Caribbean Fragments | A Library-Wide Exhibit Complements a Special Report on the University’s Close Relationship With Its Island Neighbors

Since its founding more than 90 years ago, the University of Miami has forged deep connections with the Caribbean. Faculty, students, and alumni travel throughout the islands, learning from diverse populations, providing assistance to underserved communities, and strengthening bonds. Cuba and the Caribbean, a special report recently produced by UM News in collaboration with academic units across the University including the Libraries, highlights the U’s varied activities in the Caribbean in areas such as environmental and anthropological research, healthcare, arts and culture, policy, and business.

Complementing the publication of Cuba and the Caribbean, a major exhibition has transformed the second floor of the Otto G. Richter Library and the Cuban Heritage Collection’s Roberto C. Goizueta Pavilion. Caribbean Fragments comprises a selection of historical documents, artifacts, manuscripts, and rare books from UML’s Cuban Heritage Collection, Special Collections, University Archives, and the Marta and Austin Weeks Music Library, and offers a point of departure for reflection on the research and discovery that spawn new hemispheric insights.

Caribbean Fragments was co-curated by Beatrice Skokan, curator for Caribbean Collections and interim Esperanza Bravo de Varona Chair of the CHC, and Dr. Martin Tsang, CHC librarian and curator for Latin American Collections.

Seascapes and Mindscapes

Visiting artist Leandro Soto, whose work is represented among the CHC’s holdings, has reimagined the exhibition space as a seascape—a fluid, ever-changing ocean that permeates not only the archipelago’s geography, but the imagination of its inhabitants. Inviting viewers to navigate their own experiences and emotions as they explore the objects on view, the immersive environment evokes the circulating currents of spirituality that permeate the region, the profound influence of maritime travel and migration on its evolution, and the ebbs and flows of its eternal complexities.

To view the special University report on Cuba and the Caribbean, visit

Now on View: Spare Beauty: The Cuban Kitchen

by Sarah Block, Library Communications

View Ellen Silverman's short film, "My Roots Lie Here," at

Click the image above to watch a video of the event on March 5. View Ellen Silverman’s short film, “My Roots Lie Here,” at

A photography exhibition now on view at the Otto G. Richter Library explores life in present-day Cuba as it is intimately reflected in the vibrant tones and textures of homes throughout the island. The wide-format photographic prints featured in Spare Beauty: The Cuban Kitchen serve as vivid windows into decades-old interior spaces, deeply rooted in routine, tradition, and even memories— glimpses of which are brought out through each scene in vivid detail. These immersive scenes are the work of food and travel photographer Ellen Silverman, well-known for her work in celebrated cookbooks, travel magazines, and other artistic mediums. Spare Beauty is one in a series of Silverman’s projects inspired by her travels to Cuba.


Ellen Silverman

“In my first of several trips to Cuba, I was welcomed into people’s kitchens, where I found sparse spaces where time has stopped,” the New York City-based photographer says in her artist statement. “Due to years of lack of money, supplies and equipment, people have been forced to adapt and improvise. While beautiful and visually stimulating to me, these kitchens are the very real circumstances of each person’s day to day life. This series of photographs reflects the personalities and the circumstances of those who inhabit them.”

Silverman visited the library in March for the opening of the exhibition and to present a short film she directed titled My Roots Lie Here, which can be viewed here. Click here to watch the presentation from the event.

This exhibition will run through July 31, 2015 as part of a library-wide exhibition series exploring culinary traditions and influences of South Florida and the Caribbean.

Photos by Andrew Innerarity.


This exhibition will run through July 31, 2015 as part of a library-wide exhibition series.

CHC receives funding to digitize La Gaceta de La Habana

La Gaceta de La Habana

Gaceta de La Habana, 1889

The Cuban Heritage Collection (CHC) at the University of Miami Libraries has received $29,850 from LAMP and LARRP to digitize its oversize holdings of the nineteenth-century newspaper La Gaceta de La Habana. LAMP (formerly the Latin American Microform Project) and LARRP (Latin Americanist Research Resources Project) are entities devoted to preserving and providing access to Latin American and Caribbean cultural heritage material and are administered by the Center for Research Libraries.

The CHC holds issues of La Gaceta from 1849 to 1899, representing one of the most complete sets of the newspaper publicly available outside of Cuba. Funding from LAMP and LARRP will cover the cost to digitize over 27,000 pages in 44 oversized bound volumes of the newspaper spanning from 1849 to 1886. The 22 volumes for the years 1887-1897, which are smaller in size, are being digitized in-house by the Libraries’ Digital Production unit.

La Gaceta de La Habana was the newspaper of record for the Spanish colonial government in the second half of the nineteenth century in Cuba.  La Gaceta was the successor to Diario de La Habana, which was published until 1848, when it changed its name to La Gaceta de La Habana: Periódico Oficial del Gobierno.  In turn, it was succeeded by La Gaceta Oficial de la República de Cuba in 1902.

The social, cultural, legislative, and commercial information published in the pages of La Gaceta is of interest not only to scholars of Cuban Studies, but also scholars of Atlantic, Caribbean, and Latin American Studies. Digitizing this considerable work will open avenues of research to faculty and students around the world and help preserve an important historical resource.

Meiyolet Méndez, CHC Librarian, and Laura Capell, Head of Digital Production and Electronic Records Archivist, are leading this project.

Visit the Cuban Theater Digital Archive

The Cuban Theater Digital Archive (CTDA) is an online worldwide resource for historical materials related to Cuba’s renowned performing arts scene. Filmed productions, production stills, and many other theater-related materials are searchable in this bilingual, multimedia resource, drawn from more than twenty collections from the University of Miami Libraries Cuban Heritage Collection, the Center for Scenic Design Studies in Havana, and the holdings of individual collaborators in Cuba, the United States, and beyond.

The CTDA includes recordings of equity and non-equity productions digitized and filmed in Cuba and outside the island as well as information related to the subject of Cuban theater, with a special focus on theater produced by Cuban communities in the United States. The archive serves as a resource for teaching, learning, and research in Cuban theater and performance and related fields; a community repository for important Cuban theatrical materials; and a forum to foster scholarly communication in this field.

Cuban Theater Digital Archive

Click the image to visit the site.

Highlights of the CTDA include:

  • Over two hundred videoed productions and staged readings, as well as rehearsals and interviews of plays produced in Cuba, the United States, Spain, and Latin America.
  • An image database that includes over three thousand items digitized from the Cuban Heritage Collection as well as items received from theater practitioners.
  • A searchable directory of information on playwrights, directors, designers, actors, plays, productions, theater companies, theater venues, and awards.
  • More than 50% of the content has been the product of student research projects.

The CTDA allows project collaborators to add directory information and other resources via a backend data-entry module. When possible, site content is available for download and reuse in keeping with Creative Commons Open Content license requirements. CTDA content is also available through Scalar, a multimodal scholarly publishing platform.

Funded in part by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the CTDA is managed as a digital humanities partnership between the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences and the Libraries, in cooperation with Cuba’s National Council for the Performing Arts and the Center for Scenic Design Studies.

In 2004, a web-based archive of information and images on Cuban theater in Cuba and the United States was created by Dr. Lillian Manzor, a University of Miami professor, with the technical and web development support of Lyn MacCorkle of the University of Miami Libraries Digital Initiatives. In early 2009, a planning grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation was awarded to evaluate the importance of the archive to theater scholars and students and to outline a sustainability plan for the project’s future. This funding provided the support needed to develop a more robust version of the initial site.


Materials that have been digitized for the CTDA.

Building the site required developing a new data model, software tools, hardware expertise, and a set of best practices to support enhancing multimedia content and collaborative authorship. A development outcome is an open source content management system designed specifically for documenting theater performance. The “Romeu” software platform uses the Django (Python) Framework; the software is available at GitHub.

The Video Digitization Technical Guide, a set of locally developed practices for filming theater performances, authored in consultation with expert video consultants, can be found here. The CTDA User Manual can be found here.

For information on the theoretical and technical aspects of site development, please consult Dr. Lillian Manzor or Mitsunori Ogihara.

For more information on the CTDA, please contact Dr. Lillian Manzor.

Manzor, Lillian, Mitsunori Ogihara, and Kyle Rimkus. “Cuban Theater Digital Archive: A Multimodal Platform for Theater Documentation and Research,” in Information Technologies for Performing Arts, Media Access, and Entertainment, edited by Paolo Nesi and Raffaella Santucci. 7990: 138-150. Berlin: Springer Verlag, 2013.

CTDA Word Cloud

In Search of Freedom: Cuban Exiles and the U.S. Cuban Refugee Program

University of Miami Libraries Digital Collections and the Cuban Heritage Collection (CHC) have launched In Search of Freedom, a digital exhibit with forty-two photographs and publications illustrating the early years of the Cuban Refugee Program. Items were selected from Cuban Refugee Center Records, a large and significant CHC collection described in this Finding Aid.

The exhibit is arranged to contextualize the activities of the Cuban Refugee Program in the early 1960s through the initial years of its operation. The Program was created by the US Government to help manage the scale and impact of a large number of political exiles arriving in South Florida from Cuba in a relatively short period of time. Located in downtown Miami, Program facilities provided needed aid to individuals and families in the form of language classes, job training, child services, medical services, and food banks. In addition, the Cuban Refugee Program created the infrastructure and procedures required to accomplish the relocation / resettlement of clients to areas in the United States outside South Florida.

The Cuban Refugee Program closed in 1994, after more than three decades of providing assistance to many thousands of refugees.

In Search of Freedom

In Search of Freedom

The In Search of Freedom website was created using Omeka, an open source software platform, developed by the History and New Media Center, George Mason University, to enable cultural heritage institutions, scholars, archives and libraries to efficiently develop and manage digital narratives, exhibits, and collections.

AEON is a service of the University of Miami Libraries that allows researchers to submit requests for items at UM Libraries Special Collections, the Cuban Heritage Collection, and University Archives. Item descriptions for “In Search of Freedom” provide links to AEON, and visitors may request to view a copy of the original photograph or document at the Otto G. Richter Library, or request a digital reproduction of the original.

Additional images from the Cuban Refugee Center Records are available on the University of Miami Libraries Digital Collections website: Cuban Refugee Center Records. For more information, please contact the Cuban Heritage Collection at 305-284-4900 or

From the Cutting Edge: Herman Beller Photograph Collection

Herman Beller (1899-1972) was a skilled metalwork entrepreneur in Cuba. With his wife Jennie, Beller settled in Havana, Cuba, in the 1920s. He began his career by manufacturing die-cast metalwork for replacement parts for machinery and later manufactured body frames for school buses and desks, furniture for public buildings, municipal lamps, bronze commemorative plaques, and sculptural works for installations throughout Cuba. As a member of Cuba’s Jewish community, Beller also created religious and ceremonial metal pieces. Beller and his family left Cuba in the 1960s and settled in Hollywood, Florida, where he resided for the rest of his life.


The Herman Beller Photograph Collection contains photographs of metal works produced by the Darden-Beller Company and Beller’s Havana-based company, Industrias Unidas de Cuba. The collection contains a large group of photographs particularly detailing his work at the Parque de la Fraternidad in Havana, one of the larger public works projects Beller undertook.


All photographs and objects in the collection have been digitized. For more information, please contact the Cuban Heritage Collection at 305-284-4900 or

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