Digital Preservation and Dissemination of Cuban Archives: Opportunities and Challenges

Authors: Matthew C. LaFevor*, University of Alabama, David C. LaFevor , University of Texas at Arlington
Topics: Historical Geography, Latin America, Cyberinfrastructure
Keywords: Cuba, digital archives, historical geography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Studio 7, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper explores the research opportunities and challenges of identifying, recording, and disseminating unpublished data from Cuban church archives, many of which are in advanced states of decay. Since the 16th century, parish priests have been recording births, baptisms, marriages, employment details, deaths, and burials in thick tomes of documents. But as an institutional competitor of the Cuban government since 1959, many churches have been under lock-and-key. With plummeting memberships and resource bases their archival record was often neglected. Tomes of data were crammed away and forgotten in wooden cabinets to marinate in the tropical heat, without the funding for or access to modern methods of preservation. The author recounts his experiences as Co-PI on a multi-year project (2014-2017) funded by the British Libraries Endangered Archives Programme that seeks to digitize and preserve these data before they are lost. Substantive aspects of the project are discussed, as well as other technical, institutional, funding, service, and pedagogical issues. Also discussed are the opportunities and challenges of building the technical capacity that will allow future Cuban parishes to continue this work.

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