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Donate to Help Save Haitian Libraries and Archives

posted by Christopher Howard — Feb 08, 2010

The Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC), an international collaboration of educational, research, governmental, and nongovernmental institutions that provides access to electronic collections about the Caribbean, is seeking donations and technical assistance for the recovery and protection of Haiti’s libraries and their valuable historical, governmental, and cultural resources.

The Digital Library of the Caribbean has initiated the Protecting Haitian Patrimony Initiative, the goal of which is to help the country’s three largest heritage libraries and the National Archives, all of which were damaged in the January 12 earthquake. While the main structures remain standing, one library must be evacuated and most likely demolished and the others suffered significant damage, leaving their collections extremely vulnerable. As a result, significant resources will be needed to protect the already brittle, rare books and documents, now left in piles and covered with debris.

The damaged institutions have indicated they need gloves, masks, archival boxes, and temporary staff to assist in the clean-up. Later, they will need to replace broken shelving, repair or replace damaged electronic equipment, and provide more advanced restoration for many of the rarest books and documents.

Laura Probst, dean of FIU Libraries and a dLOC executive committee member, said protecting the historical documents is crucial in the earthquake’s aftermath.

“The collections in these archives represent the collective memory of the Haitian people, their culture, and Haiti’s role in the history of the western hemisphere and the world,” Probst said. “With this initiative we seek to preserve these invaluable resources for Haiti’s future, and for our own.”

FIU has a longstanding partnership with Haiti’s libraries and the National Archives through the Digital Library of the Caribbean and is one of the founding partners and administrators of dLOC, along with the University of Florida and the University of the Virgin Islands.

The Digital Library of the Caribbean’s operations are run out of the Latin American and Caribbean Center at FIU. Brooke Wooldridge, coordinator of dLOC at FIU, will be traveling to Haiti this week to assist the libraries and archives in documenting their needs and planning for the next phases of their recovery.

The Protecting Haitian Patrimony Initiative at first will channel resources to four institutions in Port-au-Prince:

  • Archives Nationales d’Haïti houses both civil and state records, including births, marriage and death certificates, documentation of social works, civil governance and records of the Office of the President, and most government ministries
  • Bibliothèque haïtienne des Pères du Saint-Esprit was founded in 1873 by the Fathers of the Holy Spirit. The library holds resources documenting the history of Haiti, French colonization, slavery, and emancipation, and 20th Century records, as well as newspapers and periodicals
  • Bibliothèque haïtienne des Frères de l’Instruction Chrétienne was founded in 1912 by the Christian Brothers. It served as depository-library for Haitian imprints and holds titles not even available in the National Library. It also holds one of the most significant collections of Haitian newspapers
  • Bibliothèque National d’Haïti was established in 1940 and also serves as a public library providing resources, study space, and research support. It has a small but significant collection of rare books, manuscripts, and newspapers

For more information or to contribute to the Protecting Haitian Patrimony Initiative, please visit the dLOC website or call dLOC at 305-348-3008.

The text was published earlier today on the website of Florida International University (FIU) and is reprinted here with permission by