Cuba Headlines

Cuba News, Breaking News, Articles and Daily Information

 J. Finlay Museum of Sciences Finally to be Restored in Cuba
During the second half of the 19th century the mansion was the headquarters of Havana's Royal Academy of Medical, Physical, and Natural Sciences, the first such academy that existed outside Europe.

Francisco de Albear, Felipe Poey, Alvaro Reynoso, Juan Cristobal Gundlach, Carlos J. Finlay and other figures of international stature turned its meeting halls and corridors into a true sanctuary for knowledge and debate. Like eminent Cuban pedagogue Enrique Jose Varona pointed out, the institution represented "the largest grouping of culture, the largest grouping of knowledge produced until then in our homeland."

It was in that building where, on August 14, 1881, Finlay put forward his famous discovery of the Aedes aegypti mosquito as the transmitter of yellow fever.

The building was the site of the island's first anatomical museum and the first school of engineering of the University of Havana in the early 19th century. It was also witness to the attention offered to brilliant physicist Albert Einstein during his short stay in Cuba, in December, 1930. Outside the scientific scenario, the historical Protesta de los Trece, (Protest of the thirteen) headed by Ruben Martinez Villena on March 18, 1923, also took place there.

More recently, on January 15, 1960, Commander in Chief Fidel Castro said the prophetic words: The future of Cuba must be a future of scientists, a future of thinkers.

Due to the deplorable condition of the facility, the Carlos J. Finlay Museum of Sciences was closed to the public in October, 2003. Since then, the building continued to deteriorate, and today its valuable bibliographic and documentary collections are in danger of being lost.

These collections include more than 90,000 books (many of them from the 17th and 18th centuries); unique copies of the Anales magazine devoted to medicine, and of other 19th century specialized publications; the largest collection of paintings and busts of prominent Cuban scientists available in the country; numerous items and belongings of these personalities; the platform from where Finlay presented his theory on the mosquito.

Museum director Idania Mirabal Ulloa told Granma newspaper that in spite of having the initial financing allocated to begin the facility's restoration work on the four floors that are in very poor condition, it has not begun because the so-called investment file has not been opened.

The museum is included in the budget of the Ministry of Science, Technology, and the Environment (CITMA), but since it involves a complex restoration of a building that holds the condition of national heritage, the ministry's investment department doesn't have the authority to determine the amount of materials to be used. For that same reason it can't turn to another enterprise to request the job done.

Almost five years have passed among the form-filling, requests and countless negotiations, and no one took on the task of saving the emblematic building.

Fortunately, the Havana City Historian's Office has just finished a new architectural project to begin the restoration of the facility as soon as possible.

Now, another complex problem needs solution: to pack so many books, paintings, busts and documents, to take them out of the building before the major repairs begin.

Despite al the troubles, the museum's workers continue to carry out their research and surprise us with new revelations on the legacy of those people who, amid the hostile environment of colonial times, paved the way for scientific creation in Cuba.


Related News