LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections Receives Mellon Foundation Grant

AUSTIN, Texas—The Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies and the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection—collectively LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections—has received a grant of $149,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to carry out a project titled “Post-Custodial Archival Development and Digital Scholarship: Learning from Latin America.”

The grant will boost archival development and enable collaboration between Latin American studies scholars and archivists to identify collections with high potential for scholarly impact.

The term “post-custodial” refers to a process in which the original holders of the archival material maintain that custody while partnering with LLILAS Benson in order to digitize and preserve their archives.

“The post-custodial model facilitates mutually beneficial relationships, pairing communities with limited archival resources to work with archivists who can share their technical expertise and resources to help build and strengthen preservation practices on-site within the community” says T-Kay Sangwand, human rights archivist for the University of Texas Libraries’ Human Rights Documentation Initiative (HRDI).

The model has already been successfully implemented through LLILAS Benson’s partnership with the Historical National Police Archive in Guatemala (AHPN) and the HRDI’s work in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the United States.

The team will launch three pilot projects with partners in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua chosen for their significant holdings of archival materials, and will create an extensive directory of post-custodial archival opportunities in Latin America and the Caribbean. From this directory, scholars and archivists will choose additional sites for future archival partnerships.

The 18-month project is funded from June 1, 2014, through Nov. 30, 2015.

A search is currently under way for the project archivist, who will work with a team led by the project’s principal investigator, LLILAS Benson Director Charles Hale, and co-principal investigator Sangwand. LLILAS Benson will host the project in close collaboration with the University of Texas Libraries.

This archival development project has important ramifications for scholarship, teaching and archival practice. Through it, scholars and students will gain unprecedented access to new materials and records, while archivists will leverage their expertise and resources to help ensure long-term preservation of, and access to, vulnerable archival records by working directly with the record-creating communities.

“Thanks to the generosity of the Mellon Foundation, the Benson Latin American Collection will be able to redouble its efforts to preserve rich, important and sometimes endangered historical resources while maintaining a principled approach to issues of cultural patrimony,” says Fred Heath, vice provost and director of the University of Texas Libraries. “This support validates our efforts to provide access to vital primary resources in ways that recognize the changing nature of research in the modern world, both at The University of Texas at Austin, and across the global community.”

For more information, contact: Susanna Sharpe, LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections,512-232-2403.


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