library exhibit

Placing the spotlight on historical archives

By Kelly Montoya

Placing the spotlight on historical archives

By Kelly Montoya
The Cuban Heritage Collection is hosting a panel of distinguished experts to explore the importance of art in a scholarly archive.

When people think about archived works by artists of the past, their minds often jump to “objects that are just sitting in repositories,” according to Elizabeth Cerejido.

But that’s not what visitors have found at the Cuban Heritage Collection’s exhibition, “Illuminating Women: Representations and Narratives from Ediciones Vigía,” which features more than 500 intriguing, handmade Vigía books and materials that have been provoking conversations about gender representation and artistic practice since last fall.

The exhibition will serve as the backdrop and inspiration for "Illuminating the Archives: Art and Artists' Books in Context," a compelling panel discussion that will explore the role of art in a scholarly archive and the research value that can be unlocked from examining artist’s materials.

To Cerejido, director of the Cuban Heritage Collection at the University of Miami Libraries, the goal of the panel discussion is to create discourse around “activating collection materials so that they are always seen as relevant. We’re redefining and decontextualizing these materials so that they are accessible to everyone.” 

The discussion will bring together a group of experts that include an archivist, curator, and two scholars. The panel will be moderated by Cristina Favretto, head of special collections for UM Libraries. 

“Generally, the work of archival institutions is invisible to the public beyond the scholars and researchers who specifically seek out our collections,” said Josh Franco, national collector for the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution. “So, I am eager to participate in any public event that foregrounds archival resources.” 

Other panelists include Linda Howe, associate professor at Wake Forest University, who has previously curated Vigía exhibitions and is credited for translating Vigias text from Spanish to English; Donna Aza Weir-Soley, associate professor at Florida International University; and Tracy Bonfitto, curator of art for the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. 

Cerejido hopes that visitors feel connected to the variety of art that CHC has collected as they continue to be “pioneers in collection development.” The CHC, she said, is continuously looking to engage the greater community by drawing attention to the excellence and meaningfulness around each collection. 

“These items hold true meaning and it’s important to activate the archives in order to show the world these perspectives.” 

The panel discussion, "Illuminating the Archives: Art and Artists' Books in Context," will take place at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Roberto C. Goizueta Pavilion in the Otto G. Richter Library. The event is free and open to the University community. RSVP here

For questions about the event, which is co-sponsored by Florida International University’s Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center, please contact the UM Libraries at 305-284-4026 or