Building a Library of the Americas

October 21, 2013

UNM University Libraries announces the exhibition, "Building a Library of the Americas," developed in honor of the early individuals, James F. Zimmerman, Joaquin Ortega, Wilma L. Shelton, and George P. Hammond, who envisioned Zimmerman Library as a true library of the Americas. Curated by Michael Hoopes (MALAS '15), the exhibit is on view through December 15 in the Herzstein Latin American Gallery on the second floor of Zimmerman Library. The exhibit is free and open to the public during normal library operating hours.

University Libraries' collection of Latin America-related books and rare visual and written materials currently stands as one of the finest and most extensive in the nation. This tradition of excellence dates back to the library's opening in 1938, when University administration under the leadership of President James F. Zimmerman sought to "build this library into one of the finest research collections on Southwestern and Latin American material."

The early visionaries both contributed to the initial development of the University of New Mexico's specialized library holdings and left behind a strong legacy of ongoing expansion. In the 1930s, acquisitions of Paul Van de Velde and Thomas B. Catron's private libraries formed the core of these resources. Since then, the collections have continued to build with extensive electronic, print, manuscript, and pictorial collections. UNM Latin American collections continue to represent the strongest single area of UNM's libraries at over 20 percent of the total monographs. 600 periodical subscriptions, inclusive of electronic and paper journal subscriptions and thirteen subject-specific databases, as well as nearly 1,200 maps and 750 films, enhance these monograph collections. Approximately 560 cubic feet of manuscript materials and over 24,000 graphic or pictorial pieces make UNM's special collections a major resource for rare items of Latin Americana.

Ongoing acquisitions and endowments continue to bolster UNM's library holdings. In Spring 2013, Russ Davidson, former curator of Latin American & Iberian Collections for University Libaries, continued the tradition by establishing the Howard L. Karno Endowment for Latin American Pictorial Collections. This term, Davidson again strengthened UNM's specialized holdings by establishing the James F. Zimmerman Endowment, which will "provide funds for the acquisition of specialized research materials from and about Latin America and, secondarily, will support programs, publications, and events that bring the University Libraries' acclaimed Latin American holdings to the attention of students and scholars locally, nationally, and internationally."

In curating the "Building A Library of the Americas" exhibition, MALAS student Michael Hoopes brings the historical roots of UNM libraries to the modern foreground, reminding us of the enduring and widespread role that Latin American Studies has held at the university. Hoopes is a first year MALAS student whose primary concentration is history. His research interests include modern Latin American political history, particularly that of Chile. With a particular interest in libraries, his library work has included the cataloguing of an archaeological library in Chiapas, Mexico, as well as the processing of more than sixty linear feet of materials belonging to the early Mesoamerican linguist William E. Gates. As the current library fellow to the Inter-American Studies Program at University Libraries, and under the guidance of Suzanne M. Schadl, program coordinator and curator, Hoopes' current work has included preserving ephemeral online sources and promoting digital objects from rare 18th century Mexican archival sources.

"Building a Library of the Americas" runs through December 15 in the Herzstein Latin American Gallery. Schadl, gallery coordinator, welcomes ideas and suggestions for subsequent student exhibits. For more on the idea of student work, see an interview with former student Molly Nelson discussing her role in curating the "Street of Oaxaca" exhibit which was on view in Spring, 2013.

This exhibit is one among several planned around campus in conjunction with the celebration of the 75th anniversary of Zimmerman Library. To learn more, visit UL's "Celebrating Zimmerman @ 75" website.