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Teaching photograph conservation in Cuba

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​Workshop instructors and participant engaged in photographic process identification, critical to better predict preservation needs.

In March 2018, a delegation of WUDPAC faculty, alumni, and students traveled to Havana to hold a four-day conference for photo and preservation professionals from around the country. The four-day photograph preservation conference in Cuba was a great success. For many, this event was pioneering and transformative. It was the first preservation workshop of any kind in Cuba that intentionally included participants from all 15 provinces.

The workshop was made possible through the support, leadership, and collaboration of the University of Delaware Office of the Provost and College of Arts and Sciences, the Consejo Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural in Cuba, APOYOnline (led by Beatriz Haspo and Amparo Rueda), the National Endowment for the Humanities (whose funds supported a series of preparatory collection visits), and skilled and passionate co-instructors Shannon Brogdon-Grantham, Amber Kehoe, Barbara Lemmen, and Ronel Namde. (Thanks also go out to the talented translators who provided simultaneous translation throughout the workshop events.)

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​Workshop instructors and participant engaged in photographic process identification.

​Workshops days included plenary lectures held at the National Museum of Fine Arts, in a beautiful early 20th-century amphitheater with temperatures suitable for cold storage. In 2009, the Cuban government mandated strict environmental controls for all Cuban heritage collections: 18C +/- 2C and 45% RH. Many collection caretakers, especially those in the provinces, face significant challenges with environmental control and access to better quality paper or plastic enclosures. Fifty-eight intergenerational participants from cultural and private institutions attended. There were conservators, curators, archivists, architects, educators, and photographers. All were eager to learn, engaged, appreciative, and many were natural leaders. Their collections ranged in size and type to include everything from daguerreotypes to digital print media.  

Lessons focused on the examination, identification, and care of photographic print and negative collections. Hands-on sessions followed the lectures, reinforcing key concepts. Sessions included testing housing materials for pH and dye bleed, the use of polarizing filters and acid-detector strips, and options for non-adhesive matting and mounting. Ronel and Shannon led an interesting session on tools for the conservators; a box of 19th-and 20th-century photographic prints were among the materials left onsite for use by the School of Conservation or the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA). Collection visits were also paid to the Office of the Historian of the City of Havana and the Museum of Music, which house mid-19th century images of Cuba, photographs of famous musicians, and the earliest extant copy of the lyrics to the Cuban National Anthem  (La Bayamesa) written and composed in 1867 by Perucho Figueredo (Amparo's great-great-grandfather).

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​Left: Workshop instructors and participant engaged in photographic process identification. Right: Amparo Rueda and Beatriz Haspo examine the Cuban National Anthem written and composed in 1867 by Perucho Figueredo (Amparo's great-great-grandfather).

​Gladys Collazo Usallán, President of the Consejo Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural, enthusiastically opened and closed the conference. She expressed her appreciation for UD and APOYO and her desire to host future preservation workshops. A final, plenary session led by APOYO focused on next steps including the need to collaborate, network, and lead new photograph preservation and education efforts across Cuba. Our Cuban colleagues are well positioned to do so, and we at WUDPAC are ready to help. As José Marti, Cuba's most famous national poet and philosopher wrote, "In a time of crisis, the peoples of the world must rush to get to know each other." Preservation initiatives can and will build cultural understanding across the Americas and beyond. 

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A delegation of WUDPAC faculty, alumni, and students recently traveled to Havana to hold a four-day conference for photo and preservation professionals from around the country.
 
 
4/14/2018
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