The Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, a unit of the University of Texas Libraries, is a specialized research library focusing on materials from and about Latin America, and materials relating to Latin@s in the United States. Latin America is here defined to include Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean island nations, South America, and areas of the United States during the period they were a part of the Spanish Empire or Mexico.
Named in honor of its former director (1942-1975), the Nettie Lee Benson Collection contains:
• over 970,000 books, periodicals, pamphlets, and microforms;
• 4,000 linear feet of manuscripts;
• 19,000 maps;
• 11,500 broadsides;
• 93,500 photographs;
• 50,000 items in a variety of other media (sound recordings, drawings, video tapes and cassettes, slides, transparencies, posters, memorabilia, and electronic media).
Periodical titles are estimated at over 40,000 with 8,000 currently received titles and over 3,000 newspaper titles. Initially endowed with a superb collection of rare books and manuscripts relating to Mexico, the Benson Collection now maintains important holdings for all countries of Latin America with special concentrations on the countries of the Río de la Plata, Brazil, Chile, Peru, and Central America.
The Mexican American Library Program, a department of the collection established in 1974, has gathered extensive research materials in all subject areas related to the U.S. Southwest and Latin@ culture in the U.S.
In sum, the book collection of the Benson Collection represents approximately ten percent of all of the volumes in the University of Texas Libraries, the fifth largest academic library in the United States. While the purchase of private libraries laid the foundation for the Benson Collection, the acquisition of current publications is now the major factor in its growth. Researchers from the U.S. and abroad have been attracted to this remarkable resource through the last eight decades, coming to consult materials accumulated from all parts of the world, in many languages, dating from the fifteenth century to the present.
Read more about the history of the Benson Collection, including an audio recording and the presentation slides of a talk by retired Benson Collection archivist Jane Garner, at LLILAS' History of Latin American Studies at UT. Also see this History of the Benson Collection, published by Discovery magazine in 2002.