Our History


Established in 1834 in a city with economic and cultural ties with the Caribbean, Tulane University has an historic orientation toward Latin America and the Caribbean. The Latin American Library reflects the university's long-term commitment to Latin American studies. The library was established in 1924 to support the Middle American Research Institute. A generous donation from an anonymous donor made possible the acquisition of a substantial portion of the William Gates Collection which formed the cornerstone of Tulane University's library. The initial focus was the archaeology, anthropology and history of Mesoamerica but after the collection was relocated to Howard-Tilton in the early 1960s, the scope was broadened to cover most subject disciplines and all of Latin America and the Caribbean. Today, the collection is one of the most comprehensive of its kind, including materials from the contact period to the present day.


The Latin American Library serves the faculty, students and outreach efforts of Tulane University’s Title VI National Resource Center, the Roger Thayer Stone Center for Latin American Studies, as well as Latin Americanist faculty and graduate students in academic departments across the university. In 2013-2014, there were 69 core Latin Americanist faculty, 14 associates, 27 affiliates, 9 emeritus, 6 visiting, and 7 post-doctoral fellows, representing the largest contingent of faculty associated with any department or interdisciplinary program at Tulane. In 2013-2014, there were 154 Latin Americanist graduate students (60%) compared to 101 non-Latin Americanists in the Departments of Anthropology; Spanish and Portuguese; Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Art History; History; Linguistics; City, Culture, Community; Economics; and the Stone Center for Latin American Studies. All are graduate programs that are critical for developing new research about Latin America.


The Collection

Photo of Banana Worker, Circa 1946.
From the Wayne Stoffle Photograph Album Collection (Album 32, Latin American Library Image Archive, Tulane University)

The Latin American Library, a unit of Tulane University's Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, is among the world's foremost collections of Latin American archaeology, anthropology, history, literature, literary criticism, cultural studies, linguistics, art, architecture, film, women's studies, economics and many other subject areas. The collection consists of more than 500,000 volumes, including 14,500 rare printed works, and over 810 current periodical subscriptions, as well as a growing number of electronic resources. The Latin American Library's collection is one of the most comprehensive of its kind, including materials from the contact period to the present. It is one of only three stand-alone Latin American research collections in United States universities.

The Latin American Library houses an impressive collection of rare books and ephemera, manuscripts, Latin American government publications, an image archive with over 110,000 images, and over 2,000 rubbings of Maya relief sculpture. Among many other unique holdings, the collection includes over 4,500 maps and broadsides, a large number of historic newspapers, original drawings by William Spratling and other silver designers from Taxco, Mexico, and substantial collections of printed ephemera. Most holdings are in English, Spanish or Portuguese although many other languages are also represented.

The Latin American Library provides a variety of services for Tulane University's Latinamericanist faculty and students, researchers from the New Orleans community, as well as from around the country and the world.


Since 2007, the Latin American Library is proud to host the Richard E. Greenleaf Library Fellowship Program. As the only library fellowship program in the country that exclusively benefits Latin American and Caribbean scholars, each year one to three fellows from Latin America and the Caribbean conduct research in New Orleans. 

Throughout the academic year the library has a lively schedule of exhibits, invited speakers and other special events that highlight the library's collections.