Category Archives: New digital collections

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.

UM Libraries Celebrates South Florida’s Caribbean Voices

By Sarah Block

Click the image to view all interviews online.

In his work as a corporate attorney Marlon Hill represents artists and creatives in the South Florida area seeking to build a brand. Outside of the courtroom, however, Hill is an advocate for those who are grappling with issues of identity as individuals in a new land and culture.

“I feel very strongly about helping any student who is going through a process of acclimation, assimilation, and integration,” he explains in his oral history interview at the University of Miami Special Collections as part of its new Caribbean Diaspora Oral History Project. “The success of that person and that person’s family is dependent on how those three areas of immigration are. They can make or break a family.”


Artist Edouard Duval Carrie shared his story at Special Collections in the Caribbean Diaspora Oral History Project. Highlights from each of the oral history interviews are available on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Hill, a Miami resident originally from Jamaica, said his own struggles in the immigration process as a teenager fueled a desire for mentoring new immigrants, as early as his college years. Today he joins a growing list of South Florida community members of Caribbean origin who are telling their stories in the series sponsored by the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs.

So far, more than 20 individuals, including photojournalist Carl Juste, TV Producer/host Elizabeth Guérin, and artist Edouard Duval Carrie have taken part in the series, which spans topics surrounding their various experiences and contributions to the South Florida community in such areas as art and media, education, entrepreneurship, and activism.

“Our interviewees are individuals who are actively involved in a creative blending of their immigration experience with their lives in the United States,” said Special Collections’ Manuscripts Librarian Beatrice Skokan, who led the project, at a July 13 celebration of the series that recognized its first group of participants.


UM Libraries Manuscripts Librarian Beatrice Skokan thanks donors during the reception.

Skokan describes the series as an important initiative for Special Collections and its Caribbean Archive, which houses rare maps, books, and correspondence as well as materials that document modern life and families of the Caribbean basin. “The South Florida region, with its multiplicity of migrations, has become an ideal setting for the historical documentation of hemispheric encounters,” Skokan says. “This is about documenting the experience of people who inhabited Caribbean regions from their point of view—unedited by another’s gaze and interpretation.”

Many of the department’s most rare and historical Caribbean materials, dating back to the 1700s, were donated by some of UM’s earliest supporters, underscoring one of the region’s and the University’s enduring strengths. At his January inauguration, President Julio Frenk described a “hemispheric” aspiration as one of four defining visions for the future of the University.


Oral history donors Marlon Hill (second from right) and Elizabeth Guérin (right) with guests at Special Collections’ Caribbean Voices reception.

The ongoing series is now accessible to students, scholars, and the general public for research on a variety of topics related to South Florida’s Caribbean diaspora. It currently features individuals of Haitian, Dominican, Bahamian, Venezuelan, Cuban, and Colombian origins, among others, with the intent of continued growth as new funding becomes available.

Interviews, which were conducted by Julio Estorino and Lucrèce Louisdhon-Louinis along with Skokan, are accessible from UM Libraries’ website. Additional oral history projects of UM Libraries include the Haitian Diaspora Oral Histories; the Cuban Heritage Collection’s Luis J. Botifoll Oral History Project and Human Rights Oral History Project; and collaborations with National Public Radio’s StoryCorps, including StoryCorps Historias and StoryCorps Military Voices Initiative (carried out with the nonprofit Warmamas), which is currently in process.

Current participants of the Caribbean Diaspora Oral History Project include:

Elizabeth Baez, Artist/Educator

Firelei Báez, Artist

Ronald Bilbao, Legislative Specialist

Lucy Canzoneri-Golden, Artist/Educator

Tiberio Castellanos, Journalist

Edouard Duval Carrié, Artist

Elizabeth Guérin, TV Producer/Host

Roberto Guzmán, Linguist/Writer

Marlon Hill, Attorney

Carl Juste, Photojournalist

Fr. Alejandro López, Priest

Gepsie Metellus, Community Leader

Francisco Portillo, Immigration Activist

María Rodriguez, Activist

Ruby Romero-Issaev, Producer/Marketing Director

Nora Sandigo, Immigration Activist

Althea “Vicki” Silvera, Archivist

Patricia Sowers, Nonprofit Director

Nixon St. Hubert (DJ Nickymix), DJ/Producer

Federico Uribe, Artist

Dr. Freddie G. Young, Educator/Community Leader

This project is sponsored in part by the Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Council of Arts, and the State of Florida. If you are interested in learning more about this collection, or to recommend someone for this project, please call 305-284-3247.

Event photos by Mitchell Zachs.

Miró Cardona audio recordings online

José Miró Cardona

Now online: 74 audio recordings from the José Miró Cardona collection including speeches, interviews, and radio broadcasts from the 1960s. The majority of these recordings are speeches and interviews with Miró Cardona and broadcasts of the radio program La voz del Consejo Revolucionario de Cuba. They also include interviews with exile leaders and activists Manuel Antonio Varona, Manuel Ray, and others; radio broadcasts from Cuba; and an interview by Cuban journalists with José Miró Torra, Miró Cardona’s son, who was captured during the Bay of Pigs Invasion.

A lawyer and politician who served as Prime Minister of Cuba for just over one month in early 1959, Miró Cardona (1902-1974) was president of the Consejo Revolucionario Cubano (Cuban Revolutionary Council), or CRC, the Cuban exile organization that worked with the CIA and the administration of US President John F. Kennedy to prepare the Bay of Pigs Invasion of 1961.

These reel-to-reel audio recordings form part of the José Miró Cardona Papers held by the Cuban Heritage Collection.


New digital collection of maps of Cuba pre-1923

 Editor’s Note: A version of this post authored by Lyn MacCorkle, Digital Repositories Librarian, appeared in the University of Miami Libraries Digital Collections Newsletter in December 2014.  

The University of Miami Libraries Digital Collections recently debuted a new online collection of over 100 maps of Cuba dating from the 16th century to 1923. Drawing from the Cuban Heritage Collection’s holdings, the new digital collection includes general maps of the island, provincial maps, city and town maps, tourist maps, and other specialized map formats in a variety of scales, colors, and artistic styles.


The online platform gives researchers enhanced access to the materials, allowing them to browse and search through the collection and zoom in on fine details. Digitizing these resources also helps preserve the maps by reducing the need to handle originals.

Stay tuned for more. Maps still in copyright are also being digitized and will be available for online consultation in the Roberto C. Goizueta Pavilion.


Records from Cuba’s Historic Ruston Academy

The Ruston Academy Records, digitized from holdings of the University of Miami Libraries Cuban Heritage Collection (CHC), contains materials related to the Ruston Academy, a bilingual American school founded in Havana, Cuba, in 1920. Opened in September 1920 by educator Hiram Ruston and his sister Martha Ruston, the Ruston Academy was considered the premier American school in Latin America. Originally focused on providing an English college-preparatory education for the children of American expatriates in Cuba, it quickly grew into a bilingual academy with a multinational student body.

In the 1940s, Ruston expanded to include an elementary school, business preparatory program, basic English classes for Cuban students, and a boarding school, with enrollment measuring at roughly 750 students. After Hiram Ruston’s death in 1946, teacher James Baker took over the school’s administration, and James and his wife Sibyl inherited ownership of the school following Hiram’s sister Martha’s death in 1951. Ruston Academy relocated to a larger campus in 1955. The school was closed down by the Castro government in 1961, its former location having been used as a public school, storage facility, homeless shelter, and military intelligence facility by the Cuban government.

University of Miami Digital Collections feature a full run of Ruston Academy yearbooks from 1940-1960; photographs of the school, teachers and students, and alumni events; several issues of the school newspaper The Rustonian; and ephemera such as theater programs, graduation programs, and promotional materials for student recruitment.

Ruston Academy World Cloud
For more information, please contact the Cuban Heritage Collection at 305-284-4900 or

New CHC Digital Collection Sheds Light on Abolition in Cuba

Guest post by Timothy A. Thompson, Metadata Librarian, and Ana D. Rodríguez, former CHC Metadata Assistant

The CHC is continually working to publish new digital collections from its unique archival holdings. One of the most recent additions to the CHC Digital Collections is a group of rare historical manuscripts that sheds light on an important period in Cuban history. The Junta Provincial de Patronato de Matanzas Records contain official documents created between 1871 and 1889, when Spain was slowly moving to abolish slavery on the island. This blog post provides some historical context for the collection and then highlights a series of enhancements designed to make the collection more accessible to online users.

The abolition of slavery in Cuba involved a gradual process that unfolded over the course of nearly 20 years. The final stage of that process began in 1880, when the Spanish colonial government passed the “Ley de Patronato,” which declared a formal end to slavery but left the old system largely intact under a different name. The term given to the new, transitional system was patronato, which could be loosely translated as “sponsorship” or “apprenticeship.” With a stroke of the pen, former slaves became known as patrocinados, or apprentices, and former masters became known as patronos, or sponsors.

One of the documents in the collection illustrates the largely superficial nature of the transition between the two systems:

Detail from a document granting Francisco Ortega permission to relocate his patrocinado named Marcelo to the municipality of Macuriges, July 21, 1880. View full record for this image.

In this document (a “pase de tránsito” issued during the first year of the patronato period), the word “esclavos” has simply been crossed out, and the word “patrocinados” has been written above it.

To help make these historical documents more accessible to online users, the Libraries’ Cataloging & Metadata Services division undertook a pilot project for creating enhanced descriptions for digitized items. In the world of digital libraries, these descriptions are known as “metadata” (data about data). For example, this collection represents our first effort to include detailed metadata in Spanish for major descriptive fields like Title (Título), Note (Nota), Subject (Tema), Genre (Género), and Physical Description (Descripción Física).

It is also our first collection to feature three new fields: Sender and Recipient (for correspondence) and Geo Point (for coordinates and links to the the website Links in the Geo Point field will take users directly to a map for the location being referenced.

On the collection’s homepage, separate “browse” pages have been created for “Tema” (Spanish subjects), Subjects, Sender, and Recipient. Finally, four “Collection Highlights” have also been included on the collection homepage. These highlights are meant to draw attention to the human stories behind the documents in the collection.

We hope you will check out these new features, and we would like to enlist your help in evaluating them. If you can, please take a moment to explore the collection and then fill out this brief survey (available in English or Spanish). Your feedback will help us assess our pilot project and will contribute to shaping our descriptive practices for future digital collections.



Scott, Rebecca J. (1983). “Gradual Abolition and the Dynamics of Slave Emancipation in Cuba, 1868-86.” Hispanic American Historical Review, 63(3), 449-477.

Newly Digitized: programs and playbills of Havana’s Patronato del Teatro

Now available online are programs and playbills of performances at the Patronato del Teatro theater in Havana, Cuba.  These materials form part of the Patronato del Teatro Ephemera Collection. The theater presented modern theater works by Hispanic authors as well as English-language plays translated into Spanish and was active from the late 1940s until the late 1950s.

Newly Digitized: 19th century papers of the Junta Revolucionaria Cubana from the Ramiro Casañas Collection

Now available online are letters and documents of the Junta Revolucionaria Cubana (Cuban Revolutionary Committee) in the United States dating from 1850 to 1872.  These materials form part of the Ramiro Casañas Collection. Documenting the activities of the Junta’s chapters in New Orleans, Philadelphia, and New York, the digitized materials include letters to and from Gaspar Betancourt Cisneros, Domingo de Goicouría and Porfirio Valiente among other notable historical figures.

Notes from the Conservation Lab: preserving Bacardí family documents found in the Cuban Museum collection

We recently digitized a group of late 19th and early 20th century manuscripts, letters, and other documents of the Bacardí family (including four letters from José Martí) that are part of the collection of the former Cuban Museum of Arts and Culture. In 1974, the Museum began collecting and displaying works of art by Cuban artists, both living in Cuba and abroad, and by Cuban Americans. While it focused primarily on visual arts, the Museum also added historical documents and related materials to its holdings. From 1982 to 1991, the Museum had a home in Little Havana and was renamed the Cuban Museum of the Americas in the 1990s. When it closed in 1999, the Museum’s collection came to the University of Miami, with its works of arts added to the Lowe Art Museum and its historical and administrative records transferred to the Cuban Heritage Collection.

The Bacardí family materials found in Cuban Museum collection required conservation treatment, principally due to paper decay caused by iron gall ink. Duvy Argandoña, Conservation Assistant, has been treating some of these materials over the past month. Take a sneak peek below at how it all comes together.

Click thumbnails to enlarge.

Newly Digitized: Tobacco Art Collection contains art and ephemera associated with the Cuban tobacco industry

We are happy to share our recently digitized Tobacco Art Collection. Spanning the late 19th and 20th centuries, this collection contains art and ephemera associated with the Cuban tobacco industry. Items include commercial tobacco packaging labels, cigar trademarks, several cigar bands, and two cigar boxes. The materials consist of various gifts that have been brought together under this collection. The tobacco industry in Cuba stretches far into the island’s colonial past, when Spanish settlers built large plantations throughout the countryside. Pinar del Río province quickly became the heartland of tobacco agriculture. Cuban cigars gained international renown in the 1800s. Some of the most famous Cuban tobacco brands can trace their history back over a century and a half.

Click thumbnails to enlarge.