Report & Photos by Dawn Aveline, Preservation Officer, UCLA Library

This trip to Havana, my fourth in support of the UCLA International Digital Ephemera Project, focused primarily on our work with the Biblioteca Nacional de Cuba José Martí. My two colleagues, Yasmin Dessem (Audiovisual Preservation Specialist) and T-Kay Sangwand (Librarian for Digital Collection Development), and I brought a portable digitization setup with the goal of digitizing historical newspapers. Other visits and activities planned for this trip included a public presentation by Yasmin on the preservation of analog audio, and visits to the Laboratorio Nacional de Música Electroacústica, El Museo Nacional de la Música, the recording studio Estudios Abdala, and return trips to the Instituto de Historia de Cuba and the Casa de las Américas. We rounded out the trip with a short visit to the Cinemateca de Cuba, to demonstrate Collective Access, an open source software system that will facilitate description and access of the 1,341 posters we digitized during a previous trip in June.

Biblioteca Nacional de Cuba José Martí

El Fígaro

Given the small physical size of the Papél Periódico and the fact that the BNCJM had recently received digitization equipment more suited to work with that title, together with our Biblioteca partners we decided to begin digitizing another important news publication, El Fígaro. A search of WorldCat shows only four institutions holding this title, and none of them print.

Carlos checks Lightroom settings
Staff having a tea break
Although Sergio Romero works at another partner institution, the Instituto de Historia de Cuba, he joined us at the Biblioteca to provide a Lightroom tutorial.
T-Kay Sangwand (UCLA Library) left, Yolanda Núñez González (BNCJM International Relations), Hilda Pérez, Head of Serials Division, and Nancy Machado (BNCJM's Subdirectora General) far right.
Index of El Fígaro

A setback yields teamwork and creative problem solving.

Creative improvisation and cardboard tubes stand in for the Speedrings.

Inadvertently, I had left behind a small but important piece of our photographic equipment - the Profoto Speedrings, used to attach the Softbox light modifiers to the flash heads. While embarrassing, this shortfall actually sparked our BNCJM team to work together to craft a solution, as shown above. Luckily, we were able to ship the Speedrings to Mexico and then hand them off to another of our Cuban partners to transport back to the Biblioteca.

Analog Audio Preservation

Presentation by Yasmin Dessem at the BNCJM

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Yasmin Dessem, UCLA Library's Audiovisual Preservation Specialist

Our friend Luis Alberto Montes de Oca Colina, head of preservation and conservation and Director de Información Cientifica at the Instituto de Historia de Cuba, arranged for our Audiovisual Preservation Specialist, Yasmin Dessem, to present at the BNCJM about audio preservation.

Yasmin presented in English, with live Spanish translation interspersed.

Yasmin's slide shows the wide variety of magnetic media formats that UCLA Library preservation can transfer in-house.

The event was very well attended by the public, with standing room only.

Yasmin explains sticky shed syndrome.

T-Kay assisting with translation of sticky shed.

Many people wanted to find out more following the presentation.

Cuban audio engineers are happy to talk shop with Yasmin.

Laboratorio Nacional de Música Electroacústica

We hoped to be able to visit the Laboratorio Nacional de Música Electroacústica at some point during the week, and we were in luck. Despite not having a pre-set appointment, the director, Enmanuel Blanco (son of the genre's pioneer, Juan Blanco), very generously gave us a detailed history of the institution and showed us around their establishment housed in a tiny apartment in the Vedado neighborhood.

The Laboratorio has a closet full of recordings.
We did not encounter open reel audio.
Videos on the top shelf.
Many of the LPs have been digitized. They are stored on optical media and backed up to a computer hard drive.
The Laboratorio has a small recording studio.

We interrupted these artists during their recording session.

Instituto de Historia de Cuba

In our first Cuban partnership, the IHC have been working to digitize their print holdings of La Lucha newspaper. The IHC hold the only known copies of the earliest volumes of this newspaper which began publishing in Havana the 1880s. Together we have digitized the years 1914-1919, 1921, 1923-1931. The Instituto has some gaps (1912, 1914, 1920 and 1922) that we are planning to fill for them with microfilm purchased from the Library of Congress. Finally, the IHC are working to stabilize the earliest, most fragile print volumes (1886-1913) for digitization.

René González Barrios, President of the IHC

René recounting tales from his time in Angola.

T-Kay, Nancy Machado (BNCJM), and Yasmin listen intently.

A downpour in the IHC courtyard.

Rain, fascinating for drought-parched Angelenos.

L-R: Yasmin, Luis (IHC), T-Kay, Sergío (IHC)

The IHC shelters a small crowd during the rainstorm. In the foreground, IHC conservator Aylin Espinoza Perez.

One of our next projects with the IHC may include the transcription disks of the Universidad del Aire. The IHC holds many of the accompanying workbooks.


Heading to the Casa de las Americas
Part of the poster collection held by the Casa
Contemporary poster works on display
The Casa holds many important works of art; some of them are displayed in air-conditioned offices.
Tree of life, a gift from Mexico to the Casa de las Americas
Epic painting by Roberto Matta
Arien González discusses potential future projects with Yamin and T-Kay

We met with Arien González, director of the Biblioteca at the Casa de las Americas. Arien brought forward the idea of a multi-institutional collaboration to establish a digital preservation repository/system in Cuba -- rather than simply receiving equipment to digitize one small part of the collections. I think this is a big idea and could be something to work towards across our several fruitful partnerships.

Cinemateca de cuba

Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos

T-Kay with Sara Vega, archives director for the Cinemateca.

Following our successful digitization of 1,341 posters in the archives of the Cinemateca, we were able to donate a laptop installed with an open-source operating system (Ubuntu) and an open-source cataloging and access application, CollectiveAccess, that will allow for description of the images and collection, and facilitate user access and research.

EStudios Abdala & Museo Nacional de la Música

Two other visits of note: one, to the Museo Nacional de la Música (upper left photos), where Yasmin discussed software and transfer technologies with the Museo's audio engineer. The other, a VIP tour of Estudios Abdala, a state-of-the-art recording and mastering facility. They also have capacity to transfer some analog audio formats.

The Estudios Abdala maintain a special audio reel-to-reel deck specifically to remove mold.


With our growing network of relationships in cultural heritage institutions in Havana, we are beginning to see new local relationships develop. For example, the conservators at the Instituto are planning to train Sara Vega (Cinemateca) in some basic repairs for the poster collection. And Arien of the Casa would like to foment an inter-institutional digital preservation effort. The Biblioteca Nacional holds some materials that could fill gaps in the Instituto's and the Cinemateca's holdings.

And at UCLA , this project has forged closer ties with the Fowler Museum, which is presenting a retrospective of Cuban printmaker, Belkis Ayón. We look forward to building on all of these relationships in support of cultural exchange, capacity building at the local level, and strengthening ties with our campus colleagues.

Created By
Dawn Aveline


Dawn Aveline

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