5. Felix Knights, Church Deacon opening cabinet with old books
6. Knights holding book from 1674
7. SOUNDBITE (Spanish) Felix Knights, Deacon of Espirito Santo Church:
"These books reflect life, aspects of the sacramental life of blacks, obviously of whites also. That's how these books where placed, books for whites, books for blacks. The important thing is to preserve as many of them as possible. We are working for that, to maintain and recover that which is irreplaceable, a legacy. It's already a patrimony, the way I see it personally."
8. Books in cabinet
9. Book titles number reading (Spanish) "9 Whites November 1789 to July 1796" and "10 Whites July 1796 to November 1801"
10. Knights and David Lafevor setting up a camera
11. Lafevor placing book on cloth
12. SOUNDBITE (English) David Lafevor, Academic researcher:
"The documents aren't only pertinent to the Catholic church because the church was often the most substantial building in town, so other documents were kept there as well. And so going into a church you have no idea what you will find. You have a general idea of the sacramental documents, but you find land records, you find hospital records, you find correspondence that have to do with everyday life across the Caribbean. You find documents you wouldn't even expect to find in Cuba."
An American team of academics is racing to preserve millions of documents related to Cuba's long and colourful history, before they are lost to the elements and poor storage conditions.
Many of the documents shed light on Cuba's slave trade, and its relation to the US, which figured prominently in Cuba's colonial history and was intertwined with both countries' early history.
David Lafevor, an American academic from the University of Texas at Arlington and his brother Matt, have worked since 2005 to digitise millions of documents mouldering in damp storage spaces on the island.
Their latest project is a partnership between the British Library Foundation and the Vanderbilt University to capture almost two million documents in digital form, a treasure trove of documents stretching back to the mid-16th century about island life and the slave trade.
Lafevor said churches became the repository of much of this history because of its central role in island life, and because church officials were painstaking documentarians who were often the most educated in their communities.
Cuba's Catholic church has played a major role in the preservation project, granting access to church archives around the island and assisting in identifying important documents.
Church officials suck as Deacon Felix Knights of the colonial Santo Espirito Church in Old Havana, tucked away in a warren of narrow lanes in the city's colonial heart, work with the academics to find and preserve old documents.
Lafevor said no one knows how many millions of documents exist in storage, nor how many have been lost to storms, pirate attacks, war and civil unrest, but the project seeks to preserve as many as possible before more are lost to history.