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Archival Ethnographic Research Leads to Publication in Latin American Music Review

Dr. Raquel Z. Rivera's archival ethnographic research, first undertaken while she was a Greenleaf Visiting Library Scholar at UNM, has led to an article on "John Donald Robb's Imperative to Collect: Toward an Archival Ethnography of the Robb Archive for Southwestern Music," in the Fall/Winter 2015 Latin American Music Review.

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In Fall 2011, Rivera received a Greenleaf Visiting Library Scholar award to facilitate working with UNM University Libraries' extensive collections. The award was made possible by Dr. Richard E. Greenleaf, distinguished scholar of colonial Latin America, to provide individuals the opportunity to work as visiting researchers with UNM's Latin American library collections, one of the largest and most complete Latin or Spanish American collections in the country. In 2011, Rivera focused her research on the John Donald Robb Archives, a collection of field recordings, photography, papers, and ephemeral documentation compiled by and related to John Donald Robb.

In the article's abstract, Rivera notes that "John Donald Robb (1892-1989) was a composer, music professor, and University of New Mexico administrator who for decades enthusiastically collected Southwestern folk music -- in particular Spanish-language nuevo mexicano music. His correspondence as well as other archived documents provide fascinating glimpses into his methods of collecting music and establishing an archive. These glimpses, in turn, help us understand not only Robb and his overall oeuvre better but also, specifically, the way his music collection was assembled-a key endeavor since, as various scholars have argued, an archival collection's degree of usefulness increases as users understand the way the archive was put together. This article is an exercise in "archival ethnography": my aim is to explore and contextualize Robb as one individual involved in a wider academic culture of musical and cultural preservation through archival collections."

Rivera is an author, scholar and singer-songwriter. She is co-editor of the anthology Reggaeton (2009) and author of New York Ricans from the Hip Hop Zone (2003). Her academic articles on popular culture have been published in various books and journals. She has a Ph.D. in Sociology and is a Visiting Scholar at UNM's Sociology Department and an Affiliated Scholar at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College, New York City. Her areas of scholarly interest are popular music and culture, race and ethnicity, nation and diaspora, and the intersections between Latino and Africana studies.

To hear Rivera discuss her research related to the Robb collections, check out the LAII's podcast recording of her lecture on "John Donald Robb's Imperative to Collect," recorded in 2011 during her time as a Visiting Library Scholar.

Image: Montage of transcribed music from the John Donald Robb collections, reprinted courtesy of the New Mexico Digital Collections.

--Posted Monday, December 7, 2015.