From the earliest times, various means or tools have been developed in one form or another to mark the passage of humans on the earth. In the beginning, it was the stone that recorded the actions of primitive humans. Later, paper, parchment and scrolls were responsible for telling us about our past. The information in these tools should be preserved and shared because we depend on it to understand ourselves and our place in the world.

The creation of archives is based on the desire to make our actions lasting. They represent our memory, but more than that, archives today are a historical resource with scientific value. This kind of archive originated in the 18th century, the century when humankind had full confidence that reason would be enough to resolve its problems and answer its questions. But not only did reason depend on resolving the riddles of humankind, but it also depended on the past, and that past had to be documented and protected. Thus the state began intervening to ensure the preservation and dissemination of the information and documentation compiled over the years.

Puerto Rico has the General Archive of Puerto Rico, attached to the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture. It contains about 70,000 cubic feet of documents about the historical, political and economic past of Puerto Rico since the late 18th century. The information contained in the archive comes from private, state and municipal collections, among other. It also contains a periodicals library with materials from the 19th and 20th centuries, and a collection of maps, plans and drawings. The Archive is organized by specialized sections: music, photography, moving pictures, etc. The Photographic Archive contains photos that cover a period of 20 years from 1945 to 1966. This archive is the result of a documentation of the island done by foreign photographers such as Jack Delano, Charles Rotkin, Edwin and Louis Rosscam and by Puerto Ricans Carlos Bueso and Rafael Andreu, among others.

The site of the General Archive of Puerto Rico is a building built in 1877. For one year, it was the Civil Hospital in the capital, and later it became a jail. During the Spanish-American War, it was a home for orphan girls and at the end of the war it again became a hospital. Between 1906 and 1959, it was the site of the Porto Rican American Tobacco Company and the warehouse for Bacardí. In 1959, the building was acquired by the Institute of Culture and the National Library and General Archive of Puerto Rico were established.

The General Archive of Puerto Rico is open to anyone who wants to know more about the history of the island. The research into its vast holdings, as well as the dissemination of the information contained in the archives, contributes to the enrichment of the Puerto Rican culture.

Author: Karin Cardona
Published: September 04, 2015.

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