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Archivo de la Oficina del Historiador de la Ciudad de La Habana

Page history last edited by Paul Keenan 11 years, 1 month ago

Date of tip: 15 February 2007 

Source: Camillia Cowling; camilliainmadrid@hotmail.com


Location:  calle Tacón, 1 e/ Obispo y O’Reilly, Habana Viega, Ciudad Habana, Cuba.


Contact Details:

Tel: 861 5001

Email: museologia@patrimonio.ohch.cu



How to get there: The archive is in the same building as the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, a tourist attraction in itself, just off the Plaza de Armas right at the centre of the refurbished part of Old Havana, so it’s not hard to find.  


Language: Spanish


Getting started: You should get a letter of recommendation from your supervisor, but definitely also a personal letter of introduction, addressed to the archive’s director, from whatever Cuban academic institution you are affiliated to. (You will need such an affiliation, and a letter of invitation from the institution, in order to get a research visa in the first place.) 


Opening Hours: Nominally, about 8-4, although this varied somewhat. The archive also closes for at least an hour at lunchtime. 


General working conditions: There is no internet use. The archive is otherwise comfortable and is air-conditioned (it can get cold).  


Consultation: I wasn’t made aware of any particular limits. 


Policy on technology: I didn’t try either scanning or digital photography when I was there, but there was no problem about my laptop other than slight issues about where to plug it in (come with a fully-charged battery if you can). They were happy to make digital copies of maps, with a charge of around 20 cuc.


Particularities: There is nowhere to eat for researchers in the building. There are plenty of nice restaurants close by, but they cater to tourists in Old Havana and would get pricey if you wanted to go every day. Probably best to bring a sandwich, which you can eat sitting on a bench in the Plaza de Armas next door. Here you can also browse the many second-hand book stalls, and check out the peso bookshop on the plaza. 


Etc: There is definitely a lot of interesting and important information here. However, the cataloguing system is erratic at best, with often the only real recourse apparently being to take box by box from the store and have a look through. It’s fun nonetheless – receipts for slaves bought in the mid-nineteenth century share files with communications of generals of the Cuban independence war, with documents pertaining to leaders of the 1959 Revolution. I did find I spent a lot of time for not that much profit, in the end, though. For city historians, note that the Actas Capitulares del Ayuntamiento (minutes of local town hall) are here and have been indexed by subject for the sixteenth century – for subsequent centuries, the only option is to trawl through. 

It’s worth noting that there is also a quiet, air-conditioned library downstairs with good collection of books (at least on nineteenth-century Cuba) which would be worth using as a partial alternative to – for example – the Biblioteca Nacional.


Places to Stay: There are plentiful guest houses (casas particulares) licensed by the state around, in central Havana and Vedado. These are better options than staying in hotels, in terms of price, comfort, food etc, especially if you’re going to be in Cuba for a while.  

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