Finding Aids to Oral Histories in the Smithsonian Institution Archives
Record Unit 9613
Smithsonian Institution-Cuba Relations Oral History Interviews, 1998
The Smithsonian Institution and Cuba have had close scientific relations since the founding of the Institution in 1846. The Smithsonian's first curator and second Secretary, Spencer Fullerton Baird, established a scientific correspondence and specimen exchange with the noted Cuban naturalist Felipe Poey in the 1850s, and those research ties were maintained throughout the twentieth century.
The Smithsonian Institution Archives began its Oral History Program in 1973. The purpose of the program is to supplement the written documentation of the Archives' record and manuscript collections with an Oral History Collection, focusing on the history of the Institution, research by its scholars, and contributions of its staff. Program staff conduct interviews with current and retired Smithsonian staff and others who have made significant contributions to the Institution. There are also reminiscences and interviews recorded by researchers or students on topics related to the history of the Smithsonian or the holdings of the Smithsonian Institution Archives.
The Smithsonian Institution/Cuba Relations Oral History Interviews were recorded by Smithsonian research associate Pedro M. Pruna-Goodgall, of the Cuban Academy of Sciences as part of his research on the history of Cuban natural history and the Smithsonian's role in that field of study.
In 1998, Pedro M. Pruna-Goodgall, Senior Scholar, Centro de Estudios de Historia y Organizacion de la Ciencia "Carlos J. Finlay," Academia de Ciencias de Cuba, and Research Collaborator of the Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, conducted a series of interviews with Smithsonian administrators and a Conservation International scientist who had been active in Smithsonian-Cuban relations in the prior three decades. David Challinor (1920-2008) served as special assistant for tropical biology from 1966 to 1967, deputy director from 1967 to 1969 and then director from 1969 to 1971 of the Office of International Activities, as Assistant Secretary for Science from 1971 to 1984, and Assistant Secretary for Research from 1984 to 1987. Upon his retirement in 1987, he was named special advisor to the Secretary, and in 1996 was named Scientist Emeritus, National Zoological Park. Ross B. Simons (1951- ) served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Science/Research and implemented the international programs for Challinor. He later served as Associate Director for Science at the National Museum of Natural History. Michael L. Smith (1950- ), Caribbean Biodiversity Research Program Fellow, Center for Applied Biodiversity Science, Conservation International, maintained close research ties with Cuban and Smithsonian scientists, as well. Pruna focused on relations with Cuba following the 1977 Smithsonian staff visit to Cuba hosted by Dr. Abelardo Moreno, director of the Havana Zoo, which led to a Memorandum of Understanding between the Smithsonian and the Cuban Academy of Sciences to ensured continued scientific cooperation. This collection contains three interview sessions, totaling approximately 3 hours of recording and 58 pages of transcript.
Restricted. Contact SIHistory@si.edu to request permission.
This collection is indexed under the following access terms. These are links to collections with related topics, persons or places.
- Moreno Bonilla, Abelardo, 1913-1992
- Poey, Felipe, 1799-1891
- Pruna, P. M., interviewer
- Smith, Michael L.
- Simons, Ross B.
- Challinor, David
- Baird, Spencer Fullerton, 1823-1887
- Center for Applied Biodiversity Science
- Conservation International
- Smithsonian Institution. Assistant Secretary for Science
- Smithsonian Institution. Assistant Secretary for Research
- Smithsonian Institution. Office of International Activities
- Smithsonian Institution. Special Assistant to the Secretary
- Conferencias y estudios de historia y organización de la ciencia
Physical Characteristics of Materials in the Collection
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9613, Smithsonian Institution-Cuba Relations Oral History Interviews