Reflections on a Getty Intern “Study Trip” to Photography Archives in Mexico

By: Charisma Lee, Getty Research Institute Graduate Intern, Vocabulary Program

From this past September through May, I had the privilege of working as a graduate intern in the Getty Vocabularies, at the Getty Research Institute at J. Paul Getty Trust. In addition to regular duties, interns are allowed time off for educational travel. The “study trip,” as it’s more informally known, encourages individuals to pursue their professional and personal research interests at a location of their choice. Some have used this opportunity to make advances in dissertation research, broaden their networks, or simply visit institutions and collections which for various reasons would be more difficult to access without Getty support.

I took my cue from the Getty initiatives Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA and Connecting Art Histories to craft a project that would explore visual heritage documentation in Mexico. Unsure of where to start, I contacted Natalie Baur at Colegio de México. Natalie suggested possible contacts and became a guide through the process. Karen Heller, an assistant curator in the Getty’s Department of Photographs, was kind enough to discuss my project and suggest additional collections, both in Mexico City and beyond. For reasons of length, in this blog post I am focusing on my visits with two different kinds of organizations: federally-supported and community based.

The Fototeca Nacional in Pachuca and the Chiapas Photography Project in San Cristóbal de las Casas provide an interesting comparison between a federally-supported institution and a community-based collection. First, The Fototeca Nacional is best known as the home of the Casasola Archives, the foundational collection comprising photographs taken and collected by Agustín Casasola and his descendants. The founder of one of the world’s first photographic agencies, Casasola saw it as his mission to document the history of Mexico, whether through his lens or others’. By the time the collection arrived in state custody in the 1970s, it included photographs by nearly 500 photographers.

CasasolaSign

Sign for Casasola Archives at Fototeca Nacional in Pachuca, Hidalgo, México

The Casasola archives provide visual records of events from the late 19th century onwards, witnessed by the likes of Hugo Brehme, Antonio Garduño, and the Mayo brothers. Many more photographers were uncredited, and the Fototeca Nacional continues to work at identifying these individuals. The Casasola archives and the rest of the Fototeca’s collections can be combed through online via simple search by keyword. Typing “Casasola,” for instance, will yield more than 2000 photos as well as associated search terms that metadata technicians have captured. For more advanced inputs—e.g. photographic process and image format— the user has to create an account.

Given my interest in cataloging and discoverability, I spoke at length with the cataloging team. It was especially interesting to discover that the Fototeca maintains its own thesaurus. While similar in function to the Getty’s Art & Architecture Thesaurus, the Fototeca’s thesaurus is a monolingual resource for internal use only. It does not appear online, although the vocabulary terms are used in the metadata for each digitized photograph. The Fototeca’s website does provide a list of the types of descriptive and technical information that staff try to record when processing collections. Relationships between terms and concepts is reflected only in a list of searches by previous users, whether or not immediately relevant.

CasasolaResultsscreenshot

Screenshot of search term “Casasola” on the Fototeca website. Note the “people also searched for” and “most frequent searches” sections.

 

The second institution I want to discuss is the Chiapas Photography Project (CPP). One can glimpse samples of work done on its website, but its complete inventory is offline. Founder Carlota Duarte maintains a three-ring binder, with texts outlining CPP history and activities since the project’s inception in 1992. There is an overview of the collection, and a complete list of works by participants, most of whom are Ts’eltal or Tzotzil Maya. Digitization activities are in another section; in some cases, the reasons for digitizing a photograph is given (e.g. for publication or an exhibition). The binder also includes press clippings about exhibits and excerpts from dissertations and theses, names of past staff and volunteers, and lists of CPP collaborations with other projects.

CPPzines

Some of the first zines, or fotonovelas, as CPP calls them, of CPP work, at the Chiapas Photography Project in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, México

I discovered CPP as I was leafing through a catalog of modern photography in Latin America. The blurb accompanying a piece by Maruch Santíz Goméz mentioned the artist’s involvement with CPP. Later I learned that the project uses photography to center the perspectives of local community members from various ethnicities and faith practices. For instance, when support for the CPP’s Archivo Fotográfico Indígena ended in 2012 (until then housed at the local social research institute), the participating photographers collectively decided that the original works would be returned to their creators. The CPP staff, themselves photographers, continue to assist community members with developing photography skills and exhibiting and publishing their work.

At the moment it is unclear where the holdings of this decidedly community-oriented project will find a permanent home. Whether this home will be in the U.S. or in Mexico is also undecided. Underlying this issue of affiliation are intersecting considerations of value and sustainability. Where might collections like those of the CPP find the optimal conditions for scholarly and financial support? Where might staff and users be located so such resources can be properly be cared for, promoted, and most importantly, utilized?

These concerns are central to the information professions, and I continue to reflect on them more deeply with time and distance. Truthfully, the photography fan in me was more immediately enamored with the mere existence of these resources, rather than academic questions. Still, speaking with individuals who are similarly excited was refreshing. Though at times I’ve questioned my involvement in libraries and archives, exchanges like those I had in Mexico assure me that I’m on the right path.

Caribbean Scholarship in the Digital Age – Webinar 3

caribbeanscholarshippic

Caribbean Scholarship in the Digital Age is a webinar series showcasing digital and/as public research and teaching in Caribbean Studies. The series provides a collaborative space for professionals to share on projects and experiences to foster communication and support our shared constellations of communities of practice.

Please join us for an upcoming event featuring innovative digital work with Colony in Crisis, April 11, 2017, at 11am (Miami Time).

Presenters: Nathan Dize and Abby Broughton (Vanderbilt University)

 Click here to participate in the online event: http://ufsmathers.adobeconnect.com/Caribbean

 About the Presentation:

A digital project created in 2014 through the collaboration of two graduate students and a librarian, A Colony in Crisis (CiC, https://colonyincrisis.lib.umd.edu/) exemplifies interdisciplinary and interdepartmental research in the contemporary, media-enhanced age of humanities scholarship. Working through the framework of the grain crisis of 1789 in colonial Saint-Domingue, CiC provides English translations and introductions of original French pamphlets in hopes of promoting a glimpse into one of the many alternative histories of the Atlantic World in the years preceding the Haitian Revolution. With the goal of curating archival documents in order to offer students and scholars alike the possibility of working with archival texts across language barriers, the team partners with instructors to implement the project in the undergraduate classroom. Fall 2015 saw the implementation of CiC in an upper-level French literature course. One year later, the team reflects on their first foray into the classroom and where to steer the project over the years to come.

 About the Speakers:

Abby R. Broughton is a PhD student in the Department of French and Italian at Vanderbilt University, where she specializes in 20th century queer literature, body and identity politics, and the intersection of illustration and text. Abby is a co-author, translator, and editor of A Colony in Crisis: The Saint-Domingue Grain Shortage of 1789.

Nathan H. Dize is a PhD student in the Department of French and Italian at Vanderbilt University where he specializes in Haitian theater, poetry, and revolutionary poetics during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Nathan is the content curator, translator, and editor of A Colony in Crisis: The Saint-Domingue Grain Shortage of 1789.

About the Caribbean Scholarship in the Digital Age Webinar Series:

The Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC), in partnership with the Association of Caribbean University, Research and Institutional Libraries (ACURIL), the Graduate School of Information Sciences and Technologies of the University of Puerto Rico, the Latin American and Caribbean Cultural Heritage Archives roundtable (LACCHA) of the Society of American Archivists (SAA), and the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials (SALALM), has organized a series of online events, Caribbean Scholarship in the Digital Age, a webinar series showcasing digital and/as public research and teaching in Caribbean Studies. The series provides a collaborative space for professionals to share on projects and experiences to foster communication and support our shared constellations of communities of practice.

Other upcoming webinars in the series include:

·        May 10, 11am Miami time, Dr. Sara Gonzalez on 3D printing services

Recordings of all webinars will be available in dLOC soon after the webinar.

Please join us for next stage conversations from the webinars, to take place at ACURIL’s 2017 annual conference, focusing on Interdisciplinary Research in the Caribbean: http://acuril2017puertorico.com/

Twitter: #digcaribbeanscholarship

Twitter: @dlocaribbean

Invitation to Webinar: Desmantlando Fronteras / Breaking Down Borders

WebinarLogo
Desmantelando Fronteras/Breaking Down Borders

Webinar 27 marzo 2017 | March 27, 2017
https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1709261575635267075

Están cordialmente invitados al próximo webinar de la serie Desmantelando Fronteras/Breaking Down Borders. Los presentadores invitados son Lefteris Becerra, estudiante de maestría del posgrado en Ciencias Sociales: Desarrollo Sustentable y Globalización, de la Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur, y las doctoras Janet Ceja y Mónica Colón-Aguirre, ambas profesoras de Bibliotecología y Ciencias de la Información en Simmons College, en Boston, Massachusetts.

En el estado mexicano de Baja California Sur no existe hasta ahora una institución encargada del resguardo y difusión del patrimonio audiovisual propio. En su presentación, Lefteris Beccera expondrá la configuración de un archivo audiovisual local orientado al acceso de los usuarios a la filmografía del estado, con el auxilio de la tecnología digital que lleva a cabo en su investigación: Formulación de propuesta para la creación del Archivo Audiovisual de Baja California Sur (1895-2016). Actualmente realiza una estancia de investigación breve en el Simmons College bajo la tutela de la Dra. Janet Ceja.

Conforme la detención y deportación sistemática de inmigrantes continua amenazando a familias y comunidades en EE.UU, los archiveros y bibliotecarios tienen un papel educativo y humanitario en difundir información sobre los derechos civiles y de inmigrantes. En esta plática, las doctoras Ceja y Cólon-Aguirre discutirán cómo el tema del desarrollo de registros es pertinente a las necesidades de información de inmigrantes en riesgo de deportaciones forzadas o inhumanas.

Las doctoras Ceja y Colón-Aguirre trabajan en el proyecto Latino Literacy, Librarians and Archivists in Boston, el cual se enfoca en la identificación e incorporación de las necesidades informáticas de la comunidad Latina a servicios de extensión comunitaria dirigidos por bibliotecarios y archivistas en Boston, Massachusetts. El proyecto es financiado por Emily Hollowell Research Grant.

El evento será en español y en inglés y se llevará a cabo el lunes, 27 de marzo, 2017 a las siguientes horas locales:

  • EEUU 14:00 horas EST / 13:00 CST / 11:00 PST
  • México D.F. / Honduras 12:00 horas
  • Quito / Bogotá / Lima 13:00 horas
  • Buenos Aires/Santiago 15:00 horas
  • Caracas 13:30 horas

Please register for this event HERE and log-in on the day of the event
Por favor regístrese para este evento AQUÍ e ingrese a la sesión el día del evento

*Después del webinar, por favor de contestar la encuesta AQUÍ.*
*At the end of the webinar, please fill out the survey HERE. *

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You are cordially invited to the next installment of the Desmantelando Fronteras/Breaking Down Borders webinar series. This event will feature speakers Lefteris Becerra, a Social Sciences Graduate student studying at Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur, and Dr. Janet Ceja and Dr. Mónica Cólon-Aguirre, assistant professors in Library and Information Science at Simmons College.

In the Mexican state of Baja California Sur, there is no institution charged with the stewardship and administration of its audiovisual patrimony. During this talk, Lefteris Beccera will lay down the framework for the configuration of a local audiovisual archive oriented towards user’s access to the state’s filmography, aided by digital technologies, which forms the basis of his research project: Formulación de propuesta para la creación del Archivo Audiovisual de Baja California Sur (1895-2016). Currently, he is a visiting researcher at Simmons College under the direction of Dr. Janet Ceja.

As the systematic detention and deportation of immigrants continues to threaten families and communities across the United States, archivists and librarians have an educational and humanitarian role to play in disseminating information on civil and immigrant rights. In this presentation, Dr. Janet Ceja and Dr. Mónica Cólon-Aguirre, will discuss the “records issues” embedded in the information needs of immigrant communities during immigrant raids.

Dr. Ceja and Dr. Colón-Aguirre are working on the Latino Literacy, Librarians and Archivists in Boston project, which focuses on identifying and linking the information needs of the Latino community to outreach services conducted by librarians and archivists in Boston, Massachusetts. Project funded by the Emily Hollowell Research Grant.

The event shall take place in English and Spanish on Monday, March 27, 2017, at the following times:

  • USA 2:00PM horas EST / 01:00PM CST / 11:00AM PST
  • México D.F. / Honduras 12:00PM
  • Quito / Bogotá / Lima 01:00PM
  • Buenos Aires/Santiago 03:00PM
  • Caracas 01:30PM

Please register for this event HERE and log-in on the day of the event
Por favor regístrese para este evento AQUÍ e ingrese a la sesión el día del evento

*Después del webinar, por favor de contestar la encuesta AQUÍ.*
*At the end of the webinar, please fill out the survey HERE. *

Caribbean Scholarship in the Digital Age – Webinar 2

caribbeanscholarshippic

Caribbean Scholarship in the Digital Age is a webinar series showcasing digital and/as public research and teaching in Caribbean Studies. The series provides a collaborative space for professionals to share on projects and experiences to foster communication and support our shared constellations of communities of practice.

Please join us for an upcoming event featuring innovative digital work with a small axe platform for digital practice: sx archipelagos, February 28, 2017, at 11am (Miami Time).

 Presenter: Dr. Alex Gil, Columbia University and sx: archipelagos

 Click here to participate in the online event: http://ufsmathers.adobeconnect.com/Caribbean

Click here to view a recording of the webinar: http://dloc.com/AA00015557/00005/video.

About the Presentation:

a small axe platform for digital practice: sx archipelagos (http://smallaxe.net/sxarchipelagos/) is the latest born-digital articulation of the Small Axe Project. It is a peer-reviewed publication platform devoted to creative exploration, debate, and critical thinking about and through digital practices in contemporary scholarly and artistic work in and on the Caribbean. Given the wide implications of the “digital turn” for our very conceptions of knowledge, our mission is to discern the ways in which the digital may enhance and transform our comprehension of the regional and diasporic Caribbean. sx archipelagos responds to this challenge with three distinct dimensions of critical production: scholarly essays; digital scholarship projects; and digital project reviews.

About the Speaker: Alex Gil is Digital Scholarship Coordinator for the Humanities and History at Columbia University and affiliate Faculty of the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He serves as a collaborator with faculty, students and the library leveraging non-trivial technologies in humanities research, pedagogy and scholarly communications. Current projects include Ed, a digital platform for minimal editions of literary texts; the Translation Toolkit; and, In The Same Boats, a visualization of trans-Atlantic intersections of black intellectuals in the 20th century. He is founder and former chair of the Global Outlook::Digital Humanities initiative, co-founder and co-director of the Group for Experimental Methods in the Humanities and the Studio@Butler at Columbia University, and founder and co-editor of SX Archipelagos.

About the Caribbean Scholarship in the Digital Age Webinar Series:

The Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC), in partnership with the Association of Caribbean University, Research and Institutional Libraries (ACURIL), the Graduate School of Information Sciences and Technologies of the University of Puerto Rico, the Latin American and Caribbean Cultural Heritage Archives roundtable (LACCHA) of the Society of American Archivists (SAA), and the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials (SALALM), has organized a series of online events, Caribbean Scholarship in the Digital Age, a webinar series showcasing digital and/as public research and teaching in Caribbean Studies. The series provides a collaborative space for professionals to share on projects and experiences to foster communication and support our shared constellations of communities of practice.

Other upcoming webinars in the series include:

  • April 11, 11am Miami time: Nathan Dize and Abby Broughton on Colony in Crisis
  • May 10, 11am Miami time, Dr. Sara Gonzalez on 3D printing services
  • Date pending for: Caribbean Memory

Recordings of all webinars will be available in dLOC soon after the webinar.

Please join us for next stage conversations from the webinars, to take place at ACURIL’s 2017 annual conference, focusing on Interdisciplinary Research in the Caribbean: http://acuril2017puertorico.com/

Twitter: #digcaribbeanscholarship

Archivist Spotlight: Rachel E. Winston, Black Diaspora Archivist at the LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections (University of Texas at Austin)

rachelwinston

Please give a brief introduction of yourself and your interests in Latin American and Caribbean cultural heritage archives.

My name is Rachel E. Winston—I am a graduate of Davidson College (Anthropology and French), the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs and The University of Texas at Austin (MSIS). Throughout my educational and professional career, I’ve been passionate about representation and access within cultural institutions and in community programming initiatives. As an archivist, I’m interested in the ways in which people of color are represented, described and preserved in our institutions, and further, dismantling imposed barriers to access for these kinds of materials.

You recently started in the newly created Black Diaspora Archivist position at the LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections at the University of Texas at Austin. Tell us a little bit about the new role and your goals for collecting and establishing the Black Diaspora archive.

The Black Diaspora Archive is a collaborative initiative between UT Libraries, Black Studies and LLILAS Benson. In my role as Black Diaspora Archivist, I’m leading the university’s effort in developing a special collection that documents the Black experience throughout the Americas and the Caribbean.  One of the things I’m most excited about is being able to highlight the experiences and works of people of color as told/documented by they themselves—there’s a huge void in this space.  I’m especially grateful to be doing this work at LLILAS Benson where there is real concern for ethical collecting, social justice and post-custodial archival practice.

What has been the most rewarding part of your career? Any advice to fellow new professionals?

Getting this job! In a lot of ways, I was preparing myself for this position before it even existed and I’m looking forward the achievements the Black Diaspora Archive will make in the years to come. To those who are committed to countering or changing the narrative and creating space for others in our field—stay encouraged and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

More on the New Archives Law in Mexico

by Margarita Vargas

As a consequence of the activism of historians and library science professionals, the law will not be presented to the Mexican Senate during the next period of sessions. This gives time for more work, analysis, and proposals. The objective is to have a law that allows transparency and unrestricted access to archives. This way, the law will give way to an inclusive and plural historic memory. To achieve this, the Board of the Mexican Committee of Historic Sciences asks historians to continue the activism against the current initiative: http://www.h-mexico.unam.mx/node/18771.

Por el Derecho a la Memoria (For the Right of Historic Memory)

Margarita Vargas-Betancourt, International Archives Affairs Section

In past weeks, Mexican scholars, archivists, and LIS professionals have organized forums and issued declarations to make known their discontent with the new General Law of Archives that was presented to the Mexican Senate on November 17, 2016. This new law would supersede the Federal Archives Law which has been in place since 2012. Why is this new law troublesome?

The new law proposes the creation of a Ruling Council of the National Archives System. The Council would be under the supervision of the Secretary of the Interior. The law also states that the president of the country would designate the Director of Mexico’s National Archives. These provisions take away the technical and administrative autonomy of the National Archives and the National System of Archives, and thus eliminate the checks and balances that such institutions should provide.

Although this law is supposed to guarantee transparency, it does not guarantee access to public and historic records. For this reason, scholars and LIS professionals request that the new law sets standards to regulate the transfer of government records to the National Archives and to prevent the restriction of access, the deaccession, or the destruction of such records.

Enrique Chmelnik, President of the Association of Mexican Private Archives and Libraries (AMABPAC) and Director of the Center of Documentation and Research of the Jewish Communities in Mexico (CDIJUM) participated at the SAA’s 2016 Annual Meeting in Atlanta. There he explained two concerns that Mexican private LIS institutions have about the new law. The first is that the new law did not set up a democratic procedure to select the representative of private archives and libraries to the Ruling Council of the National Archives System. The second is that the new law gives the Mexican state the power to expropriate private archives, but does not set up a transparent and accountable way to exert such power, such as the creation of interdisciplinary and autonomous councils that might supervise and advise on the expropriation.

On November 28, 2016, scholars and LIS professionals met with the Mexican senate to discuss the new law. They demanded that the new law be modified to meet the needs for transparency, access to information, and accountability. These needs are especially urgent because in the last years, human rights have been constantly violated in Mexico.

For the petition by scholars and LIS professionals see: http://www.h-mexico.unam.mx/node/18666

For a summary of the meeting see: https://youtu.be/w1x_3h-ZDGQ

For Enrique Chmelnik’s petition to the Mexican senate see: https://youtu.be/kHUjFJGnhEc

New Law of Archives in Mexico

by: Margarita Vargas, originally posted on SAA’s International Archives and Archivists blog.

Mexico holds the 4th International Seminar on Transparency and Record Keeping Nov. 16, 17, and 18 in the midst of the controversy over the new law of archives in Mexico. In La Jornada newspaper, Soledad Loaeza explains that this new law has been drafted by politicians who have not taken into consideration  LIS professionals or historians. Their intention seems to be censorship. This coincides with the increasing restriction of the materials that researchers can use at the Archivo General de la Nación. This censorship has been justified by the need to protect personal information, but it does not follow an established policy or procedure. For Spanish readers: the text of the law that the Mexican senate is reviewing is here.

Update on Archives in Mexico

Dear Lachistas,

We are lending our support to fellow Mexican archivists and library professionals by making public a collective letter they composed to raise awareness about a governmental reform that seeks to control access and transparency of archival repositories. This reform threatens the humanistic mission of the Archivo General de la Nación (AGN) with budget cuts of 78%; more worrisome, the AGN’s will be placed under the supervision of the Secretaria de Gobernación which might potentially lead to censorship. As Enrique Chmelnik discussed in our annual meeting in Atlanta, the reform will also undermine private archives. Given the violence, constant violation of human rights, lack of accountability, and lack of transparency, this is not a positive picture.

Signed,

Ana Rodriguez, LACCHA co-chair

Link to open letter from Mexican archivists: http://www.h-mexico.unam.mx/node/18497

SAA 2016 Roundtable Agenda

Wednesday August 3, 2016 6:00pm – 7:30pm
Salon E Hilton Atlanta, 255 Courtland Street NE, Atlanta, GA 30303

6:00-6:10              Welcome + words from our Council Liaison, Kris Kiesling

6:15-6:40              Chair report

6:45-7:00              Enrique Chmelnik will give a presentation on Mexico’s new laws regulating archives and how those laws affect private archives and libraries, such as CDIJUM.

7:00-7:15              Q&A for Enrique

(Enrique Chmelnik will also participate in the Diversity Forum: Thursday August 4, 2016 12:15pm – 1:30pm Salon E Hilton Atlanta, 255 Courtland Street NE, Atlanta, GA 30303.)