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Article

Ian Kisil Marino, Pedro Telles da Silveira, and Thiago Lima Nicodemo

The category of “informal archives” was initially proposed by Adam Auerbach in a case study on the role of informal archives held by social leaders of peripheral communities in India. “Informal archives” imply forms of historical documentation beyond state authority, and preserved in a rough, poor, and ephemeral manner (in the digital realm). They typically involve connections to the past articulated by different social demands, whether regarding the dispute for a national memory in the digital-public realm, or the nostalgic nature of certain connections to the past, or even the social/political activism of civil society organizations. For this reason, informal archives are in unmapped locations, and in order to be accessed they need to be ethnographically reached. An empirical research based on data raised in early 2020 shows that, even with the creation of a theoretical basis for this kind of digital resource, constant updates will remain necessary due to the unstable nature of the subject.

Article

Ian Kisil Marino and Thiago Lima Nicodemo

Historians devoted to telling the story of the COVID-19 pandemic should question the archival conditions involved. In this article, we approach the archival landscape in Latin America in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, which particularly unfolded in the digital environment. First, we suggest a review of archival digitization in Latin America, providing context for the conditions observed during the pandemic. Second, we discuss the emergence of digital memory initiatives that focused on COVID-19, showing typological relations that may arise from transnational analyses. Accordingly, we dive into some Brazilian archival initiatives with major ethnographic rigor since, in addition to closely representing the reality of the region, they provide us with a more accurate immersion into the agents, platforms, and challenges of this pandemic digital undertaking. Lastly, we point out the complex situation of public archives amidst the mass of documents resulting from the pandemic. This way, we pose questions about the increasingly important interface between history, archives, and a policy for transparency of data.

Article

Over the last two decades or so, scholars and enthusiasts have found several ways to preserve historical documents, taking advantage of the evolution of the Internet and an expansive audience interested in such material. Digital Peruvian historical sources reflect this global trend, with primary sources being especially rich. In Peru, the digitization process or technique has not been confined to archivists, librarians, and historians. Rather, the digital format has brought a revolution itself that has blurred the distance between experts and amateurs and has posed new challenges for preservation and access to historical collections. Images, photographs, paintings, interviews, testimonies, TV commercials, and much more have been digitized and stored in multiple online platforms, such as various different social media, YouTube, and SoundCloud among others, by professionals and amateurs alike. The result may be mixed, but historians with a focus on the Peruvian experience will find a bounty of material among which to pick and choose.

Article

The Digital Gender Collections at the Rosario Castellanos Library in the Center for Research and Study of Gender at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México provides search engines to access digital collections of books, articles, videos, contemporary feminist magazines, and biographies of Mexican feminists. The collection holds hard-to-access materials and provides scholars outside of Mexico with a means to engage in Mexico- and Latin America-based scholarship and historical documents. The biographies of Mexican feminists, while not peer reviewed, provide a starting point to orient users to Mexican women’s history. The library also holds digitalized copies of feminist magazines established in the 1970s, which will be of interest to researchers and may be useful for teaching the history of second-wave feminism. All documents are in Spanish. Many of the resources, though not all, are accessible online.

Article

Eliana Regina de Freitas Dutra and Renato Pinto Venancio

The en masse digitalization of sets of documents held by memory institutions in Brazil and the promotion of remote access to them has impacted the writing and the reinterpretation of Brazilian history and historiography in different dominions. In Brazil, at the national and regional levels, there are numerous academies, libraries, foundations, museums, institutions, and centers of documentation which preserve and are progressively making various—and often meaningful—collections available online to scholars and researchers in the area of intellectual history. Taking into account the quantity and diversity of these collections, already available on the Internet, and the impossibility of elaborating an exhaustive inventory, it was decided to present a sample of institutions of diverse natures which hold expressive sets of collections with online access, whether in their totality or significant parts of them. This option was complemented by the no less important listing of the collection of a foreign university library, as well as the listing of various other digital addresses considered useful for the knowledge of researchers. It is also worth mentioning that the selected sites not only contain significant digitalized sets of documents but also allow free and unrestricted access, through online research instruments.

Article

Mexican History/Historia Mexicana (MH/HM) is a Facebook page dedicated to bringing together the world’s academic and popular masses in their interest of Mexican history. As of 2016, there are over 1300 members of the page, and posts garner one to three hundred views, though some posts or posted links have reached three to five thousand unique views. The Facebook page grew out of the frustration of this author with the slow and censored listserv system that serves as the main forum for scholars of Mexican history. In addition, there was a desire to reach private scholars and members of the public who are generally excluded from the listserv systems. In December 2011, the author and another scholar joined together in creating a Facebook page that would, in the words of the page description, serve as “a forum for the free exchange of information on the history and related culture and events of Mexico.” In late 2012 a third scholar joined them as operators, managers, and editors of the page. Material is selected in Spanish and English (and occasionally indigenous Mexican languages) related to Mexican history or events of historical importance. Generally, the goals of the page are to provide items of interest to the general public, resources to professional researchers that they may not know about, and well-known resources for new researchers. Information is provided on events or presentations related to the preservation of Mexican History, important new research works, and items of curiosity that simply pique theinterest of the operators. There is no systematic approach to content; instead, information is posted as a free-form collective, free of censorship. Members of the community are also welcome to post materials or queries and to comment and discuss topics on history and related items of culture and current events.

Article

Given its historical and present roles in Latin American societies, coffee has generated substantial interest and information. Documents up to the mid-20th century have been partly digitized by researchers or generated in electronic format by inter/national organizations after 1960. Digitized information at first primarily focused on time series, censuses, and other quantitative data to address economic and technological aspects, and on other primary and secondary sources for social and political ones. Historical and cultural geography and environmental and rural history of coffee-producing areas have resorted to scanned or digital maps and geographical information systems (GIS), together with aerial photography after mid-century and satellite images since the 1990s, as well as datasets on climate and diseases, and scientific or technical reports. Digital collections of audio/video recordings, paintings, and photographs expanded the range of sources and topics. Digitizing research involves critical and creative source work; it is also more than digitizing sources. Creating and linking databases containing nominal information, together with archival sources and oral history, has allowed researchers to further integrate quantitative and qualitative methods. Software for network or content analysis, genealogy, and timelines has been used increasingly. Machine-learning, exploration of big data, and historical/spatial data mining are still incipient for Latin American coffee. Digital resources—combined with other sources and methods, guided by appropriate research questions in a theoretical/epistemological framework—are key for meaningful and systematic comparative discussions of national/local processes within a regional/global context. However, many digital resources are not publicly accessible or require payment; historical datasets should be public goods. Much work is yet required to digitize documents such as accounting of coffee estates, customs records, and associations’ minutes, as well as multiple secondary sources. Digitalizing historical research on coffee is a learning process and requires additional expertise; convergent and cross-disciplinary methodological approaches are needed to comprehensively address the economic, environmental, social, political, and cultural history of coffee.

Article

Launched in 1997, FAMSI.org established itself as the leading digital platform for the promotion and dissemination of Mesoamerican scholarship to the widest possible audience. The online arm of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc., a nonprofit pledged to foster increased understanding of ancient Mesoamerican cultures, FAMSI.org crosscut disciplinary divisions and facilitated communication between scholars in the United States and those in Latin America. The eight-member Board of Directors and its advisory committee ensured that the foundation would harness the spirit of generosity and creativity that characterized the early days of the Internet for the benefit of a likewise emergent discipline. As the Website developed, FAMSI sought partnerships with and contributions from institutions around the world in order to make educational resources publicly available. The Website hosts a remarkable amount of primary research material, including image databases, contemporary and historical indigenous-language dictionaries, ethnographic videos, maps, and an up-to-date, searchable subject-specific bibliography, all of which are available in both English and Spanish and accessible at no cost to visitors. Between 1997 and 2006, the Website grew exponentially, but like many of its early counterparts, the site’s utility and navigability ultimately suffered as a result of the rapid development of new software and the obsolescence of existing digital platforms; searches became sluggish and unwieldy. While visitorship remained high for an academic site—over a million unique visitors a year—a 2012 survey indicated that scholars frequented only known parts of the site while novice users spent as little as a few minutes on the site. The global economic crisis of 2008 destabilized FAMSI’s funding, and in 2010 the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) assumed stewardship of the foundation as well as the Website. The museum began to maintain and review FAMSI.org, ultimately deciding to update and transform the Website into a new platform, AncientAmericas.org, which broadens the scope beyond that of Mesoamerica. FAMSI, with its dedication to research and online collaboration, became the principal resource for the research of ancient American cultures for both a scholarly and general audience beginning in the mid-1990s. Its enduring legacy is the spirit of interdisciplinary and international cooperation and generosity that it fostered.

Article

Between 1808 and 1825, political movements and warfare resulted in independence for the colonies of Spain and Portugal in the Americas, except for Cuba and Puerto Rico. The bicentennials of those events accelerated the availability of digital resources about Latin American independence. Libraries, archives, museums, and other educational institutions have created websites and mounted digital exhibits that provide overviews of the history for the general public, students, and researchers in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Many of the same institutions are in the process of digitizing collections of primary sources from the period. Particularly abundant are open-access digital editions of newspapers and periodicals as well as other printed material from the early 19th century such as proclamations, edicts, speeches, broadsides, and constitutions. Some digitized archival manuscripts relevant to research on the independence period are also accessible online, especially from archives in Spain, Colombia, Peru, and Brazil. Although the vast majority of primary sources have not been converted to digital formats, many archives and libraries do have digital finding aids and catalogs that can be consulted prior to research trips. Transcriptions of primary sources are also available online, some created specifically for web portals and others as digitized editions of earlier published document collections. The availability of digital resources on the history of independence varies by country, with more material for Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, and Argentina while Central America, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay are underrepresented.

Article

Álvaro Pereira do Nascimento

At least four major periods help to understand Brazilian history from pre-contact until modern times: the era of indigenous societies prior to 1500; the Portuguese colonial period (1500–1808); the experience of the Monarchy (1808–1889); and the Republic (1889–2019). Although the expanding and varied repositories offering digital resources do not necessarily cover these four highlighted periods thoroughly, researchers should still know them before navigating through the documents and images such repositories are making freely available to the public. Historical Brazilian digital holdings can be grouped into nine broad areas: (1) documents produced by national, state, and municipal governments; (2) records relating to specific historical moments; (3) sources for immigrant, indigenous, and African and Afro-Brazilian studies; (4) collections helpful for examining labor, industry, and plantations; (5) sources relevant for sex and gender studies; (6) materials for the history of science; (7) personal and private collections; (8) periodicals (newspapers and magazines); (9) and sources related to artistic, patrimonial, and cultural production. Researchers will find abundant sources about Brazilian society, political changes, the economy, education, commercial relations, wars and revolts, urban reforms, companies, violence, customs, and values, among many other topics and issues. Scholars and students can access interviews, photographs, newspapers, magazines, books, civil and parish records, laws and reports from government institutions, correspondence, music, movies, documentaries, maps, and much more.

Article

The Getty Research Institute (GRI) has an extensive collection of online digital resources, with two portals that focus on Mexico. The first portal discussed in this article is A Nation Emerges: Sixty-five Years of Photography in Mexico, and the second portal discussed is Obsidian Mirror-Travels: Refracting Mexican Art and Archaeology. These portals are the online versions of GRI exhibitions. Viewers of A Nation Emerges: Sixty-five Years of Photography in Mexico will find numerous primary sources, mostly photographs, related to major historical events from 1857 to 1923. This will serve as a useful resource for scholars and students interested in photohistory. The online exhibition Obsidian Mirror-Travels: Refracting Mexican Art and Archaeology offers a wealth of online digitized images related to Aztec art, culture, and archaeology. Although A Nation Emerges: Sixty-five Years of Photography in Mexico contains superb resources, the site is difficult to navigate and can result in viewers missing much of what it offers. Therefore, this article provides a road map of sorts with the goal of helping scholars and students save valuable time during the research process. This guide will greatly streamline the user experience for those navigating A Nation Emerges: Sixty-five Years of Photography in Mexico. In fact, readers may want to consider having access to this article while they are navigating the particular portal. On the other hand, viewers will find Obsidian Mirror-Travels: Refracting Mexican Art and Archaeology much easier to navigate. As such, a general overview, rather than a detailed guide is provided for this portal to allow users to direct their research with efficiency and accuracy when navigating the site. The article concludes with a brief discussion in the “Digitized Resources” section, of the literature, methodology, and historiography of photohistory.

Article

With the surge of social struggles tied to the implementation of capitalist modernization at the end of the 19th century, diverse forms of technology-based mass communication in Chile arose to represent the emergence of social sectors that didn’t participate in the dominant culture and sought to disseminate an alternative. Working-class and feminist newspapers, neighborhood theaters, and Cordel literature broke away from the traditional elitist and pedagogical nature that had defined the media until that time. Since then, with cycles that have ebbed and flowed, numerous communicative experiences were related to mass culture in controversial ways: they opposed it, converged with it, et cetera. Even though it is possible to trace the continuity between the cases described, this continuity is not clear upon first glance, due to its underground and nascent character. In general terms, these experiences were not established as an autonomous space for technical or aesthetic experiments; when there was a strategy, it tended to be political in nature, whereas communicative material remained conditional. Finally, the study of these cases implies a paradox: the 20th century began with a vast number of alternative communication projects that became institutionalized over the years, but they re-emerged more autonomously during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship and the era that followed. This process of institutionalization alludes to an inversely proportional relationship between the process of incorporating the masses into positions of power (in the period between 1925 and 1973) and the development of alternative communication: these experiences are plentiful in the less institutionalized contexts of the enlightened working-class culture (that is, preceding the founding of the Communist Party in 1922 and after the anti-working-class culture that has accompanied the neoliberalism imposed since the dictatorship).

Article

The Museum of Mexican Women Artists (MUMA) is a virtual museum dedicated to the promotion of Mexican women in visual arts from the 20th century onward. It was founded by Mexican feminist activist and artist Lucero González (b. 1947), who envisioned it as a feminist digital network for artists, curators, and critics to build connections with initiatives across the country and in other parts of the world. It is currently run by a council of nine women who collectively come together to plan its yearly activities and to invite others to participate. Since 2008, MUMA has hosted a new exhibition every three months by different female curators and artists working mostly on drawing, painting, performance, photography, video, and sculpture. To date, it has organized more than forty online exhibitions and a number of temporary events including exhibitions, reading groups, and public forums across the country. While it has an exclusive focus on women, one of its objectives is to promote intergenerational encounters to discuss the intersections of art and gender and question the binary construction of sexual difference. MUMA is an important addition to the growing resources on the gendered dimensions of art, feminist art, and art curation in Mexico from the 20th century onward. It offers online galleries showcasing artworks by female artists working in Mexico and contemporary theoretical essays on feminist art and curation, as well as reinterpretations of early 20th-century women’s art. Its bilingual (English and Spanish) website showcases the artistic portfolios of more than 350 artists working in Mexico. Each artist portfolio includes a gallery of artworks, an artist’s statement, and a link to a personal artist website. The exhibition section contains image links to each show. Each exhibition can be viewed in a single window and showcases the works in the exhibition along with a curatorial essay. The program section consists of an archive of all the group’s exhibitions, including theoretical texts and events organized chronologically by year since 2008. The website also has an international news section on relevant art and academic activities, a library section with curatorial texts, book excerpts and theoretical essays, and a list of partner organizations and alliances. MUMA offers an email newsletter to its subscribers with information on current exhibitions and direct links to new artists’ portfolios. It has a search engine that allows the user to explore the website via six different categories which can yield results that cross reference texts, news, links, exhibitions, and artist portfolios. Throughout its more than twenty years of existence, MUMA’s hybrid model as a virtual museum and digital archive with a temporary physical presence—and as a collective organization—has significantly amplified the visibility of women artists in Mexico.

Article

HGIS de las Indias is an open-access Spanish-language database and web platform on the temporal and spatial developments in the territorial organization and settlements of all Spanish America (from Nutka to the Malvinas) during the reign of the Bourbon dynasty until the eve of the independence movements (1701–1808). It consists of several components: a platform for visualization of the database in an interactive web application, an engine for the creation of base maps, and a repository for the raw data files that can be used in specialized software. Also, HGIS de las Indias has a feature that allows registered users to create spatial data sets from tabular data. Beyond its practical use as finding aid, data provider, and mapping resource, it aims at fulfilling an even more fundamental function of infrastructure. The unique resource identifiers (URIs) for places and territorial concepts in HGIS de las Indias can be used as identifiers across projects and text annotations. Also, there exist easy workflows to prepare research data with a spatial component in tabular form and connect it with the database. HGIS de las Indias may thus serve as a link between otherwise unconnected data sets and is itself integrated in more fundamental infrastructures like Pelagios or the World Historical Gazetteer that constitute a bridge to the wider world of the semantic web.

Article

Emilio Peluso Neder Meyer and Maria Guiomar da C. Frota

Digital resources for Brazilian legal history in the early 21st century cover an essential range of subjects. Official or institutional websites dominate the archives that allow users to research diverse themes, from the administration of the Portuguese colonies to the documents produced by truth commissions. Many of them are open access, fostering the democratization of the archives. To assess the most relevant ones, one must consider funds, collections, documents, and their accessibility and usability, as well as the limits for accessing Brazilian historical legal documents on the internet. Researchers of Brazilian legal history must consider the dominance of official narratives that can neglect the interpretations of other actors such as minorities. The colonial period is covered by digital resources with archives that were produced in Spain or Portugal but also by the Brazilian National Library and National Archives. The Historical Archives of the House of Deputies presents relevant resources for the period of the Brazilian Empire. The First and Second Republics historical periods count on collections of judicial rulings provided with easy and free access. The period of partial democratization between 1946 and 1964, the Brazilian dictatorship of 1964–1985, and the Third Republic that came after the Brazilian 1988 Constitution are part of a significant number of digital resources also easily accessible. Presupposing the necessity of effectiveness to the right of access to information, the process of digitalization of legal resources was consolidated and became a general practice. It dominated a wide range of institutional archives. Nonetheless, researchers must be aware of governmental limits, revisionist theories, and insufficient funding for Brazilian legal digital resources.