For a bit of culture, we took the Metro to the National Archives. The tour was led by two of our bilingual professors, Rolando McFarlane and Danae Brugiati.
This fabulous building with wide halls and a marble staircase houses the documentary heritage of Panama. The Archives, created in 1912 by President Porras, is charged with preserving and safeguarding documentary material of national importance.
We met our guide after we signed in at the entrance. He led us through many of the sections that record, digitize, conserve and restore various documents, including maps, blueprints, letters and legal papers.
Some of the papers are in bad condition on arrival. One folder contained documents that looked like lace so severe was in insect damage. We were shown how papers like these are conserved. A technician led us through the process of washing, encasing, then drying a document that was missing its top section. This was hands-on. We each helped with steps in the process. Cellulose is used, not plastic, for lamination. Once done, the document can be handled without further damage.
Most workers studied conservation at university. However, the man who binds books a different history. He told us he started as a janitor but showed interest in what he saw. Over about a 6 month period, they taught him how to bind books. He also learned how to set type and stamp titles on their covers with gold or blue foil. Now he has a permanent, skilled position.
Everyone we met was friendly and full of information and readily answered questions. They take pride in their work. Best conservation practices are used.
The Archives digitizes the documents it receives and makes these available to the public. This includes genealogical information , even including the U.S. servicemen and their families who were stationed here during WWII.
Our last stop was the library where members of the public can conduct research. Three met men were researching data for their projects at the time we were there. Each told us a bit about what they were doing but went right back to work as we left.
Another great experience arranged for the students of our Spanish Panama Language School.