Archivist Spotlight: Ximena G. Valdivia, Manager, Barry University Archives and Special Collections, Miami Shores, Florida

by Ana D. Rodríguez

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Tell us a little bit about yourself, how you started working in libraries

I come from a humble Chilean family, of which I am the only one who has earned a university degree. Overcoming cultural and economic barriers to success was not too difficult for me because I had a natural aptitude for reading; this is where I got a strong sense of equal rights, dignity, and the will to succeed. My aptitude for reading was also influential when I had to choose a career once I finished high school. After completing a BS in Library Science in Chile, I began to work on diverse projects in different types of libraries. I discovered that technical processing was the activity I liked the most and for which I had innate skills. I started working on cataloging projects for the Biblioteca Nacional de Chile (National Library of Chile), where I had the opportunity to work with wonderful professionals willing to share their knowledge and experience with me. I was sent out to organize and put into operation other collections, such as the library of the Museo Regional de Atacama (Regional Museum of Atacama) and the Archivo Niemeyer at the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural (Niemeyer Archives – National Museum of Natural History). Later, I was invited to work on the Chilean Memory Project (www.memoriachilena.cl), the first digital library in Chile and one of the most prestigious projects of the Libraries, Archives, and Museums National Department (DIBAM). Because of this project, in 2002 I was invited to the Congress of Latin American Cities organized by the University of Miami in Florida.

My arrival to the United States was like a new beginning, for a long time I felt anxious like a kid on the first day of school, not only in a personal way, but also in a professional one. My contact with the American library world showed me that libraries could fulfill their role as a supporter of both the cultural and scientific-technical development of human beings.

When I had reached an acceptable understanding of the language, I volunteered at the University of Miami Libraries. Soon I was hired as a library assistant at the Cuban Heritage Collection (CHC), where I had the opportunity to expand my knowledge in archives; processing important personal and institutional archival collections and working with a great team led by Esperanza de Varona, now retired. My main responsibilities included the creation of finding aids and basic preservation work; occasionally creating metadata for digitized materials or processing films and videos.

Knowing that I needed to complement the experience I gained at the CHC, I studied for my master in Library and Information Science at the University of South Florida. As soon as I graduated in 2009, I started working at the Barry University Archives and Special Collections, initially as an Assistant Archivist and later in 2012 I became the manager of the department.

Describe the mission of Barry University Archives and Special Collections

Our mission statement is very simple and straightforward; we are “committed to collecting, preserving, processing, promoting and providing access to primary source materials that support the research needs of the Barry University community and beyond.” Our collections comprise over 2,500 linear feet of manuscript materials, over 6,000 rare books, some of them dating back to the 17th century, tens of thousands of historical photographs, audio and video recordings, ephemera, architectural drawings, cartographic materials, works of art, artifacts, and digital materials.

A great deal of my time is dedicated to outreach activities to help promote Archives and Special Collections’ mission and services.

Which are some of the most noteworthy collections at Barry University?

Our holdings are particularly strong in documenting the University history, that is how this Archives started in 1991. A few Adrian Dominican Sisters who had retired from their faculty/administrative positions organized the department and did an excellent work in collecting and preserving University Records. Later, we began collecting paper collections and almost by chance.  I would say those collections came to us and we took the responsibility of processing and preserving them. Now I am insistent and not reluctant in asking people for their collections.

Some of the most interesting archival collections we have in our holdings are:

Monsignor Bryan O. Walsh Papers

This unique collection provides a thorough overview of Monsignor Bryan O. Walsh’s life and work providing context for historical and political events that shaped South Florida’s social and cultural landscape.

Monsignor Walsh is best known for his role in Operation Pedro Pan/Cuban Children’s Program, an initiative that brought over 14,000 unaccompanied children from Cuba to escape political indoctrination during the 1960s. Concurrently, serving as Director of the Catholic Welfare Bureau of the Archdiocese of Miami, and in the following 30 years he participated in numerous social initiatives to improve the living conditions of underrepresented groups including children, seniors, HIV/AIDS patients and political refugees from Cuba, Haiti and other areas in the Caribbean and Central America. In addition to working to achieve racial integration in Miami Dade County, he was crucial to fostering community dialogue during the aftermath of the 1980 riots in Miami.

William Lehman Papers

A United States Representative from Florida, 1973-1993. The papers document the various activities in which the Congressman was involved in, gives insight into how he accomplished his goals, and reflects his vision for the future.  The Papers include correspondence, research papers, pamphlets, ephemera, and other materials relating to legislative issues; committee and subcommittee reports, testimonies from hearings, press releases, newsletters, speeches, and clippings; personal correspondence, memberships, campaign materials, and travel materials, photographs, audiotapes, and video tapes.

Congressman William Lehman (1913-2005) was instrumental in transforming both South Florida and the country.  A proponent of mass transit, he secured funds to build Miami-Dade County’s Metrorail and Metromover systems and the Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital.  He revised regulations to facilitate the adoption of children from foreign countries and to enable federal employees to donate their unused sick leave to other employees. To help the State of Florida mitigate the financial impact of the influx of Cuban and Haitian refugees during the 1980s, Lehman joined forces with other Florida congressional representatives to obtain federal funding. In 1988 he met with Fidel Castro, secured the release of longtime political prisoners. He helped acquire funding for Israel and advocated for Soviet Jews seeking resettlement in Israel. Additionally, Lehman worked to pass legislation and secure funding to protect the environment.  He focused on issues directly affecting Florida including oil leasing and offshore drilling, acid rain, the Kissimmee River Restoration Project, the Miami River (Harbor) Project, Munisport/Interama (Dade County, Florida) Superfund proposal, coastal zone management and beach restoration, Everglades protection, traumatic injury treatment, and Hurricane Andrew relief.

 Patricia Minnaugh Puppet Collection

This collection documents Barry graduate-faculty Patricia Minnaugh’s professional work in puppetry from 1979 to 1991.

Although always interested in theatre, Minnaugh’s passion was puppetry. She was an accomplished playwright, who used to write, direct and design her own puppets. In 1990, Puppeteers of America elected her to its national board of directors.

The bulk of the collection consists of scripts, research material, collectibles, personal files and photographs. The collection also includes over a hundred of puppets collected by Mrs. Minnaugh. Puppets are still in process; and these are not available for research or view yet.

 Edouard Duval-Carrié Papers

This small collection documents the work of Haitian-American artist Edouard Duval-Carrié since 1989 through the present. Materials include biographical information, exhibit catalogs, exhibit programs, lobby cards, articles, and clippings.

I would say that the most important collection is Operation Pedro Pan/Cuban Children’s Program Records

Operation Pedro Pan was an initiative to help Cuban parents send their children out of Cuba to avoid Communist indoctrination. Through Operation Pedro Pan, over 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban minors arrived in Miami between December 1960 and October 1962. Of these, almost 7,000 received foster care via the Cuban Children’s Program.  This federally funded foster care program, was developed and headed by Monsignor Bryan O. Walsh in December 1960, and became the model for future nationwide initiatives that would provide federal support for locally administered social services, including those offered by faith-based agencies. The program ended by 1979.

Monsignor Walsh took a special interest in preserving the history of Operation Pedro Pan and the Cuban Children’s Program. Thanks to his efforts, 584 linear feet of records – papers, photographs, films and books – were gathered. These materials constitute the Operation Pedro Pan / Cuban Children’s Program Records (OPP/CCP).

In 1995, Monsignor Walsh deposited these records in the Barry University Archives and Special Collections Department. Since then we have been responsible of processing and preserving the OPP / CCP Records.  Catholic Charities of the archdiocese of Miami is still the owner of the collection and permission to conduct research requires their final approval. We do believe that expanding awareness of this experience for future generations is vital, so we have taken some initiatives in digitizing the collection and making it available to researchers and to the “Pedro Pans”, so you may find some materials available at the Digital Library of the Caribbean.

Collection-level finding aids are currently available online through the library research guides

How is the Latin America and Latin@x experience reflected in the collections of Barry University?

I think I already mentioned something about it. Most of the collections we have are related in some way to the Latin-American experience. I would like to add that for a long time there was no collection development policy to guide our acquisition. There was this idea that we only collected university records and my predecessors did a great work doing that, but we are focusing our work toward improving our holdings. We are working hard to strengthen our relationship with faculty to increase the internal use of these collections and we have some of our records available through the Digital Library of the Caribbean, which has enormously increased our exposure to the community.

How do you envision the field of Latin American librarianship?

I think that the field of Latin American librarianship in the United States is very promising, not only in terms of the number of Hispanics and Latinos dedicated to the profession, but also in terms of developing collections related to Latin America and the Caribbean Area. Now it is better understood that we Hispanics may speak the same language, but we have such a rich history and diverse culture that all those differences among us is worth to record. Being the largest minority in the United States not only gives us more influence in our day to day life, but also a more prominent role in our communities. And we Latinos are willing to contribute to this society in a positive way

What has been the most rewarding part of your career?

There are a few things for which I feel rewarded as a librarian:

  • The satisfaction of being able to assist users who are in need of information is the most important thing. There is a certain democratic principle to this profession and it is very exciting for me to see the difference that I can make in improving people’s lives by performing my work as a librarian.
  • As professionals, we -Librarians/Archivists- are unafraid of sharing with others our knowledge, experience, skills, etc. You can always find a professional who is willing to support any program or a project that will benefit the community at large.
  • And finally, it is very fulfilling to be part of a profession with such great values, our Code of Ethics is wonderful, comprehensive, inclusive… and the best part is that most of us believe in it.

 

Reflections on a Getty Intern “Study Trip” to Photography Archives in Mexico

By: Charisma Lee, Getty Research Institute Graduate Intern, Vocabulary Program

From this past September through May, I had the privilege of working as a graduate intern in the Getty Vocabularies, at the Getty Research Institute at J. Paul Getty Trust. In addition to regular duties, interns are allowed time off for educational travel. The “study trip,” as it’s more informally known, encourages individuals to pursue their professional and personal research interests at a location of their choice. Some have used this opportunity to make advances in dissertation research, broaden their networks, or simply visit institutions and collections which for various reasons would be more difficult to access without Getty support.

I took my cue from the Getty initiatives Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA and Connecting Art Histories to craft a project that would explore visual heritage documentation in Mexico. Unsure of where to start, I contacted Natalie Baur at Colegio de México. Natalie suggested possible contacts and became a guide through the process. Karen Heller, an assistant curator in the Getty’s Department of Photographs, was kind enough to discuss my project and suggest additional collections, both in Mexico City and beyond. For reasons of length, in this blog post I am focusing on my visits with two different kinds of organizations: federally-supported and community based.

The Fototeca Nacional in Pachuca and the Chiapas Photography Project in San Cristóbal de las Casas provide an interesting comparison between a federally-supported institution and a community-based collection. First, The Fototeca Nacional is best known as the home of the Casasola Archives, the foundational collection comprising photographs taken and collected by Agustín Casasola and his descendants. The founder of one of the world’s first photographic agencies, Casasola saw it as his mission to document the history of Mexico, whether through his lens or others’. By the time the collection arrived in state custody in the 1970s, it included photographs by nearly 500 photographers.

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Sign for Casasola Archives at Fototeca Nacional in Pachuca, Hidalgo, México

The Casasola archives provide visual records of events from the late 19th century onwards, witnessed by the likes of Hugo Brehme, Antonio Garduño, and the Mayo brothers. Many more photographers were uncredited, and the Fototeca Nacional continues to work at identifying these individuals. The Casasola archives and the rest of the Fototeca’s collections can be combed through online via simple search by keyword. Typing “Casasola,” for instance, will yield more than 2000 photos as well as associated search terms that metadata technicians have captured. For more advanced inputs—e.g. photographic process and image format— the user has to create an account.

Given my interest in cataloging and discoverability, I spoke at length with the cataloging team. It was especially interesting to discover that the Fototeca maintains its own thesaurus. While similar in function to the Getty’s Art & Architecture Thesaurus, the Fototeca’s thesaurus is a monolingual resource for internal use only. It does not appear online, although the vocabulary terms are used in the metadata for each digitized photograph. The Fototeca’s website does provide a list of the types of descriptive and technical information that staff try to record when processing collections. Relationships between terms and concepts is reflected only in a list of searches by previous users, whether or not immediately relevant.

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Screenshot of search term “Casasola” on the Fototeca website. Note the “people also searched for” and “most frequent searches” sections.

 

The second institution I want to discuss is the Chiapas Photography Project (CPP). One can glimpse samples of work done on its website, but its complete inventory is offline. Founder Carlota Duarte maintains a three-ring binder, with texts outlining CPP history and activities since the project’s inception in 1992. There is an overview of the collection, and a complete list of works by participants, most of whom are Ts’eltal or Tzotzil Maya. Digitization activities are in another section; in some cases, the reasons for digitizing a photograph is given (e.g. for publication or an exhibition). The binder also includes press clippings about exhibits and excerpts from dissertations and theses, names of past staff and volunteers, and lists of CPP collaborations with other projects.

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Some of the first zines, or fotonovelas, as CPP calls them, of CPP work, at the Chiapas Photography Project in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, México

I discovered CPP as I was leafing through a catalog of modern photography in Latin America. The blurb accompanying a piece by Maruch Santíz Goméz mentioned the artist’s involvement with CPP. Later I learned that the project uses photography to center the perspectives of local community members from various ethnicities and faith practices. For instance, when support for the CPP’s Archivo Fotográfico Indígena ended in 2012 (until then housed at the local social research institute), the participating photographers collectively decided that the original works would be returned to their creators. The CPP staff, themselves photographers, continue to assist community members with developing photography skills and exhibiting and publishing their work.

At the moment it is unclear where the holdings of this decidedly community-oriented project will find a permanent home. Whether this home will be in the U.S. or in Mexico is also undecided. Underlying this issue of affiliation are intersecting considerations of value and sustainability. Where might collections like those of the CPP find the optimal conditions for scholarly and financial support? Where might staff and users be located so such resources can be properly be cared for, promoted, and most importantly, utilized?

These concerns are central to the information professions, and I continue to reflect on them more deeply with time and distance. Truthfully, the photography fan in me was more immediately enamored with the mere existence of these resources, rather than academic questions. Still, speaking with individuals who are similarly excited was refreshing. Though at times I’ve questioned my involvement in libraries and archives, exchanges like those I had in Mexico assure me that I’m on the right path.

Archivist Spotlight: Elvia Arroyo-Ramírez, Processing Archivist for Latin American Manuscript Collections, Princeton University

(editor’s note: Elvia was recently elected to the SAA 2018 Nominating Committee)

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Elvia Arroyo-Ramírez, at Calle Londres, Mexico City, in front of Frida Kahnlo’s “Casa Azul.”

Please give a brief introduction of yourself and your interests in Latin American and Caribbean cultural heritage archives.

Hi there, I am the Processing Archivist for Latin American Manuscript Collections at Princeton University. Prior to my current position I was a project archivist at the Center for the Study of Political Graphics, an independent grassroots archive that collects social movement posters with strong concentrations in the Vietnam War era and 20th-21st century Latin America.

As a daughter of Mexican immigrants, my interests in Latin American and Caribbean cultural heritage archives stem from a very personal place and are closely tied to my identity. I feel very privileged to lend my labor to—and make accessible—the archives of Latin American and Latinx individuals and communities. It is also a privilege to put my language skills to use and work with Spanish language materials on a daily basis.

Tell us about your work at Princeton University Library Rare Books & Special Collections Department as the Latin America Processing Archivist. What are some of the collections you’ve worked with?

Princeton has extensive holdings of literary correspondence, manuscripts, and personal papers of contemporary Latin American authors, critics, and other intellectuals, with special emphasis on authors of the Boom (1960s-1970s) era. We have about 70 author archives and related collections that are processed and readily available for access.

Since I’ve started my position in June 2015, I’ve mostly concentrated on the backlog of unprocessed collections. These include the organizational and editorial files of the Mexican literary journals Plural (1971-1976) and Vuelta (1976-1998), both edited by Octavio Paz; the papers of Argentine poet and human rights activist Juan Gelman (1930-2014); and numerous other smaller collections and new additions to existing collections. I am currently processing the papers of the late Ricardo Piglia (1941-2017) who just passed away earlier this year, and the papers of Edgardo Cozarinsky (1939- ).

I am also working on an audiovisual migration project to digitize the audio cassette and reel-to-reel assets found in our Latin American collections. We have collections that feature audio recordings of authors such as Pablo Neruda, Elena Garro, Julio Cortázar, Gabriel García Márquez, José Donoso, and many more. I am very excited about this project as it is a pilot project that will help inform the start of a reformatting program to digitize other AV materials held in our manuscript collections.

You recently presented at the Preservation and Archiving Special Interest Group (PASIG) this fall, and posted your comments on medium at https://medium.com/on-archivy/invisible-defaults-and-perceived-limitations-processing-the-juan-gelman-files-4187fdd36759#.u2k2zc6nc. How do you see the future of archives, especially digital archives, in relation to traditionally marginalized groups?

There seems to be a tendency to fully endorse technologies as egalitarian and democratic. That thanks to current technologies, information can now not only be immediately accessible, it is also accessible to a wider audience, and more folks can create and contribute content. Yes, there is truth to this; however, we cannot simply rely on this blanket promise without holding accountable those that are building the tools or otherwise making this information accessible. There has been recent critical scholarship (OLITA spotlight talk at the Ontario Library Association, 2015) about the implicit biases in the way technologies are built and how they simply mirror the biases and perspectives of those that build them. This argument elucidates that the same systemic structures that exist and oppress minority or marginalized groups in society are perpetuated in the technological tools we use to access information because the industries that make these tools, and related industries that purpose them, are created and used by the majority white and the majority male. Understanding this, how does that affect the preservation and access to digital archives of those from traditionally marginalized groups?

In my talk I argue that it takes critical awareness, consciousness, and ethical responsibility to uphold the cultural and political integrity of archival collections that are located outside of the majority, which I called the (in)visible default of “western, white, straight, and male”   and collections that are not in English. Without active intervention to uphold the cultural and political integrity of archival collections of creators that are not English speaking, western, white, straight, or male, we run the risk of projecting this default onto them in the ways that we preserve and provide access to them.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work? The most challenging?

The most rewarding parts of my day are getting to learn about individuals I never met through the ways they lived, wrote, thought, and interacted with others felt vis-a-vis the traces they left behind. When I was a child I liked to scavenge through my mother’s purse while she and my father were out dancing during family parties. I liked to pull everything out of her purse to figure out what everything was and why my mom needed to carry it. I think there’s something in this weird childhood pastime that has endured in adulthood. My work is part detective, part psychologist and getting to figure out and preserve the puzzle of a person or an organization’s records and projecting this out to the world for access is still the coolest and most rewarding part of what I get to dedicate my 9-5 to.

What I find the most challenging in this field is remaining critical and constructive about the silences or deliberate obstructions in archival representation, in particular when it affects the representation of marginalized communities. The majority of archival collections I currently work with come from the established literary canons of Latin America; this is a fact that does not escape me. Though through my writing, presentations, and other outlets I try to contribute critical thought and perspective to these issues in the field.

Finally, what advice and words of wisdom would you give to new and aspiring archivists?

Even though I have about 6 years of post-MLIS experience working in archives, I still consider myself an early career professional so I am learning with everyone who is getting started in this field. I’ve recently offered some advice to students and new professionals in the SAA SNAP blog. Beside what I said there, all I can offer is my experience—what has worked and not worked for me. For both grad school and taking the job at Princeton, I’ve had to move away from my family and friends which is part of the challenge of working in archives. If you are able to pick up and relocate to gain the experience you need to get your foot through the door, do it. I recognize that because I did not have any geographical limitations or familial responsibilities of taking care of an elderly parent or children of my own, that I could do that easily.

Archivist Spotlight: Rachel E. Winston, Black Diaspora Archivist at the LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections (University of Texas at Austin)

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Please give a brief introduction of yourself and your interests in Latin American and Caribbean cultural heritage archives.

My name is Rachel E. Winston—I am a graduate of Davidson College (Anthropology and French), the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs and The University of Texas at Austin (MSIS). Throughout my educational and professional career, I’ve been passionate about representation and access within cultural institutions and in community programming initiatives. As an archivist, I’m interested in the ways in which people of color are represented, described and preserved in our institutions, and further, dismantling imposed barriers to access for these kinds of materials.

You recently started in the newly created Black Diaspora Archivist position at the LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections at the University of Texas at Austin. Tell us a little bit about the new role and your goals for collecting and establishing the Black Diaspora archive.

The Black Diaspora Archive is a collaborative initiative between UT Libraries, Black Studies and LLILAS Benson. In my role as Black Diaspora Archivist, I’m leading the university’s effort in developing a special collection that documents the Black experience throughout the Americas and the Caribbean.  One of the things I’m most excited about is being able to highlight the experiences and works of people of color as told/documented by they themselves—there’s a huge void in this space.  I’m especially grateful to be doing this work at LLILAS Benson where there is real concern for ethical collecting, social justice and post-custodial archival practice.

What has been the most rewarding part of your career? Any advice to fellow new professionals?

Getting this job! In a lot of ways, I was preparing myself for this position before it even existed and I’m looking forward the achievements the Black Diaspora Archive will make in the years to come. To those who are committed to countering or changing the narrative and creating space for others in our field—stay encouraged and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Archivist Spotlight: Ana Rodríguez, MLIS, MA, Archival Assistant at the University of Florida Smathers Libraries

Ana Rodríguez is currently on the LACCHA steering committee.

Tell us about your career. What position do you hold now, and what position(s) have you held prior?

For the past seventeen years I have been involved with learning environments such as art collections, museums, and libraries. These combined experiences have allowed me to acquire a knowledge base in the areas of art documentation, exhibits preparation, description of archival visual materials, and various aspects of special collections librarianship. My knowledge of Spanish language and Latin American and Caribbean arts and culture has been the nexus of all my working experiences.

My journey started in Puerto Rico where I worked for almost five years at the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña (ICP), a local government agency responsible for disseminating and preserving the cultural heritage of the island. At the ICP I held the position of assistant registrar, which for somebody like me whose undergraduate major was art history meant the world. The job itself was very much an intensive course of Puerto Rican art history; I spent my days registering incoming acquisitions such as paintings and graphic prints, supervising the transit of loaned artwork, or visiting La Fortaleza, the official residence of the governor, to conduct inventory and condition reports of paintings and sculptures. It was a dream to work at the ICP but soon enough professional and personal aspirations took me to relocate to Miami, Florida in late 2003.

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Archivist Spotlight: Jorge Yépez Cruz, Professor at the Escuela de Ciencias Históricas de la Universidad Católica del Ecuador and of the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar (Quito, Ecuador)

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**Note: Jorge will be giving a presentation on the state of Ecuadorian archives at the joint meeting of the Latin American and Caribbean Cultural Heritage Archives and International Archival Affairs Roundtables at SAA 2015, August 19, 5-7 PM**

Tell us a little bit about your background and how you decided you wanted to become an archivist.

I first became familiar with information sciences via my intellectual curiosity to know how to most efficiently locate information in the libraries, since I could not always find what I was looking for.

That motivated me to study library science, which is what my initial universitary training is in, so much so that I practiced it for over 10 years at various institutions; but when an international agency asked me to organize their administrative archive, I realized that my knowledge in library science was neither sufficient or adequate to proceed with this task, so I began to look for training in the archival discipline, which did not exist in Ecuador.

Which is why I first went to Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia, to a specialized course backed by the Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo (AECID) and then completed the Master in Archival Science from the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, under the direction of Ramón Cruz Mundet. The line of education in both cases responded to a school of thought with Ibero-American administrative and historical traditions, which is distinct from the English school of thought, where the word “archive” has types of historical and patrimonial connotations attached to it.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work? The most challenging?

The challenges have varied since the development of archives in the country has barely begun, but the satisfactions have also been motivating.

Upon my return from Spain, in 2001, I set as a goal for myself to promote the training and education of Ecuadorian archivists; to attend to a very felt need in the country. It is how in 2005 we achieved to incorporate into the program of studies of the Escuela de Ciencias Historicas de la Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador (PUCE) several classes regarding the organization of archives, legal obligations and archival methods, as a compliment to the courses on paleography and use of primary sources that already existed. Additionally, in order to address the archival training desires of individuals outside of the University, we created the Specialized Program of Training in Archives and Document Management for those outside of the University system.

For the same reason in 2006, in conjunction with historian colleagues, we elaborated on the postgraduate course project in Document Management and Archives at the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, whose first class graduated in 2012. At the moment, the course is in its fourth instance, although with variations to the curriculum of original studies.

Equally gratifying was to work for the inclusion of Article 379 in the Republic of Ecuador’s Constitution which states that “documents, objects, collections, archives, libraries and museums which have historical, artistic, archaeological, ethnographic or paleontological value” are part of the cultural patrimony and safeguards of the State, which represented an important accomplishment in the visualization and conservation of the historical archives and other cultural repositories in the country.

Where do you see the role of the archivist in society today and in the future?

According to my criteria, archivists fulfill a very important societal function. Ours is a profession eminently humanistic, thus the professional training should include more of the technical, regulatory and technological aspects, which allow the access and conservation of information resources in whatever type of format or level of support, as well as aspects of training that direct new professionals to contribute to the social, democratic and cultural development of our countries.

An example of this vision was the participation of our collective of archivists, named Archivists without Borders, who in association with other professionals and organizations of the civil society, contributed to the enactment and diffusion of the Transparency and Access to Public Information Law in 2004. With our intervention we were able to achieve better visualization and positioning before the community to relay the importance archives have for the efficient administration of public and private institutions, and also as useful tools to guarantee access of pubic information to individuals. Also, as a mechanism to demand transparency from State institutions, as support in the battle against corruption and impunity, to help in the participation of an informed citizenry in the management of government, and, in compliance with the fulfillment of the rights of individuals, including basic human rights in its broadest expression.

What advice and words of wisdom would you give to new and aspiring archivists?

When someone is faced with the prospects of what to study and posteriorly what to practice as a profession, whichever these may be, one should ask themselves an “for what?” of the profession? And an “for whom?” In our case the question could be: archives for what? archives for whom? The answer has already been outlined in the previous paragraphs.

For that reason, I can only tell our youngest colleagues to choose the best road in order to be productive citizens of society via their profession. Archives, the management of information, the handling of contents and the management of knowledge are all emerging disciplines that will significantly contribute to the construction of more inclusive and supportive communities.

Within the archival world, we still have a long way to go and along that stretch we will encounter many challenges, but also many opportunities to feel satisfied with our work.

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Dinos un poco sobre su experiencia profesional y como fue que decidió ser un archivista.

Mi acercamiento a las ciencias de la información llegó por mi curiosidad intelectual de conocer cómo ubicar de mejor manera la información en las bibliotecas, pues no siempre encontraba lo que buscaba.

Eso me motivó a estudiar bibliotecología, que es mi formación universitaria inicial, que la ejercí por más de 10 años en varias instituciones; pero cuando un organismo internacional me pidió organizar su archivo administrativo, me di cuenta que mis conocimientos en bibliotecología no eran suficientes ni adecuados para cumplir esa tarea, así que empecé a buscar opciones de capacitación y formación en la disciplina archivística, que en Ecuador no existían.

Por eso fui primero a Santa Cruz de la Sierra en Bolivia, a un curso especializado auspiciado por la AECI y luego realicé el máster en Archivística de la Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, bajo la dirección de Ramón Cruz Mundet. La línea de formación en ambos casos respondía a una escuela de formación con tradición administrativa e histórica iberoamericana, que difiere de la escuela inglesa, donde la palabra archivo tiene connotaciones de tipo histórico y patrimonial.

¿Qué ha sido el aspecto mas gratificante de su trabajo? El más desafiante?

Los retos han sido variados pues el desarrollo del país recién inicia, pero las satisfacciones también han sido motivantes.

A mi regreso de España, en el año 2001, me propuse como meta promover la formación y capacitación de los archiveros ecuatorianos, para atender una necesidad muy sentida en el país y es así que desde el año 2005 logramos incorporar en el programa de estudios de la Escuela de Ciencias Históricas de la PUCE varias materias sobre organización de archivos y normativa legal y técnica sobre archivos, como complemento de los cursos de paleografía y uso de fuentes históricas que ya existían. Adicionalmente, para atender las solicitudes de capacitación en archivística de personas de fuera de la Universidad, creamos el Programa Especializado de Capacitación en Archivística y Gestión Documental.

Con el mismo fin en el año 2006, conjuntamente con colegas historiadores, elaboramos el proyecto del curso de posgrado en Gestión de Documentos y Archivos en la Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, cuya primera promoción egresó en el año 2012. Al momento el curso va por la cuarta edición, aunque con variaciones en el pensum de estudios original.

Igualmente gratificante fue trabajar para la inclusión en la Constitución de la República del Ecuador del artículo 379 que dice que son parte del patrimonio cultural y objeto de salvaguarda del Estado, entre otros, “Los documentos, objetos, colecciones, archivos, bibliotecas y museos que tengan valor histórico, artístico, arqueológico, etnográfico o paleontológico”, lo cual representó un logro importante en la visualización y conservación de los archivos históricos y otros repositorios culturales del país.

¿Dónde ve usted el papel del archivista en cuanto en la sociedad y en el futuro?

A mi criterio, los archivistas cumplimos una función social muy importante, la nuestra es una profesión eminentemente humanística, por ello la formación profesional debería incluir a más de los aspectos de orden técnico, normativo y tecnológico, que posibiliten el acceso y conservación de los recursos de información en cualquier tipo de soporte y formato, aspectos de formación que orienten a los nuevos profesionales a aportar al desarrollo social, democrático y cultural de nuestros países.

Un ejemplo de esta visión fue la participación de nuestro colectivo de archiveros, denominado Archiveros sin Fronteras, que en asociación con otros profesionales y organizaciones de la sociedad civil aportamos en la promulgación y difusión de la Ley de Transparencia y Acceso a la Información Pública en el año 2004. Con nuestra intervención logramos una mejor visualización y posicionamiento ante la colectividad de la importancia de los archivos para la administración eficiente de las instituciones públicas y privadas y también como herramientas útiles para garantizar el acceso de las personas a la información pública, como mecanismo de exigencia de transparencia de las instituciones del estado, como un apoyo en la lucha contra la corrupción e impunidad, para ayudar a la participación de la ciudadanía informada en la gestión del gobierno, y, al cumplimiento de los derechos de las personas, incluidos los derechos humanos en su más amplia expresión.

¿Qué sugerencia o palabras de sabiduría le daría usted a archivistas nuevos y ambiciosos?

Cuando una persona se encuentra en la fase de escoger el estudio y la posterior práctica de una profesión, cualesquiera que ésta sea, uno debería plantearse un para qué de la profesión? y un para quién? En nuestro caso la pregunta podría ser: archivos para qué? Archivos para quién?; la respuesta ya ha sido bosquejada en párrafos anteriores.

Por eso, solo podría decirles a nuestros colegas más jóvenes que escogieron el mejor camino para ser personas útiles a la sociedad a través del ejercicio de su profesión. La archivística, la gestión de la información, el manejo de contenidos, la gestión del conocimiento son disciplinas emergentes que van a aportar significativamente a la construcción de comunidades más incluyentes y solidarias.

Dentro de la archivística aún tenemos mucho camino por recorrer y en ese trecho encontraremos muchos desafíos, pero también muchas oportunidades de sentirnos satisfechos con nuestro trabajo.

Archivist Spotlight: Béatrice Colastin Skokan, Manuscripts, Archives & Outreach Librarian at the University of Miami Libraries — Special Collections (Coral Gables, FL)

Beatrice

1. Tell us a little bit about your background and how you decided you wanted to become an archivist.

I am Haitian-American and the Manuscripts, Archives and Outreach Librarian at the University of Miami Libraries’ Special Collection. I love working in Special Collections in general but am particularly drawn to the archives because of the immediacy of access to the historical documents. In 2006, I accepted a position as archives assistant and processed the Seymour Samet Papers which pertain to civil rights activism in South Florida in the 1960s. I enjoyed the research and preservation process so much that I decided that I wanted to specialize in archives. I see archives as unmitigated and creative spaces of intellectual activity.

2. What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work? The most challenging?

As a professional archivist, I have been actively involved in civic and community engagement by collecting the records of various grassroots organizations and supporting projects in local history. From 2012-2014, I served as co-chair of the Society of American Archivists Human Rights Roundtable because of a longstanding interest and belief in the effectiveness of grassroots advocacy. In the past five years, in my capacity as the Manuscripts Librarian, I have engaged in outreach activities to remedy the absence of African diaspora communities by helping to establish the Collaborative Archive from the African diaspora (CAAD) project and concurrently collecting the papers of various activists groups focused on social justice, immigration, labor, and migrant workers in South Florida.

Filling the silences of established institutional narratives can sometimes be challenging but trust building can occur with patience and respect.

3. Where do you see the role of the archivist in society today and in the future?

I like to think of my fellow archivists as curators of stories. We are trying to preserve and give voice to as many perspectives as possible regardless of provenance and format. The methods will most likely change but the profession’s objectives will remain.

4. What advice and words of wisdom would you give to new and aspiring archivists?

Never get tired of making the connection between archives and communities. In my experience, the general public may not always understand our titles but is genuinely interested in our work.

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If you’d like more information about the CAAD project or about the University of Miami Libraries’ Special Collections, please contact Béatrice at bskokan@miami.edu or check out their newsletter, Mosaic.

Archivist Spotlight: Lizeth Zepeda, Archivist/Librarian at the Arizona Historical Society (Tucson, AZ)

Zepeda_Liz1. Please give us a brief introduction of yourself and interests in Latin@, Borderlands, Latin American and Caribbean cultural heritage archives.

My name is Liz Zepeda and I am one of three archivists/librarians at the Arizona Historical Society – Library and Archives Division in Tucson, Arizona. As a first-generation Chicana, I have always been interested in archives. I have always kept every single document of my life and of those around me. While I was an undergrad at California State University, Long Beach, I was heavily involved in the La Raza Student Association (our MEChA) and was so thrilled to find primary source information in the university’s archive about a Chicana Feminist group from the 1970’s called, Las Hijas de Cuauhtemoc.

Las Hijas de Cuauhtemoc had a Chicana Feminist newspaper by the same name, which spoke about Chicana and Latina women’s struggles during the Chicano movement and life in the 1970’s. Being one of the first in my family to go to college in the United States, I really related to those struggles of family obligation, sexism, religion, and college life. Later, Las Hijas were a part of creating the first Chicana Feminist journal. My friends and I were so inspired and empowered, we had two Chicana Feminist conferences to spread this amazing history of California State University, Long Beach, and other Chicana feminist collectives. From that moment, I knew that I wanted to work with cultural heritage archives, and to provide accessibility to these primary source materials and histories.

2. Last year you started working at the Arizona Historical Society located in Tucson, AZ. However, while you interned there as a graduate student you worked on a digital exhibit titled, “Mexican Heritage Project -La Herencia del Pueblo.” Can you tell us a little bit more about this project and your goals for collecting and outreaching?

The Mexican Heritage Project — La Herencia del Pueblo was an amazing effort in the 1980’s from archivists, librarians, historians and community members who got together to fill in the gaps that were present in the Arizona Historical Society concerning the Mexican and Mexican American community. The archive received business records, family records, oral histories, and over 4,000 photographs. For my job as an intern at the Arizona Historical Society in January 2013, I was a part of the group to digitize over 300 of these photographs. They range from the 1870’s-1950’s, span multiple generations, and highlight locations particularly important to the Mexican American communities in Tucson. Please click here to view the digital exhibit.

As of May of 2014, I began to work at the Arizona Historical Society as an archivist/librarian, and we are in the planning stages of creating a traveling exhibit for the Mexican Heritage Project to visit different locations all over Arizona with hopes of providing access to these stunning photographs and rich histories, as well as to collect more records of the Latino communities in Arizona.

3. What has been the most rewarding part of your career thus far? Any advice for your fellow Professionals?

One of the most rewarding parts of my career so far has been presenting the Mexican Heritage Project digital exhibit at the Library of Congress’ Cultural Heritage Archives Symposium in September of 2013. Not only did I present this work; I was also able to hear innovate methods of providing access to cultural heritage materials that other institutions had done, and met other archivists in the field.

My advice for fellow professionals would be to never be afraid of change. Move where the job takes you. And be open to new experiences and life lessons. I lived in Santa Ana, Orange County, California, my whole life, and never thought I would leave, but going to graduate school in Tucson, and finding a job here, has made me be more open to embracing and loving change.


If  you want more information concerning the Mexican Heritage Project or about the Arizona Historical Society please contact, Liz, at Lzepeda@azhs.gov or (520) 617 -1152.

Archivist Spotlight: Lisa Cruces, Hispanic Collections Archivist and Librarian at University of Houston

Lisa Cruces

1. Please give a brief introduction of yourself and your interests in Latin American and Caribbean cultural heritage archives.

Hello! My name is Lisa Cruces and I am the Hispanic Collections Archivist and Librarian with the University of Houston’s Special Collections Department. Before joining UH, I worked in various libraries and archives creating access to Spanish-language records or objects whose provenance originated in the Hispanic or Latin American sphere. The root of my interest in heritage archives is directly tied to my family tree, my parents. From them I inherited a strong interest in my Mexican heritage and a curiosity for the history and culture of Latin American communities. What drew me to the Archives profession specifically were the aspects of service and the opportunity to work with an array of users (students, faculty, and individuals outside of academia).

2. You recently started in the newly created Hispanic Collections Archivist position at the University of Houston. Tell us a little bit about the new role and your goals for collecting and doing outreach in this area.

My role as the Hispanic Collections Archivist and Librarian is great because it involves a little bit of everything: acquiring new collections, instruction, outreach, collaborating with faculty, and processing physical and digital records. In regards to collections and developing our holdings, my goal is to capitalize on the unique aspects of the Hispanic experience in Houston and the greater East Texas region. I envision our holdings including representation of Latinos in the arts and humanities, business, and community development. The aim is to foster a more representative account of Hispanic history and support the scholarship of our faculty and students at the University of Houston.

3. What has been the most rewarding part of your career? Any advice to fellow new professionals?

The most rewarding part of my career has been the opportunity to continue learning. It’s a great feeling to do what you love and to learn more about it through working with a new collection, donor, student, or colleague.

My advice for students and new professionals is to try new things. It may not apply to what you are immediately working on, but trying new things and challenging yourself will help you develop skills and insights for future projects and relationships.

Interested in sharing your story? Please contact the Memoria editorial team at saalaccha [at] gmail [dot] com to let us know that you would like to be interviewed for a spot on the blog.