This exhibition, put together in conjunction with the Eleventh Annual Open House, is an opportunity to celebrate the return of LAL’s special collections following their two-year hiatus at the offsite facility. Since August 2015 all of the collections are back on-site at the Library. In honor of their return, this exhibit is retrospective in scope, featuring some of the most notable treasures in the Library’s collections. Most items in this exhibition are rarely or never exhibited publicly. Designed to provide a window into the Library’s premier collections of primary historical sources, this exhibition highlights the LAL’s fields of traditional strength as well as more recent areas of targeted growth.
Along the side gallery wall to the right of the main entrance, the stunning facsimile of the Codex Tulane provides insight into key passages of this unique Mixtec document.
Original pieces from the Library’s renowned collection of painted Mesoamerican Indian manuscripts, Spanish colonial documents, and rare books collection are featured in the two central cases in the main gallery. These cases include a Testerian catechism, Nahuatl and Mayan manuscripts from the sixteenth century, as well as a rare copy of Maturini’s Purépecha dictionary published in 1559 by the first printer established in the New World. A rare first edition of Bernal Díaz del Castillo’s classic eyewitness account of the conquest of Mexico is also on display. Also featured is a recently discovered holograph letter dated 1682 by the Countess of Paredes containing an unpublished account of her friendship with Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, as well as an issue of Mercurio peruano, a seminal newspaper from the Spanish American Enlightenment.
Other vitrines contain representative works from some of the major early photographers working in the region, beginning in the mid-19th century. Photographs by Antíoco Cruces and Luis Campa in Mexico, and renowned photographer Martín Chambi in Peru are on exhibit, as well as items from the growing collections of ephemera documenting the plastic arts as well as popular culture, such as tourism, entertainment and leisure. Founded in the 1970s, the Image Archive is one of the few Latin American focused image archives in the country, and perhaps the fastest growing part of the Library’s special collections, with hundreds of pieces added annually, as are the library’s expanding acquisitions of printed ephemera. Also on view are original photographs of the construction of the Panama Canal (1904-07) as well as published works and ephemera relating to the history of Panama.
The remaining cases in the exhibit feature more recent areas of collecting focus. The two tall square cases flanking the main gallery wall display original design drawings and jewelry pieces by William Spratling and Margot van Voorhies Carr, on loan from the collection of Penny Chittim Morrill. These pieces complement the Library’s Spratling-Taxco Collection, which documents the rich variety of artistic expression surrounding the silver industry in mid-twentieth century Taxco, Mexico.
In addition to its premier collections, the Latin American Library offers fellowships, regularly mounts exhibits, invites guest speakers and offers research and bibliographic services, providing a continuous source of engagement for users at Tulane and around the world.