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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Citizens gain access to thousands of digital PR historical documents



Hilda T. Ayala González, general archivist of Puerto Rico (iberarchivos.org)

By The Star Staff


Starting this week, the general public will have access to thousands of historical documents in the Puerto Rico General Archive from anywhere in the world.


The Institute of Puerto Rican Culture (ICP by its Spanish initials) recently presented the new “Digital Collections of the General Archive of Puerto Rico,” a project made possible by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


“We are proud to officially present this important and ambitious project to digitize the General Archive of Puerto Rico [AGPR] collections. Thanks to this great effort, thousands of documents will now be accessible to people from anywhere in the world,” ICP Executive Director Carlos Ruiz said. “The most recent technology was used for this project, allowing us to adapt these collections to modern times and contribute to preserving and accessing Puerto Rico’s documentary collection.”


The project, which began in 2020, promotes preservation and seeks to ensure and facilitate access to the AGPR collections. In the first phase, more than 3,500 documents and 190,000 pages of manuscripts, newspapers, photographs, graphics, scores, and magazines from different fundamental collections kept at the AGPR are included.


Hilda T. Ayala González, the general archivist of Puerto Rico, expressed satisfaction with the result, stating that “after four years of work, we will be able to enjoy this beautiful project of preservation and access to our heritage collections.”


“It has been a massive effort, an extraordinary team effort to achieve the publication of this platform that undoubtedly begins a new era in the General Archive of Puerto Rico,” she said. “I am extremely grateful and indebted to everyone who has supported this project to see the light. I hope that you can enjoy this new experience. Still, above all that, it continues to highlight the importance of the General Archive of Puerto Rico for the country.”


The portal’s design stands out for being simple and easy to navigate. The platform will allow users to search for keywords, apply filters to reduce the number of results, and browse by collections, document type, language, date, topic, and place. The system will be fed new content monthly. Optical character recognition (OCR) technology was used in the digitization process. OCR software allows the user to identify text in an image and conduct word searches.


Some of the collections that will be available in the first phase are: the Newspaper Library Collection, the Minutes of the Cabildo of San Juan Bautista de Puerto Rico of the San Juan Municipal Fund, and the 18-volume version published by the Municipality of San Juan; a selection from the Musical Scores Collection; and watercolors from the Agustín Stahl Collection. Also found in the initial selection are the Railways and Trams series and magazines of the Public Works Fund, the San Juan and Puerta de Tierra barracks of the Police News Series of the Puerto Rico Police Fund, and the Publications Subseries of the Fortaleza Fund.


Among the photographic collections, a part of the Photograph Series of the Felisa Rincón de Gautier Collection is included, along with part of the Negative Series of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture and of the Negative Subseries of the Police Intelligence Division Subfund. Additionally, audiovisual collections are included such as WKAQ-TV’s Telemundo newscast and audio recordings from the Police Intelligence Division Subfund. Likewise, the portal will continue to be supplied with documents that the ICP manages as part of agreements reached with different international entities such as the State Archives of Spain, the State Archives of the United States and Family Search Inc.


Through a $2 million grant, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation established the physical and digital infrastructure to create the AGPR Digital Collections platform. The foundation will also support a second phase with a new investment of $1.7 million. With that investment, in addition to digitizing heritage collections, the project seeks to expand and develop a course on digitizing cultural heritage and translating federal guides, better known as FADGI. This second phase will culminate with a congress of institutions that keep archives about Puerto Rico in order to learn about their needs and support disseminating their valuable resources.

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