Library “superheroes” make digital collections accessible worldwide

By Paula Covington

This has been a year of major progress in making our digital collections more accessible.  Thanks to the dedication and efforts of four library “superheroes” our Colombian collections are getting used in Colombia, Israel, France, Brazil, New Zealand and many other places.  Alejandro Botia has taken up the challenge of creating metadata for all of the Helguera pamphlets in the collection and hopes to finish the entire collection by the end of May.  This has been a major undertaking!   Professor Raquel Rincon, retired lecturer in Spanish and Portuguese, has been volunteering her time in Special Collections this spring creating metadata for the Helguera oversize pamphlet collection.   She has completed the project this week and will now begin on the programas, the 19th century college and university curricula programs.


L-r: Alejandro Botia, Andrea Delgado, Viviana Quintero
Marquez and Raquel Rincon

Two other dedicated graduate students have been working on the organizing, processing and creation of an online finding aid to the Manuel Zapata Olivella Papers in preparation of the digitization of these portions.   Viviana Quintero Márquez, whose M.A. thesis at Wisconsin was on Manuel Zapata Olivella, has been committed to the organization of Manuel’s audiocassette recordings and transcripts and has most recently created an online finding aid to all of his “events,” including ponencias, seminars, World Congresses of Black Culture, and the many other professional activities he organized and participated in throughout his rich career.  Andrea Delgado, though coming late to this project, has been fully dedicated to organizing and creating an online finding aid for the miles of boxes that include his publishing output, both fiction and non-fiction.   This has involved much research as to what has been published already or what is manuscript, what drafts are parts of novels, short stories, chapters, and so forth.

During this Spring semester the two collections have received a lot of publicity and generated increased interest.  During March, Paula Covington organized a panel for SECOLAS, the Southeastern Council of Latin Americanists, where she discussed the two collections and their Afro-Hispanic primary source research value.  At another panel, Viviana presented her research on memory and Zapata Olivella in relation to colonial Bocachica in Colombia.  In late April, Paula participated in a panel at the Encuentro internacional de bibliotecarios in Bogotá sharing with 125 Colombian librarians the digital access now available for portions of these two collections.  And in early May, Paula and Viviana spoke on these two collections at the conference organized by Professor Jane Landers, “Digital Humanities and the History of Slavery: A Workshop to Enhance Research, Collaboration, and Graduate Training.”

Thanks to this group for their commitment to this project and for helping to make it available to Colombians and others worldwide!

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