Handle with Care | Preservation Strategies for Pan Am’s Digital Archive

Conservator Duvy Argandoña prepares a document in the Conservation Lab on the first floor of the Otto G. Richter Library.

Repair and conserve: a phrase that drives a vast and complex component of University of Miami Libraries’ (UML) mission. Primary source materials and books are handled over years, decades, and even centuries; room conditions fluctuate, humidity falls and rises, and critters occasionally find their way to them for a snack. For the specialists that manage UML’s Preservation Strategies Department, “repair and conserve” holds a significance akin to a “search and rescue” operation—only rather than a search for people, it’s about the search for and provision of aid to materials that are in distress or imminent danger. As items become damaged and too fragile to handle, they require treatment and special care in order to ensure they can remain accessible by students and researchers in the future.

The grant from the National Historic Publications and Records Commission has allowed UML to sustain such specialized preservation efforts as the digitization of materials from the Pan American World Airways, Inc. Records collection continues. This ongoing project is now at a stage where a second group of images from the renowned aviation collection are in the process of being made accessible by keyword search. These brochures, timetables, directories, and other items require special treatment prior to any scans or photographs to ensure that the text in them can be recognized, or that they can even be handled for image capturing purposes.

Argandoña uses the hot spatula and tweezers to repair small tears in a Pan Am brochure.

Duvy Argandoña is the conservator at the Otto G. Richter Library. She spends a good portion of her workdays in the Conservation Lab repairing Pan Am materials before they can be scanned. The Lab, a brightly-lit, state-of-the-art equipped facility, is an infirmary for the collection’s torn or creased materials, where Argandoña uses specialized machines and tools to reconcile any damage that might interfere with digitization.

“The meticulous work done by Duvy is so important to the process, because it’s essentially our means of loss control—vetting and repairing the materials in a way that ensures we are able to capture the best scans possible,” says Gabriella Williams, who works closely with Argandoña and is managing this digitization project. Williams prepares and triages the materials before they are sent to the Lab. She flags each box, folder-by-folder, and creates a detailed, object-level spreadsheet of the items that require attention.

The humidification dome releases a mist of deionized water to relax a map’s paper fibers.

Argandoña then uses both basic and more complex techniques, depending on the level of damage, to repair the selected materials. “For mending small tears in brochures and timetables, I use the hot spatula tool and heat-set tissue paper,” says Argandoña. She first cuts the tissue paper into five millimeter strips and then uses tweezers to line up the strips with the seams of the torn documents. Carefully holding the tissue paper in place with tweezers, she applies soft pressure with the hot spatula until the paper adheres.

If a large map or fold-out is wrinkled or bent, Argandoña places it in a humidification dome for up to 15 minutes before any further repairs are made. “The dome uses a deionized water vapor mist to help the paper fibers relax, then the item is arranged between blotter paper sheets in the oversized book press for 24 hours, or until all the creases are gone,” says Argandoña.

Martha Horan, head of Preservation Strategies.

On October 17, UML welcomed new Head of Preservation Strategies Martha Horan, who is enthusiastic about working with the Pan Am materials under the NHPRC grant.

“Too often one does not consider the highly skilled, artisan-like techniques that go on behind-the-scenes in a library to stabilize and treat materials as part of preservation and digitization,” says Horan. “It’s an impressive operation here, with an even more impressive team behind it. It’s an exciting time to be a part of the Libraries.”

Digital images of these materials from the Pan American World Airways, Inc. Records—which date from the company’s inception in 1927 until it ceased operations in 1991—are now available to the public for browsing and research purposes on the University of Miami Libraries’ Digital Collections web site.

Photos by Brittney Bomnin





Now Accessible: The University Communications Collection

The collection, donated in 75 large moving boxes in 2013, is now neatly organized by approximately 4.000 topics and housed in acid free archival folders and boxes. Richter provides optimal environment for storage of our archival collections in the library as well as the offsite storage facility.

The collection, donated in 75 large moving boxes in 2013, is now neatly organized by approximately 4.000 topics and housed in acid free archival folders and boxes. Richter provides optimal environment for storage of our archival collections in the library and at the offsite storage facility.

The University Archives is pleased to announce the addition of a new essential historical resource to our collections, the UM University Communications Collection.

The collection contains historical images, videos, publications, and news clippings of the University from the 1980s to the 2000s, which have never been available at the Archives before. We believe it is going to be one of the most frequently researched materials by the University community to research for their anniversaries and other celebrations.

We appreciate very much the University Communications colleagues who trusted us to transfer such important materials to be archived. They came in 75 large moving boxes in 2013, and the Archives staff and student assistants worked throughout 2016 to sort everything in the boxes, compiled a massive 266-page-long inventory list, and stored them in 135 archival boxes.

Please go to the link below to see the collection record. Also, please click the link provided at “Container List (PDF)” to download the inventory list. Please contact us if you have any questions or need assistance.

Click here for the collection record



Presenting the StoryCorps-Warmamas Community Archive

By Patricia Sowers, Director of Warmamas

storycorps-blog_logoThe Afghanistan-Iraq war is described as our country’s longest war. From 2001 to 2014, over 2.5 million men and women were deployed, most of them to war zones. Multiple deployments were not uncommon. Most of those deployed said goodbye to a mother.

Saying goodbye to a son or daughter leaving for war has never been easy. It matters little if it is a first or last deployment—a mother’s anguish is the same. I, too, had to say goodbye to my own son when he announced that he was being sent to the Middle East in a diplomatic capacity. For six years, I lived in secret fear. Eventually I realized that my own feelings of foreboding were dwarfed by what mothers with children in direct combat were experiencing. Their voices were rarely heard and yet were an essential part of our ongoing national narrative on the gravitas of war. There was a need for a place where these women could share their experiences. Warmamas was created out of this need.

patricia-with-mothers

Patricia Sowers (center), Director of Warmamas, converses with StoryCorps-Warmamas oral history donors at Special Collections.

None of us were prepared for the kinds of stories we heard. They were beautiful, they were painful, they were inspiring. Some were tragic. They all told a story of strength. There was a story about a mother who takes to bed for three days when her son tells her he has joined the Marines; the mother who sends her second son off to war but refuses to let her third one go; the mother who talks about developing patience when there is no letter for months; the school-teacher whose son returns with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and yet shows a determination to get well that she never expected; the mother talking by phone to her son in Afghanistan and suddenly hearing a bomb explode as his camp is attacked; another mother determined to fly to Kabul when she hears her son is injured; the mother who called an admiral at the Pentagon to complain that her son hadn’t written for six months; the mother who doesn’t cry as her daughter leaves for Iraq so as not to upset her. There are many stories about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and how one mother has struggled with her son’s suicide by creating a foundation to help other at-risk veterans.

patricia-during-interview

An oral history interview is conducted at Special Collections for the StoryCorps-Warmamas Community Archive. Photo courtesy of Patricia Sowers.

Many mothers expressed surprise that anyone would be remotely interested in their experiences. They have come to understand, however, that their stories have value and are part of the larger story of war and peace and that perhaps one day a stranger or even a grandchild would want to listen.

Warmamas is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) founded in Coral Gables by Gail Ruiz, local artist and attorney, Philip Busey, UF agronomist and political activist and myself, an English teacher at Miami Dade College and hand-wringing mother. Warmamas began by filming, documenting and publishing mothers’ stories and later partnered with the University of Miami and StoryCorps in 2014 and 2015 as part of the Military Voices Initiative which focused on veterans and their families. The veteran narratives are stored at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC and are also—along with the Warmamas’ mother interviews—part of UM Special Collections’ StoryCorps-Warmamas Community Archive.

We are presently interviewing mothers of veterans of all wars. Most interviews are videotaped in the mother’s home. Audio recordings of veterans of any war can be done at the veteran’s home or at the studio in Richter Library.

For more information, please contact:

Patricia Figueroa Sowers, Director
Warmamas
Email: pfsowers@bellsouth.net
Phone: 305-461-5193

You can also watch her full oral history interview here.



Legendary Alum Makes Visit to the University Archives

Meet Mr. Ray Bellamy who visited the University Archives on September 28, 2016 (Photo by Cory Czajkowski, Special Collections)

Pioneering UM alum Ray Bellamy visited the University Archives on September 28, 2016 (Photo by Cory Czajkowski, Special Collections).

By Koichi Tasa, University Archivist

Even when I was a newly hired University Archivist in fall 2007, I knew the name Ray Bellamy, his face, and his historical importance for the University as the first black athlete (1967) and the first black president of the student government (1971) from Dr. Charlton Tebeau’s 1976 publication The University of Miami: A Golden Anniversary History, 1926-1976.

So, the staff of the University Archives were thrilled to meet the legendary alumnus during his recent visit to Miami in the last week of September. He first visited the current UM Libraries exhibition Miami Celebrates: The Orange Bowl Festival, 1930s-1990s, then came up to the 8th floor to review our materials on him as well as our historical collections of black students and faculty.

I was happy to find the picture of this historic moment in the February 1, 2002 issue of The Herald Tribune.

The Herald Tribune, February 1, 2002.

He talked to us about his experience when at the University in the midst of the racial integration struggle in Miami.

You can find out a lot about Mr. Bellamy’s accomplishments on the Internet and YouTube as well as in numerous articles and publications of the University. I would like to show you a compelling documentary I found on YouTube titled Changing the Game: a Deep South Conflict, a Compromise of Attitudes, which was created by David and Matt Mariutto (see below). I think this is not only a great piece on Mr. Bellamy but also a powerful teaching material on diversity.

Mr. Bellamy was brought to us by Ms. Denise Mincey-Mills, who is one of the co-chairs of the Alumni Association’s program “First Black Graduates Project,” which celebrates the first black graduates of the University of Miami in the 1960s and the 1970s. Please go to the link below for further information about the program, which takes place on February 24 and 25, 2017.

Ms. Mincey-Mills (pictured on the right) has been a driving force for the First Black Graduates Projects. We met her in January 2015, when she visited us to research Ibis yearbooks from the 1960s to identify black students. (Photo by Cory Czajkowski, Special Collections)

Ms. Mincey-Mills (pictured on the right) is a driving force behind the the First Black Graduates Project. She visited us first in January 2015 to research Ibis yearbooks from the 1960s to identify black students. (Photo by Cory Czajkowski, Special Collections)

Included in the program is a visit to the Otto G. Richter Library to view an exhibition “U Trailblazers – Black Students and Faculty Who Broke Color Barrier in the 1960s and the 1970s” (*tentative title) curated by the University Archives for the Black History Month as well as a reception offered by Richter and a lecture by UM’s history professor Dr. Donald Spivey.

See also: Miami Magazine article on the First Black Graduates Project

(Courtesy of Hurricanesports.com / Release: 2/04/2013)



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.