Santa Clara College: future at service of safeguarding heritage of Cuba and Caribbean

In the context of the celebration of Havana’s 500th Anniversary, the former Santa Clara Convent opened its doors to show how recent restoration work has turned the former Sailor’s House (Casa del Marino), located in the heart of the Convent’s Cloister Two, into a site museum, a space where the general public can observe the impressive finds of archaeological excavations and become familiar with the life of the Poor Clares therein.

On the visit to the site made by Federica Mogherini, former High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Katherine Müller-Marín, by then Director of the UNESCO Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean, Eusebio Leal expressed, “It is a small 17th-century city locked inside these walls (…). The archaeological finds that have been obtained here are spectacular.”

The Site Museum is the epitome of the pinpoint care that went into the restoration of the former convent. For many years, the building was linked to the development of restoration arts in Cuba. From there, the National Centre for Conservation, Restoration and Museology (CENCREM) and the UNESCO Regional Chair in Sciences for the Integrated Conservation of Cultural and Natural Heritage in Latin America and the Caribbean (CRECI) promoted numerous workshops and courses in various specialties relative to the safeguarding of Cultural Heritage.

© UNESCO Havana/Leslie Salgado

Classrooms and workshops for heritage safeguarding

As a result of the restoration to which it will be subjected, in the framework of the Transcultura Programme: Integrating Cuba, the Caribbean and the European Union through Culture and Creativity, the former convent will become the Santa Clara College of Restoration, a space for “training specialists not only in trades, and not only in immovable properties but also in movable properties with all sorts of support”, declares Gladys Collazo, Director of the future institution. The Programme is implemented by the UNESCO Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean, funded by the European Union, with the support of numerous institutions in Cuba and the Caribbean, as well as Offices of both organizations in the region.

The training offered will reflect the experience gained over decades by the Office of the Historian of the City of Havana in heritage restoration. Students will not only attend classes or workshops. They will also be immersed in the atmosphere of a heritage city that is undergoing the recovery of its spaces. Wood in Caribbean architecture, the preservation of cultural heritage, photography as a conservation tool, movable cultural heritage and the rehabilitation of heritage buildings are some of the themes that will be addressed.

The former Convent will become the epicentre of a new drive to safeguard the heritage of Cuba and the Caribbean. It will also promote the transformation of the community where it is located, with options for workshops for children and youth from the surrounding area. This will fulfil two wishes of Eusebio Leal, who was the soul of Old Havana’s restoration: the dream of turning it into a space that radiates cultural and entrepreneurial options, and the desire to extend support to support the Caribbean sisters and brothers in the arts and crafts of restoration.

© UNESCO Havana/Leslie Salgado

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