Green School Graduate Completes Archive on Haitian History, Hired by Library of Congress in D.C.

Green School Graduate Completes Archive on Haitian History, Hired by Library of Congress in D.C.


Just one day after commencement, Adam Silvia, a doctoral candidate in the Department of History, will start a new job with the United States Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Between 2009 and 2013, Silvia archived five centuries of Haitian history to create a digital resource, Haiti: An Island Luminous, generously funded by a grant from the Green Family Foundation.

The project is hosted online by FIU Libraries on the Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC), a cooperative that includes Florida International University, the University of Florida and more than 20 institutions throughout the Caribbean, with additional support from the Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center.

Translated to French and Haitian Creole by Professors Watson Denis and Nadève Ménard at l'Université d'Etat d'Haïti, the website combines rare books and photographs scanned by libraries and archives in Haiti with commentary by 100 scholars from 75 universities around the world.

Silvia, whose dissertation examines utopianism and technocracy in the Cold War era, walks users through the complex and often misunderstood history of Haiti, from the Taino Indians who first inhabited the territory to the devastating earthquake that killed and injured hundreds of thousands of people in 2010.

“History is a vast assembly line,” he said. “When we pick up a history textbook, it’s easy to overlook the many archives, historians, universities, publishers, etc., that work tirelessly to turn sources like photos and letters, some very old, into resources that everyone can easily consume.”

The vision behind “An Island Luminous” was “not only to build that public resource but also to apply technology in a way that would make the historical assembly line more transparent.”

When you visit the website, Silvia explains, “you can look at the sources that archives chose to scan, you can observe how historians, past and present, interpreted those sources, and you can see how those perspectives were woven into one seamless narrative. It’s a multidimensional history.”

\ At a launch event for the project in 2011, Kimberly Green, president of the Green Family Foundation, said the project would become a “vital platform highlighting Haiti’s rich cultural heritage and contributions to the world stage.”

“We are proud to partner with FIU to establish institutionalized memory, and, in working with Haitians, to ‘build back better’ through cultural competency and elevating the importance of Haitian patrimony.”

Silvia also curated a physical exhibition of the project at the Green Library in 2014 that included copies of rare books, manuscripts, newspapers and photos, each piece accompanied by sources and commentary.

Miguel Asencio, director of the Digital Library of the Caribbean, said plans are in the works to unveil the project at the Haitian Studies Association annual conference in November.

“This is one of the reasons why dLOC exists - to create an effective academic environment so that our students can succeed,’’ he said. “The collaboration between many different organizations and across borders – our Caribbean partners, other universities and the Green family – are proof of what is possible when a community works together toward shared goals. We continue to develop these partnerships to inspire others to follow Adam’s great example!”