Carina Sarmaniego of the Archives: From Manila Observatory to Ateneo de Manila University

Carina Sarmaniego of Ateneo de Manila University Archives

Carina Sarmaniego, Assistant Director of Ateneo de Manila University Archives

by Quirino Sugon Jr.

Carina Sarmaniego is the new Assistant Director of the Ateneo de Manila University Archives.  Before coming to Ateneo, she worked for more than ten (10) years in Manila Observatory’s Library and Archives.  Below is an interview with Carina by the Ateneo Physics News.

1. How were you able to work at the Manila Observatory Archives?

After graduating April 2001, I was looking for a job. I went to UP and saw the announcement from the Manila Observatory posted on the announcement board of the (then) Institute of Library Science. Since I had my CV and other important documents with me, I went to MO and applied. After a few days, they called me for an interview. After a series of interviews and after a month of looking for a job, I got one from MO. I started on May 2001.

I started as a Special Collections Assistant under the (formely named) Climate Change Information Center (CCIC) program (now the klima Climate Change Center). I handled the Special Collections Library, a small collection of books relating to climate change and environmental science. It’s very small library compared to the old MO Library. The old books from the MO Library were stored at the basement of the solar building. Fr. Victor Badillo, SJ during that time was the custodian of the archival collection. He was still at MO at that time.

I was on my first year in MO when I got my license from PRC. Yes, we librarians need to take a licensure exam from PRC. After a year of working in MO, I took my graduate course in UP, concentrating on Archives and Records Management. I often used archival materials of MO for my projects. So I always went to Fr. Badillo to ask for help. When Fr. Badillo got sick, there was no one to manage the collection. So I took it on the task. I started familiarizing myself with the collection, going through each of the boxes that Fr. Badillo used to store the materials.

Faura Barometer for predicting the approach of typhoons

Faura Barometer for predicting the approach of typhoons

Around 2005, there was a grant opportunity from Ford Environment and Conservation Grants Philippines. Klima spearheaded the submission of the project proposals and one of these was to organize the MO Archives. Unfortunately, it was not approved. The following year we applied again, but we redesigned the proposal for the MO Archives. Instead of arranging the entire archival collection, we just focused on one subject area which is natural disasters in the Philippines. So the new proposal is to select and digitize materials relating to typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruption, and drought which were recorded by the Manila Observatory. The output of the project is a DVD compilation of the digitized version of the selected documents. That is the first project we did for the MO Archives. It was a good start because before the materials were just kept in a storage room where no one can have direct access except for Fr. Badillo. For me, that project gave me the push to really work hard for the MO Archives.

In 2007, a representative from Cives Mundi, a Spanish NGO, came to MO looking for projects that can be presented for funding by the Spanish government through AECID. One of the projects that MO presented was the establishment of the MO Archives, basically the same project we presented to Ford that was not approved. I remember it was a big team effort finishing the proposal. Fr. Dan McNamara, Kendra Castillo, Atty. Angela Ibay and MO Admin helped me finish the proposal. By the end of 2007, we received the news that of the 2 proposals that MO submitted, the archiving project was chosen for funding. It was such a happy news for MO. The project started immediately after the notification. Honestly, it was a big project aimed to be finished for 12 months. In the middle of implementing it, I started to worry because of the volume of work that needed to be done and we were already halfway through with our timeframe. Fortunately, Cives Mundi saw what we have achieved given the limited time and what we wanted to achieve at end of the project and proposed that we submit another proposal for Phase II. Thankfully, AECID approved it and we were given another year of funding and project implementation. So after almost 26 months of hard work, we now have the MO Archives and Library. Handling that project taught me a lot, in terms of archiving, managing resources, planning activities, and communicating with our funders.

Manila Observatory Archives Exhibit last 5 July 2012

Manila Observatory Archives Exhibit last 5 July 2012

2. What happened during the time when Queen Sofia of Spain almost visited the Manila Observatory Archives?

We were identified as one of the potential areas to be visited by Queen Sofia because the MO Archives was funded by AECID. When I first got the call from the Spanish Embassy, I was already advised that the visit to MO will be part of the alternative program on July 5 if her visit to the provinces will not push through because of bad weather. There were ocular inspections conducted by officials from the Embassy, AECID and Malacanang. We were also advised that we will only receive confirmation of her visit to MO on the night of July 4.

We did our best to prepare for her visit. It is already an honor to be considered as one of the places she will visit, even if we were just part of the alternative program. Fr. Joey Cruz helped us in preparing the program and in designing the flow of the exhibit that we planned to set-up. The exhibit aimed to highlight the MO Archives and its collection as a result of the project funded by AECID.

So last July 5 we still pushed through with opening the exhibit. We thought that we should still launch it, whether or not the Queen was present. The opening of the exhibit was led by Fr. Jett Villarin and it was attended by University officials, members of the Manila Observatory Board of Trustees, and partners and members of the MO Community. For me, it was a successful event.

3. Sorry, I took pictures and then I learned that picture taking was not allowed. But it was in museum mode so there is no flash.

Aside from protecting the materials from direct light/flash from cameras, we decided not to allow taking photos of the materials on exhibit primarily because of the nature of the contents of the materials. We would not want people to just use them without the permission of the Manila Observatory.

Flowers awaiting Queen Sophia of Spain

Flowers awaiting Queen Sophia of Spain

4. What brought you here in Ateneo de Manila Universty Archives?

It just came to the point that maybe it is time for me take on a new challenge. It has been almost 10 years with MO and I think I have done enough for the MO Archives and Library. There were opportunities that I could have taken before but I just felt that timing was not yet right. I prayed that if it is time for me to leave MO, I will not leave my work unfinished. So I guess, after almost 10 years, this was the right time for me to move on.

5. What do you do here?

My main task is to organize the current collection. Through the years the collection accumulated and my focus is to organize the collection based on archival standards. The university has different records, of different nature. Majority of what I handled in MO Archives are purely historical and scientific in nature as compared here in the University where we have historical and operational records. We just do not want to be a repository of records. But personally, I want to establish a good records management system for the University. It is a challenging step. But we want to establish a system that only archival materials are to be brought to the archives. The offices thought before that anything old should be in the Archives. We have limited space, resources, and manpower. We want to make sure that what we have here are records with permanent value. Hopefully, in the coming months, we shall establish a schedule of records to guide each office on whether a particular record ought to be brought to the Archives or to be kept in their respective offices. We also want to standardize how we process materials here. We have papers, maps, photos, and office records. Each type of material has its own system of arrangement and description. Personally, I do not want to be too technical about it, but I want to come up with a system that can work given what we have. Another is to digitize our archival materials. Basically those are the main tasks I need to implement in the Archives.

6. Any parting words?

I am always grateful for the experiences that I gained from MO. I think I will never fail to thank everyone there. Fr. Badillo, Fr. Dan, Fr. Jett, and Fr. Su inspired me a lot. Whenever they would go to the Archives, they would say that they are very happy to see what has been done for the Archives. Those kind words—they inspire me to love this job. I am not taking all the credit. It is a collective work. It is a blessing that even if I left MO, I am still in Ateneo. It is really hard to leave MO, for I will always ask, “What will happen to the MO Archives if I leave? Will they remember where the things are placed?” It is as if you are leaving your own child. It is a blessing that whenever MO needs me, I am still here to offer my help. Seriously, I am really thankful.

Carina Sarmaniego in the Ateneo Room of the University Archives

Carina Sarmaniego in the Ateneo Room of the University Archives

Carina Sarmaniego in the Ateneo Room of the University Archives

Carina Sarmaniego in the Ateneo Room of the University Archives

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About ateneophysicsnews
Physics News and Features from Ateneo de Manila University

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