The Miami Herald
May 21, 2001

UF to preserve, copy Cuban documents

 GAINESVILLE -- (AP) -- University of Florida researchers are working to save millions of pages of historical documents dating as far back as 1578 that have been locked up in Cuban archives since 1959.

 The researchers made a deal with the Cuban National Archives in March to preserve and copy about 10 million handwritten records of life, business and shipping in
 Havana from 1578 to 1900.

 The Notary Protocols contain information on births, deaths, property and slave ownership -- data on all people and cargo passing through Havana en route from Spain to America and back.

 At the time, just about everything went through the Cuban city. ``It was like the capital of Florida,'' said Arva Parks, a Florida historian and author.

 The volumes provide the historical saga of colonial Spain, with information such as census data, cargo inventory, wills and settlers' contracts ranging from marriage to
 emancipation. The university had tried to win access to the volumes for 20 years.

 John Ingram, director of collections for UF's P.K. Yonge Florida History Collection, said the project resulted from a changing political and social climate between the two countries and strong working relationship between the university and the Cuban National Archives.

 ``I think there is a climate in Cuba that is more accepting of these type of relationships,'' Ingram said.

 In the project's start-up phase, the researchers will microfilm and make digital scans of 50 volumes, totaling about 70,000 pages. When that is completed, university
 officials plan to get donations to pay to index and scan the remainder of the 6,658 volumes.

 UF librarians and technicians hope later this year to begin the pilot project -- which could take up to 18 months -- with the assistance of employees of the Cuban archives.

 The project, including an estimated $250,000 for the pilot, will be paid for by private foundations and donors.

 Notaries, who were influential government officials in colonial Spain, made legal transactions official. From 1578 to 1900, 20 notary families in Havana passed the job down from father to son, each year starting a new volume. The Cuban government collected all 6,658 volumes, each containing about 1,400 pages, in 1900 for safe storage.