsored regular dances at the Rathskeller which were open to the public,” he writes, also noting significant challenges– “fears of exposure and violence, and the apathy that any group must contend with”–that brought about its demise. In the 1980s, students could connect in an off-campus group called the Gay and Lesbian Youth Group, which offered “emotional support and social interaction to gay men and lesbians not available elsewhere up to the age of 25.”

The Lavender Celebration 2016 was sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs, Student Life, Toppel Career Center and Alumni Association.

The Lavender Celebration 2016 was sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs, Student Life, Toppel Career Center and Alumni Association to recognize the accomplishments of LGBTQ graduates of the U.

This was before SpectrUM, which was organized in 1992 (under the name Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Club). Its purpose is to foster pride through education, awareness, advocacy, and social events and to support all members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies. It’s remarkable to see how far this mission has come, and we look forward to the opportunity of sharing its continuation with future students and researchers.

Stay tuned for announcements about future archival efforts. In an upcoming project in February 2017 we will work with groups such as the Black Alumni Society and United Black Students to curate a full exhibition at Richter Library on UM’s black students and faculty. The exhibition will coincide with the Black Alumni Society’s First Black Graduates Project. We look forward to collaborating with these and other campus organizations to honor their accomplishments.

UM Student on “Pan American University”

By David Colbus, Senior in the College of Arts and Sciences
Student Assistant, University Archives

Throughout last fall, the University Archives worked to curate and install the Pan American University: The Original Spirit of the U Lives On exhibit on Richter Library’s first floor. This was the first exhibit I encountered as a new University Archives assistant. To introduce me to the Archives’ work and purpose, my supervisor Marcia Heath gave me a tour of the recently completed display. The exhibit celebrates Pan Americanism, the University’s 90 years of history, and the new president, Dr. Julio Frenk. Beyond teaching me about my new role in the Archives, this exhibit educated me on the University’s history, and how that history informs the institution it is today.


“Pan American University: The Original Spirit of the U Lives On,” located on the first floor of the Otto G. Richter Library, features historical materials dating back to UM’s founding years. Photo by Andrew Innerarity.

The exhibit tells us that “Before there were University of Miami students or faculty, defined programs, or even a single building, the enduring concept of UM as the Pan American University had taken form.” Congressman William Jennings Bryan dreamed up this concept, one George Merrick and other founding members of the University strongly shared. Merrick envisioned a “university of our own tropical America…to supply that definite unfilled need of a cultural contact by university facilities with all of Latin America.” This Pan American University would invite cultural and academic exchange across all the Americas. This ideal informed the University’s earliest programs, research focuses, and even the University’s original architectural design. Victor and Rafael Belaúnde were specifically recruited to teach Latin American history and economics, and their establishment of the University’s Hispanic American Studies and Hispanic American Institute set the stage for many of today’s Hispanic-focused programs. The University of Miami also maintained close academic contact with the University of Havana through its early years to facilitate the academic exchange that Pan Americanism called for.


Photo featured in the exhibition of UM drama students outside of the capitol building in Havana, Cuba, c. 1950s, from the University Archives.

University Archivist Koichi Tasa came up with the vision for the exhibit and served as its chief curator, culling records from the Office of the President Records as well as visual materials from the UM Historical Photograph Collection and UM Campus Architecture Collection, among others from the University Archives.  “It’s a great occasion to showcase our collections and knowledge about UM’s history,” Tasa said.

Archives specialist Marcia Heath worked with Tasa in research for the exhibit, and supervised the Archives’ assistants in their tasks. “We have an opportunity to start and frame important discussions about history, culture, and diversity in our community,” Heath said. “This resource encourages students to broaden their horizons.”

The exhibit was a collaborative effort within the UM Libraries and beyond: Beatrice Skokan and Yvette Yurubi from the Special Collections department and Meiyolet Mendez from the Cuban Heritage Collection researched and provided materials on topics such as the founding of Coral Gables and friendship between UM and the University of Havana. The Library Communications team provided editorial and promotional assistance for the exhibition. They also worked with local artist and UM alum Alex Vahan (Cushy Gigs Creative) in the creation of an eye-catching photographic collage surrounding the exhibition space.

Archives’ student assistants Jodiann Heron, Davin Stencil, Cody Andreoni, Sabrina Anand, and I located and researched materials for the exhibit. “What I really like is learning so much about the University. Every single day you learn something different,” Heron said. When I looked through the display cases, I remember being amazed by the complexity and importance of the exhibit. Yes, the exhibit focuses on the cornerstone idea of Pan Americanism and the University of Miami’s close ties to Latin America, following through the University’s creation and history, as well as into the modern day. However, it also locates one of the University’s greatest strengths, our diversity, within that original idea of Pan Americanism. It shows how the University’s devotion to broader understandings of cultural acceptance, of diversity, of peace and equality, stem from this one idea.

This exhibit represents the University Archives in capacity and purpose, and represents its role they could play for the future. Looking forward to 2026, the University will be celebrating its 100th anniversary. The University Archives will play an integral role of this celebration, showing the growth and evolution of our University from the ideals that it was founded upon. I hope that all of the University of Miami, every department and office, helps us in this endeavor. “If anyone in the University wants to celebrate their anniversary, the Archives are here to work with them,” Tasa said. When the centennial celebrations arrive, everyone at this university, everyone who has contributed to its achievements and shaped its reputation, deserve to be celebrated as a part of that history, so that their efforts and accomplishments are remembered, and their spirit and ideals are passed on for those to come.


Local artist and UM alum Alex Vahan (Cushy Gigs, Inc.) created the historical wall design for the exhibition space using digitized archival materials. Photo by Andrew Innerarity.

The exhibition “The Pan American University: The Original Spirit of the U Lives On” is on view on the first floor of Otto G. Richter Library through May 2016.

UM Historical Materials Showcased at Inauguration 2016

By Koich Tasa and Sarah Block

Staff and student assistants at the University Archives recently caught a glimpse of the enormous effort in producing large-scale events when they assisted in planning the celebration of President Frenk’s inauguration, which took place during the last week of January 2016.

The University Archives, which houses  a vast expanse of records documenting the history of the University of Miami, provided research and exhibition assistance for the “Firsts at UM” event on January 27 in the Newman Alumni Center as well as the inaugural ceremony, which was held on January 29 at the Bank United Center.

Koichi Tasa says December to January was the busiest time in the decade he has served as University Archivist. “In these months, we gained valuable experience through collaboration with colleagues outside of the UM Libraries,” Tasa said. “We were proud to help bring UM history to life through the materials we preserve.”

President Frenk holding the Second Ceremonial Mace of the UM. Photo Courtesy of University Communications

Working with the Office of the President, University Communications, and other University departments, Tasa and his staff culled information as well as artifacts, including more than 300 high-resolution images for a video that aired at the event and past inaugural addresses and programs from three previous inauguration ceremonies.

The department’s materials were also featured in an exhibit at “Firsts at UM,” in which President Frenk and UM historian and author Arva Moore Parks discussed key moments throughout the 90-year history of the U. Guests, including several pioneers and trailblazers, viewed and engaged with prized memorabilia such as the second commencement mace of the University and the commencement cap and gown worn by the first University president Ashe. Official portraits of the former five UM presidents, also housed by the Archives, were on display.

“Inauguration 2016 was an opportunity, in addition to showcasing our collections and services, to take an active part in the history as it’s being made,” Tasa says. “An unexpected benefit from this experience was that we got to learn more about our wonderful colleagues, who are already proposing ideas for the U’s centennial celebration in 2026.”

In order to assist in facilitating these ideas, Tasa says the University Archives plans to reach out to more schools, departments, and student groups to archive their organizational history. “We believe that such efforts would be a tremendous help for the next historian to write a new book about the University of Miami at the centennial anniversary.”

IBIS Yearbook (1927-1959) Now Available Online

IBIS, the University of Miami’s yearbook, has been published annually since 1927. Click the image to browse the digital collection.

IBIS, the University of Miami’s yearbook, has been published annually since 1927. Click the image to browse the collection.

The University of Miami Archives has recently completed a significant digitization project resulting in online access to one of the University’s oldest and most-cherished publications, IBIS yearbook. The first 33 volumes of IBIS, from 1927 to 1959, are now available for browsing and research through the University of Miami Libraries’ website. The collection is fully searchable by keyword, and images can be saved or printed for research or personal use.

Foreword from IBIS, 1927, stating “we hope [this yearbook] will prove as good a guide to those who follow as the blazed trail was to the settlers of the western frontier.” (Click to enlarge.)

Foreword from IBIS, 1927, stating “we hope [this yearbook] will prove as good a guide to those who follow as the blazed trail was to the settlers of the western frontier.” (Click to enlarge.)

The project, which began in fall 2013,  was completed in collaboration with the Libraries’ Preservation, Digital Production, Cataloging & Metadata, and Web & Application Development departments.

Housed at the University Archives in the Otto G. Richter Library, the entire yearbook collection is one of the most frequently researched archival resources by the UM community. It’s also considered a record of enduring historical value on subjects ranging from student life and campus activities to regional and national events. The publication is a frequent past recipient of the Columbia Scholastic Press Association’s Gold Crown Award, the highest honor for college yearbooks in the country.

You can visit the University Archives, located on the eighth floor of the Otto G. Richter Library, on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Please contact University Archivist Koichi Tasa for questions or suggestions on archiving and using historical resources of the University of Miami.

Browse the IBIS Yearbook Digital Collection »

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.


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!

COOLCRAZYBEAUTIFUL: Train Approaching UM’s Student Union

marcia-headshot_thumbA Pick of the Week from

Special Collections of the UM Libraries

By Marcia Heath, University Archives technician



Train approaching Student Union, University of Miami Office of Communications and Marketing Historical Photograph Collection [Collection in Process]

A recent and generous donation from the University of Miami’s Office of Communications and Marketing has provided us with several boxes of captivating photographs which hail as far back as the mid-1900s and capture the essence of university life from UM’s formative years to the present. The growth and transformation of our campus is well documented in these photographs through candid, everyday shots of students, faculty, and staff. The photographs also focus on a particularly interesting aspect of the University during the near decade in which UM owned its very own locomotive train line.


The Gold Coast Railroad operated from 1958 to 1966. University of Miami Office of Communications and Marketing Historical Photograph Collection [Collection in Process]

How this even transpired was largely due to the efforts of several train enthusiasts in University of Miami’s early administration, who managed to convince the U.S. General Services Administration to lease a set of railroad tracks that had been located near the University of Miami South campus to the University to be turned into a fully operational train. The Miami Railroad Historical Society was then formed and placed in charge of the entire operation, and they officially named the line “The Gold Coast Railroad.” It remained in service from 1958 to 1966, acquiring new train carts along the way through generous donations and concentrated efforts from the administration, and eventually expanded enough to offer rides to the general public.

The Gold Coast Railroad was discontinued during the Cuban Missile Crisis so that the land could be used by the CIA. The train line never reopened. However, the cherished memories of this once treasured University feature are well preserved through these photos. Be sure to visit the University Archives at the Otto G. Richter Library to view this collection.

COOLCRAZYBEAUTIFUL is written by Yvette Yurubi and showcases unique items at Special Collections and the University Archives discovered by librarians and staff members while on the job. They gather monthly for “Show and Tell” to present their top finds. You too can experience these items up close, and access other rare and interesting treasures, by visiting Special Collections and the University Archives, located on the 8th floor of the Otto G. Richter Library.

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


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!

“U of M Opened Here”

Dr. William Butler (left) and Dr. Henry King Stanford (right) in front of the sign “U of M Opened Here,” 2007.

This photograph features two historic UM administrators at the site of the Anastasia Building, known as the “Cardboard College,” near downtown Coral Gables. Dr. William Butler (Vice President for Student Affairs and Professor of Education beginning in 1965) and Dr. Henry King Stanford (President of the University from 1962 to 1981) worked at UM’s opening campus until 1967, when the University moved to its current location. Please click here to see pictures and learn more about the old “Cardboard College.”

The photograph was one of dozens donated by Dr. Butler as documentation of his career and the University’s activities from 1942. Dr. Butler was a UM professor for thirty-two years and retired in 1997. He is the founder of the William R. Butler Volunteer Service Center, and the author of Embracing the World: the University of Miami, from Cardboard College to International and Global Acclaim (2008). He has supported the University Archives with research initiatives and donated his video interview series, “Conversations with Dr. William Butler, 1995–2004.”

From the University Archives blog

UM Libraries Exhibition Commemorates Black History Month

by Sarah Block, Libraries Communications

Raymond Bellamy clutched the iron arrow in front of his chest as he marched across the University of Miami campus in the 1970s, leading the induction ceremony for the Iron Arrow Honor Society. One of the first African-Americans to be a part of the elite organization, he wore a tribal patchwork jacket over his plain clothes, proudly holding the instrument, as tradition dictates, for tapping new members.

“Bellamy had a natural ability to lead,” said Marcia Heath, research services supervisor at the University Archives, where Bellamy’s participation in the tapping ceremony is documented in the Iron Arrow Collection, 1968–1972. The photograph of the march is featured in The Truth Marches On, an exhibition at the Otto G. Richter Library commemorating February’s Black History Month through March. The sun peaks through the trees in the background of the photograph and overwhelms Bellamy’s tall figure as he forges ahead.

Raymond Bellamy leading the Iron Arrow tapping ceremony.

Bellamy enrolled just a few years after the University embraced racial integration, making him the Hurricanes’ first African-American football player. With the University’s financial support, he also was the first African-American player to receive a football scholarship from a major university in the Southeast. A near-fatal car accident his junior year derailed his athletic career, but the following year he decided to try out for an entirely new position, student body president, and won.

The Truth Marches On is full of stories about challenges that were faced with tenacity and resilience, its name inspired by a speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. after the deaths of three civil rights activists.

The lead curator of the exhibition, manuscripts librarian Beatrice Skokan, says she wanted many voices to tell the stories of black history. Displayed in a case about historic literature is a quote from Sula by Toni Morrison, telling the story of a woman who is unable to channel an artistic energy, which then becomes the source of her own destruction. “It describes the importance of expression for all,” Skokan said.

From the cover of March Book 1 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

The exhibition features materials about various African-American artists in the realms of music, television, pop culture—even comic books. The television case, for instance, provides mounted stills that help piece together the evolution from the days of minstrel shows and “blackface” through the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

“It shows ways in which minorities, who have been ‘othered’ historically, are now portrayed as an integral part of contemporary culture,” said Shannon Moreno, a circulation supervisor at UM Libraries. Moreno helped contribute materials from the Libraries’ circulations holdings, many of which also comprise a display for the topic of African-Americans in contemporary politics.

The case features symposia materials from Tavis Smiley’s The Covenant with Black America as well as Bell Hooks’ Ain’t I a Woman? “They are addressing the question of ‘What does it mean to be black today?’” Moreno said, adding that the discussion now also accounts for the black female experience.

President Obama on the cover of Still I Rise by Roland Owen Laird

The exhibition also provides reflection for a time when the topic of race was not yet discussed in the context of civil, or even human, rights. UM Libraries Special Collections contributed several original slave documents from its holdings, including handwritten letters from plantation owners on behalf of their slaves. One letter was carried by a slave identified as “Black Jesse.” It authorized the slave to work outside of the plantation, and detailed the percentage of future earnings he was obligated to send back to his master.

UM Libraries’ Cuban Heritage Collection  contributed primary source materials from its own holdings, including materials that reflect Cuban anthropologist Lydia Cabrera’s work  on Afro-Cuban culture during the mid-twentieth century. Cabrera’s most famous book, El Monte (The Wilderness), is an important text for practitioners of Afro-Cuban religions.

“She was studying Santeria, and she became part of the culture,” explained education and outreach librarian Lisa Baker. Cabrera’s works debunked sensationalized myths about African culture in Cuba, and helped to convey the richness of its many symbols and rituals.

The exhibition shares some of her original manuscript documents, and on the walls nearby hang celebrated portraits of the spiritual orichas, an important subject of Cabrera’s research.

Materials from The Lydia Cabrera Papers also appear in an ongoing exhibition at the CHC titled Out of the Shadows, commemorating the centenary of the birth of Afro-Cuban poet and writer Gastón Baquero, a corresponding literary force in Havana during the 1940s.

The Truth Marches On also includes materials related to Haitian Vodou, some of which partly comprise the written and photographic works of UM faculty members Kate Ramsey (The Spirits and the Law) and Maggie Steber (The Audacity of Beauty). A series of Steber’s large-format prints are featured in the exhibition, providing vivid insights into daily life in Haiti, which she will be discussing at an event presented by UM Libraries Special Collections at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 20, at Richter Library. A reception will precede the talk at 6 p.m.

Photo by Maggie Steber

“Maggie’s photos show there is beauty even in the face of great tragedy,” Skokan said, referring specifically to a photograph in the exhibition that captures a man studying by candlelight the faces of political candidates on an electoral ballot. She explained that images of candidates’ faces were used rather than a list of names due to the country’s high illiteracy rates. “That man was probably voting for the first time in his life,” Skokan said.

The election, which took place following the collapse of a thirty-year dictatorship in the late 1980s, resulted in the brief presidency of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who attempted sweeping reforms on behalf of the country’s poor before he was overthrown by a coup. His photograph appears in the exhibition’s religion display. Steber captured him in his white suit, resting his head on a doorway after learning of a firebombing of a building that killed four children.

The wall of Steber’s photography ends with a portrait of Philomène, a young Haitian girl, posing in her village of Beauchamps. She is leaning against a school wall, her head tilted slightly to the left, as her eyes drift beyond the camera, leading the viewer to wonder where her thoughts may lie.

The Truth Marches On is on display at the Richter Library through March. The exhibition is made possible in part by the Lynda and Michael Gordon Exhibition Program.