UM Libraries’ Digital Preservation Project Brings Miami’s Cuban Theater History to Light

Coral Gables, FL. (May 15, 2012) – The University of Miami Libraries’ Cuban Heritage Collection (CHC) announces the completion of a major project that preserves and enhances access to sources of Cuban and Latino theater through digitization. This project was made possible through a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The digital preservation of these materials led to the creation of an online exhibition titled “Cuban Theater in Miami: 1960-1980.

“Knight Foundation has enabled the UM Libraries’ Cuban Heritage Collection to preserve important performing arts materials for future scholarship and research,” said William Walker, Dean and University Librarian. “This project makes hidden collections discoverable to performing artists, students and the artistic community worldwide.”

“The performing arts are integral to our community’s cultural vitality. Performance, however, is by nature ephemeral. Documenting and preserving our local theater history through the university’s project is an important way to promote Miami’s collective identity, memory and history,” said Dennis Scholl, Knight Foundation’s vice president/arts.

Approximately 2,000 items were digitized for preservation from collections of ephemera and the papers of theater directors, actresses, playwrights, and companies. As the project progressed, a community’s story unfolded. The selection of playbills, posters, photographs, and recordings illustrate the story of the Cuban diaspora community and the larger context of the multi-ethnic Miami community.

Dr. Lillian Manzor, Associate Professor in the University of Miami’s College of Arts and Sciences Modern Languages and Literatures Department and Dr. Beatriz Rizk, instructor with Miami Dade College’s Teatro Prometeo, were asked to curate the online exhibition, which is now available via the project’s website at

“These materials have allowed us to unveil the role Cuban theater played in the transformation of Miami’s socio-cultural and economic fabric,” said Dr. Manzor.

Over the years the UM Libraries’ Cuban Heritage Collection has increased access to its rare and exceptional materials through digital scholarship development. The UM Libraries and faculty member Dr. Manzor have developed an additional resource for documenting Cuban performance: the Cuban Theater Digital Archive (

The exhibition Cuban Theater in Miami: 1960-1980 and the Cuban Theater Digital Archive enhance the UM Libraries’ commitment to expanding access to materials and the preservation of such important collections. Currently, the UM Libraries’ Digital Collections ( includes over 70 digital collections with over 50,000 cross-searchable items. These rich collections include sheet music, photographs, media, manuscripts, correspondence, interviews, books, periodicals and other materials. Many of these collections have substantial resources covering events and history within South Florida, Cuba, and the Caribbean.

About the University of Miami

The University of Miami’s mission is to educate and nurture students, to create knowledge, and to provide service to our community and beyond. Committed to excellence and proud of the diversity of our University family, we strive to develop future leaders of our nation and the world.

About the Cuban Heritage Collection

The Cuban Heritage Collection at the University of Miami collects, preserves, and provides access to primary and secondary sources of enduring historical, research, and artifactual value which relate to Cuba and the Cuban diaspora from colonial times to the present. The Collection supports the teaching, learning, and research needs of the University of Miami and the broader scholarly community.

About the UM Libraries

The University of Miami Libraries rank among the top 50 research libraries in North America. With a combined collection of 3.3 million volumes, the Libraries are strategically focused on building the University of Miami Virtual Library, growing the Libraries’ special collections, and engaging the Libraries in the research, teaching, and learning enterprises of the University, especially through the application of transformative technologies and new media. The Otto G. Richter Library sits in the heart of the campus and serves as the central library for the University. The rare and rich primary sources held in the Libraries’ Special Collections and Cuban Heritage Collection provide the foundation for original scholarship. The Libraries’ collections are especially strong in manuscripts, images, and books from the diaspora of Cuba, the Caribbean and Latin America. The Libraries Digital Scholarships and Programs is responsible for the creation and expansion of digital technologies, services, and unique resources that facilitate and enhance learning, teaching, and research. Other University of Miami Libraries include the Paul Buisson Architecture Library, the Judi Prokop Newman Business Information Resource Center, the Marta and Austin Weeks Music Library, and the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science Library. The University also has independent medical and law libraries. The Libraries provide support and services for approximately 10,400 undergraduates, 5,200 graduate students, and 13,000 full- and part-time faculty and staff.

University of Miami Receives Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Grant to Develop Innovative Scholarly Resource on Cuban Theater

The University of Miami Libraries and the College of Arts and Sciences have received a $172,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to rebuild the technical and organizational infrastructure for the Cuban Theater Digital Archive (CTDA,, a unique digital collection of Cuban theater resources.

“The CTDA is a fantastic example of how the University of Miami Libraries support interdisciplinary scholarship using innovative new media,” said Dean and University Librarian William Walker. “We are grateful for the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s recognition of our commitment to this unique scholarly resource. We hope that our partnership with the College of Arts and Sciences will serve as a model for other creative digital humanities initiatives at the University of Miami and beyond.”

“Not only does this program provide an innovative approach to research, teaching, and learning in the humanities and the arts,” said Dean Leonidas Bachas of the College of Arts and Sciences, “it also explores new methods of scholarly publishing in a networked environment. The partnership between the Center for Latin American Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Libraries is ideal, given the Center’s renewed focus on the Caribbean, as well as the Libraries’ extensive collections in this area.”

Established by Dr. Lillian Manzor, Associate Professor of Modern Languages and Literatures and Latin American Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, and the University of Miami Libraries as the result of a 2005 Digital Library Fellowship, the CTDA’s purpose is threefold: it is a resource for teaching, learning, and research in Cuban theater and performance as well as in related fields; a community repository for important Cuban theatrical materials; and a forum to foster scholarly communication in this field. As such, the CTDA participates in a virtual culture that allows for communication and exchange to take place between communities that are socially and geographically separated. The Digital Archive includes materials digitized and filmed in Cuba, as well as resources and information related to Cuban theater in the diaspora with a special focus on theater produced by the Cuban community in the United States.

This grant follows on the completion of a six-month research and planning initiative, also funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which determined the importance of the CTDA to the broader academic and cultural communities, as well as the need to rebuild its technical and organizational back-end. The new grant will support an overhaul of the CTDA’s technical infrastructure to better support the long term contribution of new content from geographically dispersed partners. This work, led by the University of Miami Richter Library, will be complemented by an organizational restructuring led by the Center for Latin American Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences.

With the aid of the Mellon Foundation, the year-long project of establishing a sustainable infrastructure for the CTDA will bring CTDA staff and international partners closer to their goal of creating the world’s most comprehensive scholarly record of Cuban theater. It will also allow the CTDA to realize its mission of engaging educational, scholarly, artistic, and cultural communities across national boundaries in a collaborative virtual environment.

The grant will be led by Principal Investigators Lillian Manzor of the College of Arts and Sciences and Kyle Rimkus of the Richter Library.