Learning from Latin America Through Post-Custodial Archiving
A post-custodial archiving project of LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections enters a new phase with the hiring of archivist Theresa Polk, who joined the LLILAS Benson staff in July. Polk holds an MLS from the University of Maryland with a specialization in archives and an M.Phil. in International Peace Studies from Trinity College, Dublin. She will serve as archivist for “Post-Custodial Archival Development and Digital Scholarship: Learning from Latin America,” a project funded by an 18-month planning grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. She is part of a team supported by the University of Texas Libraries (UTL) that will work with selected organizations in Latin America to digitize fragile historical archives in order to make them available for scholarly access worldwide.
LLILAS Benson has selected three Central American organizations as sites to begin the digitizing project. They are CIRMA (Centro de Investigaciones Regionales de Mesoamérica), Antigua, Guatemala; MUPI (El Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen), San Salvador, El Salvador; and CIDCA Historical Cultural Museum (Center for Research and Documentation on the Atlantic Coast), Bluefields, Nicaragua. In a concurrent aspect of the project, the team will identify three other archives in Latin America with which LLILAS Benson can develop similar post-custodial archiving arrangements.
The principle behind the post-custodial theory of archives is “the idea that archivists will no longer physically acquire and maintain records, but that they will provide management oversight for records that will remain in the custody of the record creators” (Society of American Archivists, Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology). LLILAS Benson and UTL have undertaken previous collection development initiatives using the post-custodial model for digital acquisition. Some of these have emphasized human rights, such as the Human Rights Documentation Initiative (HRDI) and the Guatemalan National Police Historical Archive (AHPN). Another project, Primeros Libros de las Américas, is a broad international effort toward collaborative digitization and collection-building whose aim is to locate, digitize, and provide open access to all known works printed in the Americas prior to 1600.
Co–principal investigators for the LLILAS Benson project are Charles Hale, director of LLILAS Benson and chair for Western Hemispheric Trade Studies in the Department of Anthropology, and T-Kay Sangwand, human rights archivist for the University of Texas Libraries’ Human Rights Documentation Initiative (HRDI) and the Brazil Studies subject specialist for the Benson Latin American Collection.
Photo credit: Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional de Guatemala
Photo caption: Guatemalan National Police Historical Archive staff member prepares police records for archival processing and digitization.