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Showing posts with label Ada Booth Benefaction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ada Booth Benefaction. Show all posts

24 November 2017

Casa de las Américas - an insight into Cuban life

Clichés about Cuba abound: cigars, vintage American cars and, of course, the music. However, much less is known about daily life in the country, says Subject Librarian Anne Melles. Now we can know a lot more.


The Orden Ana Betancourt medal was awarded to Haydée
 Santamaría among others in 1975
A new database, Cuban culture and cultural relations, 1959-, offers some fascinating insights into cultural activities in Cuba through the archives of the Casa de las Américas.

The Casa de las Américas is a cultural institution which came to play a significant role in the cultural life of Cuba. It was founded just months after Fidel Castro came to power in 1959 by Haydée Santamaría, one of a number of women who were active in the Cuban Revolution. In contrast to many of the men they fought alongside and who are now household names, the lives of the “heroines of the revolution” (Byron, 2007, p. 142) remain largely unknown outside Cuba. This database is a reflection of some of the work that they continued after the Revolution.

The Casa de las Américas supported and encouraged cultural activities, and hosted a diverse range of activities from exhibitions of national and Latin American art, visits of foreign delegations, concerts by Latin American musicians such as Mercedes Sosa, workshops of local crafts, café conversatorios (book readings and discussions), and talks by well-known authors for example, Alejo Carpentier. In addition the Casa contained a library, published a journal, and offered the prestigious Casa de las Américas Literary Prize.

The database contains almost 45,000 documents from the archives including newspaper articles on a range of topics, information on libraries and literary activities in Latin American countries, and records of the daily running of the institution. Through the documents runs a strong sense of the importance of the work at the Casa de las Americas, not just as a centre of culture but through active engagement with cultural groups in Latin America and the world. These things were not merely additions to social life but essential; “un pueblo sin teatro es un pueblo sin cultura” (a country without theatre is a country without culture). 

The photo at right, (from the Recortes de prensa, 1975, 1981 collection) shows the recipients of the Orden Ana Betancourt in 1975, including Haydée Santamaría, and the US activist, Angela Davis.

The purchase of the database was made possible through the Ada Booth Benefaction.

Access Cuban culture and cultural relations, 1959-  here.

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8 August 2017

'Secret files from World Wars to Cold War' database

Librarians Anna Rubinowski and Melanie Thorn let us in on a little known story from the Cold War era, as an example of what can be found by researchers using this database of secret files, available through the Library.


Attaching a dispatch on a carrier pigeon during the Cold War
On 14 August 1947, in the third meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee on Carrier Pigeons, held at the Ministry of Defence in London, Flight Lieutenant Walker informed the Committee that civilian member Captain Caiger had “invented a form of box, by means of which to launch pigeons from high speed aircraft, and that he had constructed a prototype”. The Committee, made up of representatives from various areas of the British Armed Forces, agreed that the Air Ministry should arrange trials of this prototype in consultation with M.I.5 and report back to the Committee.

The minutes of this top-secret meeting are part of the British government secret intelligence and foreign policy files available through Secret Files from World Wars to Cold War. Sourced from the U.K. National Archives, the database centres around the Permanent Under-secretary Department’s files documenting British intelligence activities from 1873 to 1951 and their influence on foreign policy. All files are full-text searchable and point to related content, making it easy to discover the fascinating stories that shaped world history in the 20th century.

Following the trail of the carrier pigeons, the files tell the story of the Joint Intelligence Sub-Committee that was formed in November 1945 in response to General Menzies’ top secret memo summarising the use of pigeons in WWI by both sides (including that pigeons on parachutes were dropped over enemy-occupied zones with questionnaires for patriots, and that Abweher pigeon lofts were ‘contaminated’ by English pigeons disguised as German pigeons) and identifying a need to continue this work. The Committee’s role was to collect and circulate information on the latest developments in the area and to ‘be responsible for research, experimental work, and the training facilities required by personnel of the Intelligence Services’.

During its existence the Committee supported the publication of the ‘Pigeon Racing Gazette’ (through Caiger) in order to foster international contacts, tried to encourage pigeon racing from East to West as opposed to South to North, and mused whether experiments involving human powers of water-divining and coloured pieces of cotton on the face of a compass might be of interest in connection with the different coloured liquids in the eyes of pigeons.

Sadly, the Committee was unceremoniously disbanded in May 1950 because ‘the active use of pigeons was no longer contemplated by any of the potential user Departments’.

Caiger went on to publish ‘The secret of the eye’.

The purchase of the database was made possible through the Ada Booth Benefaction.








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