Now Boarding | Explore Pan Am’s Digital Archive

Thanks to a grant from the National Historic Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the first group of images from the Pan American World Airways, Inc. Records collection have recently landed on the University of Miami Libraries’ Digital Collections website.

Left and center: Fly by Clipper to Hawaii brochure cover and fold-out map, 1949. Right: Miami to Nassau flight map brochure.

Housed in Special Collections at the Otto G. Richter Library, the Pan Am collection is one of UM’s most researched and extensive, containing historical brochures, newsletters, periodicals, correspondence, photographs, and many other records documenting the 60-plus years of aviation history and world impact of the iconic airline. “From gender issues related to the early hiring and treatment of female flight attendants to a local artist constructing a larger-than-life cardboard model of a jet fighter, the collection is vast and eclectic. It’s a source of continuous discoveries, most of them fascinating and delightful,” says Cristina Favretto, head of Special Collections.

Continuing the work of a previous NHPRC-funded grant completed in 2014 to re-process the collection in its entirety, the digitization efforts of this project will ultimately add over 100,000 pages of brochures, timetables, directories, annual reports, and periodicals from the printed materials series to Digital Collections, where the materials are fully text searchable and available to the public for browsing and research purposes.

Digitization Grant Project Manager Gabriella Williams.

“This ongoing project will not only help with improving the discovery and accessibility of the collection worldwide, but will also serve to foster collaboration with other airline companies and institutions,” says Gabriella Williams, digitization grant project manager. Williams has worked extensively with periodicals as Serials Technician at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and brings a strong background in digitization from the Florida Institute of Technology. She started with UM Libraries on February 20 and is supervising the 1.5-year project.

Directing the grant’s workflow, Williams is responsible for entering metadata, flagging duplicates, choosing the best copies for scanning, creating special handling instructions for large fold-outs and maps, and working with student employees to perform quality control checks on the digital images. The next group of boxes to be digitized includes publications that date from the World War II era. “Pan Am played a crucial role in aviation and global history during this time period, as the company was the leader in creating transportation routes and had already established a large fleet of aircrafts, which was invaluable to the war effort in the United States,” says Williams.

Williams reviews executive staff memorandums from the 1930s prior to digitization.