National Archives provide expert assistance to Cuban colleagues

Media release: Wednesday, 18 May 2016

The National Archives of Australia will assist the Office of the City Historian in Havana, Cuba to conserve and preserve historic iron gall ink documents that date from the period 1550-1661.

Two of the Archives' senior conservators will travel to Havana next week to provide restoration expertise and deliver staff training in this specialised preservation and conservation work. Iron gall ink, which includes iron salts, has been in use for many centuries but fades with time, jeopardising collections worldwide.

The Archives is well placed to provide this assistance as our innovative expertise was recognised in 2011 with the Jikji/UNESCO Memory of the World Prize for contribution to the preservation of the world's documentary heritage. The Archives holds many documents written in iron gall ink, including the Pitcairn Island Register, 1853-1881, which is currently undergoing intensive conservation treatment in our Preservation lab in Canberra.

The Office of the City Historian is funding the technical assistance and acquisition of supplies with a grant from the Council on Australia Latin American Relations (COALAR), a body established by the Australian Government in 2001 to enhance Australia's economic, political and social relations with Latin America.

COALAR Chair Mr. Chris Gale recently visited Cuba and said Havana City Council was excited by this opportunity to work with conservators from the National Archives of Australia and appreciated Australia sharing its expertise.

Since 1938, the Office of the City Historian has been responsible for the comprehensive restoration and transformation of the historic centre of Havana. The City's archives contain a rich cultural heritage collection including the Havana City Council documents. The technical assistance provided by the Archives will support restoration of these documents which are widely utilised by researchers and academics.

The National Archives of Australia continues to work with our international colleagues through involvement with the International Council on Archives, of which our Director-General, David Fricker is President, the Pacific Regional Branch of the International Council on Archives and UNESCO.

Interviews available:

Ms Cheryl Jackson (Assistant Director, Preservation Services and Projects)
Ms Prue McKay (Senior Conservator, Exhibitions and Projects)

Contact information

  • Holly Pritchard (Media Officer)
    t (02) 6212 3413 m 0417 247 157 e holly.pritchard@naa.gov.au

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