About the Image Archive




The Latin American Library's Image Archive, one of only a handful of such collections in the United States, holds over 110,500 individual images from virtually every country in the region. Dating from the mid-nineteenth century to the present, these images are in a variety of formats including print photographs and negatives, stereographic images, slides, glass slides and historic postcards. The images cover a wide range of topics: pre-contact art, artifacts and structures; colonial, modern and contemporary urban architecture and scenes from many cities in the region; pictorial documentation on travel through the region; landscapes; ethnological material on Amerindian villages, dress, customs and rituals; archaeological sites; haciendas in the Central Valley of Mexico; the construction of the Panama Canal; mid-19th century Mexican cartes-des-visites depicting occupationals; early 20th century Central American fruit ports; the Sandinista-Contra conflict in the 1980s; studio photos and portraits, and much more.

The collection includes original photographs and/or reproductions from such notable photographers as Martín Chambi, Courret Hermanos, Antíoco Cruces and Luis Campa, Marc Ferrez, Abraham Guillén, Emilio Harth-Terré, Faustino and Julio Mayo (Hermanos Mayo), Eadweard Muybridge, José D. Noriega, Lorry Salcedo-Mitrani, and Juan Yas.



The Latin American Library's Image Archive was founded in the mid-1970's through the efforts of several dedicated people. Photographer Abbye Gorin was introduced to the Latin American Library by Ruth Olivera, the library's manuscripts curator and creator of a series of photographic exhibits in the library. Soon after, Dr. Donald Robertson (1919-1984), professor of Latin American art history, asked Gorin to donate her exhibit photographs. Gorin suggested that an archive be created to preserve high-quality photographs of Latin America. With gifts from Steve and Abbye Gorin, the archive was established on December 21, 1976 as TULAPA, The Tulane University Latin American Photographic Archive.

Two others played a prominent role in the early development of the archive: Thomas Niehaus, Director of the Latin American Library, 1977-1990, and Humberto Rodríguez-Camilloni, professor of architectural history in the Tulane School of Architecture. In the late 1970s, Rodríguez opened doors in his native Peru, arranging for the purchase of photographs and drawings by the noted architect-engineer Emilio Harth-Terré (1899-1983) and a collection of photographs by Abraham Guillén Melgar (1901-1985), a documentarian of Andean cultural heritage for fifty years.

Niehaus included the purchase of photographs as an item in the library budget, and purchased important collections such as the photographs of Martín Chambi (1891-1973), noted Cuzco photographer, and the Nicaraguan images of Judith Hancock de Sandoval. Niehaus also acquired albums of historic photographs of Guatemala, Panama, Cuba, and Brazil. As the archive became known in academic circles, collections began to come into the library, such as the Sidney D. Markman archive of images of architecture in Mexico, Central America, and Spain.

In order to preserve the identity of individual collections it was decided to organize the collections by photographer and/or collector, rather than to rearrange them along geographical lines. By 1981 Gorin completed the preliminary organization and inventory of the holdings, which then numbered approximately 10,000 images. Also in that year, Ruth Olivera was appointed the first curator of the photographic archive. Mrs. Olivera has made major contributions in improving the accessibility of the archive with the development of a numerical collection file and dictionary card catalog. Collection numbers and names and a short description of the contents make up the collection file.

For his part, Guillermo Náñez Falcón, who directed the Latin American Library from 1990-2002, added another layer of scholarly understanding and appreciation to the development of the photographic archive. At a time when the market for photographs climbed to an all-time high, special purchases were made through funding provided by the Stone Center for Latin American Studies and other sources. The Fernando La Rosa A. Collection of Peruvian and Bolivian images was one of the collections acquired in this manner.

Since 2003, the Latin American Library's photographic holdings continue to expand under current director Hortensia Calvo. The archive was renamed the Image Archive to reflect a variety of image formats already held in the collection as well as recently acquired, which include negatives, slides, glass lantern slides, stereoscopic images, postcards, rubbings, original sketches, and drawings, and is now housed in a separate room within the Latin American Library's special collections. Recent major acquisitions include the addition of slides and photographs that accompany the Merle Greene Robertson Collection of Mayan rubbings; and the Spratling-Taxco Collection of photographs and original design drawings by William Spratling, Margot van Voorhies Carr and other designers associated with the Taxco silver industry. The library is also able to continue building this collection and publicizing its rich holdings thanks to funding provided by the Zemurray Foundation through the Doris Stone Endowment to the Latin American Library.

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