FIU Libraries partners with the community to share local history

by Eduardo Merille

Most people recognize that libraries, with their books, computers, and databases, are repositories of knowledge. But libraries also play an important role in cultivating local history.

The Southeast Florida Library Information Network (SEFLIN), a non-profit membership organization of southeast Florida libraries, grants a number of Breakthrough Digitization Awards each year to support projects that create and share significant local digital content. Of the four projects awarded this year, the FIU Libraries was a part of three.

The first project is the digitization of a special collection of sheet music from the FIU Libraries’ holdings. The Diaz-Ayala Cuban and Latin American Popular Music Collection (DAC), donated to the FIU Libraries in 2001, is one of the world’s most extensive publicly available collections of Cuban and Latin American music. The SEFLIN award will help digitize a specific sub-collection, the Libertad Lamarque Sheet Music Collection. Lamarque was an Argentine actress and singer and an icon of Golden Age Argentine and Mexican cinema. The digitization will not only preserve the original physical items but increase global access to the collection.

“Many of these compositions are rare and valuable as they are no longer commercially available, and only a limited number exist in private hands and academic institutions,” according to Veronica Gonzalez, librarian in the FIU Libraries Sound and Image Department. “Now we can not only share this incredible music with new audiences, but provide a way for people to reconnect with their cultural roots and guarantee use of the collection for generations to come.”

Hampton House Collection

The second project is a partnership with the Hampton House. Designated a local Miami-Dade historical landmark by the Miami-Dade County Historic Preservation Board in 2002, the Hampton House organizes community events, including History Harvests for the preservation of important, historic, community-donated materials with the goal of documenting and preserving Miami’s local history. Building on a collaborative History Harvest event held in February, Hampton House and the libraries are partnering to further Hampton House’s mission.

Members of the community will be invited to share memories and stories in interviews as well as items from their personal collections for digitization, allowing them to shape their own narrative. Jamie Rogers, head of the Digital Collections Center, wants “the community to feel invested in their history, so that we can continue these important collaborations.”

The final project is a partnership with the Brockway Memorial Library in Miami Shores. The library currently possesses roughly 1,000 archival items of significant interest to the history of Miami Shores, with a focus on early pioneers and residences.

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