CIPR | Center For Inter-American Policy & Research

Tulane University

Tulane Libraries & Special Collections

Amistad Research Center, Tilton Hall

Manuscripts and book collections that include materials about African roots of Caribbean culture.

Koch Botanical Library, Dinwiddie Hall

Collections of rare botanical works, including 18th- and 19th-century works on Latin America.

Latin American Library, Howard Tilton Library Building

Tulane is one of three universities in the U.S., which has created separate collections for Latin American materials. Current holdings total some 365,000 volumes. The LAL comprises 20% of total main library holding and occupies one sixth of total floor space. Its holding ranks tenth among institutions surveyed by the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials (SALALM). Combined holding of all Latin American materials at Tualne place us in the top four or five libraries ranked in a 1997-8 study of U.S. collections.

LAL is visited by scholars from throughout the world, including many from Latin American searching for information about their own countries. Yearly it honors about a thousand interlibrary loan requests from other institutions. Every year it fields some 1,000 extramural scholar inquiries and its award-winning website registers 280,000 “hits”. Vol. 56 of the Handbook of Latin American Studies identifies LA as one of the four most important Internet research sites on Latin America.

The historic focus of the LAL has been Mexico and Central America, given the nature of the original gift around which the library has evolved. This focus remains and, in fact, the Library of Congress uses the LAL as a yardstick to evaluate its own collections for Guatemala and Belize.

Among the more notable holdings is an archive of almost 30,000 historic photographs, many of them depicting customs, costumes and buildings no longer extant. The photo collection also includes unique glass negatives and lantern slides taken by early photographers.

LAL has an extensive collection of original Spanish Colonial handwritten documents, including the first letter written by Fernando Cortes in Mexico. LAL is especially rich in its collection of native language dictionaries, grammars, catechisms, legal dossiers, administrative proceedings and notarial records from New Spain. Another extremely important special collection includes over 2,000 rubbings (many of them huge in size) of Maya stone carving. These are work of Merle Greene Robertson, the inventor of the rubbing technique as applied to this stonework. The importance of this collection increases yearly as the original stone material is pilfered, looted or eroded by acid rain and petrochemical pollution. In many cases it is best full-scale record of particular inscriptions extant.

Perhaps the crown jewel of the LAL is its collection of original Mexican pictorial manuscripts in the Native tradition, the largest such collection in the U.S. These pre-Columbian and colonial painted manuscripts, codices, lenzos, and mapas are visited by scholars from throughout the world. A notable example of these manuscripts is the Codex Tulane, a beautiful color Mixtec document from around 1550 which offers a mythological history of an area of Oaxaca and recounts details of the regimes of fifteen generations of rulers.

Louisiana Collection, Jones Hall

Books and journals relating to all periods of Louisiana history, including Spanish colonial imprints, compilations of Louisiana law, a copy of the Spanish law code Las Siete Partidas, and a complete set of the New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal, which contains numerous reports on tropical diseases in the Gulf region. In the collection are Spanish-language newspapers published in New Orleans.

Manuscripts Department, Jones Hall

Extensive holdings of manuscripts from the French and Spanish colonial period, including family letters, military and official correspondence, army rosters and commissions; collections relating to Gulf shipping and trade with Central America, such as the Standard Fruit Company Papers; personal papers of travelers in Mexico and Central America, such as the Francisco Reibeau and Mary Ashley Townsend Papers; and the political papers of Mayors Chep Morrison and Victor Schiro, who worked to promote trade and cultural exchange between New Orleans and Latin America.

Middle American Research Institute, Dinwiddie Hall, 4th floor
Collections of pre-Columbian artifacts, Mayan textiles, lantern slides and photographs of archaeological expeditions to Mexico and Central America.

Southeastern Architectural Archive, Jones Hall

Elevations, floor plans, and specifications of 19th- and early-20th-century commercial buildings and residences; records of the leading architectural firms in New Orleans; photographs of New Orleans and Gulf-South architecture.

University Archives, Jones Hall

Correspondence and clipping files relating to the establishment and history of the Middle American Research Institute, as well as to other Tulane activities in Latin America.

U.S. Government Documents, Howard Tilton Library

Reports of the Department of Commerce for statistics on trade with Latin America; reports of the Department of State for foreign relations material; extensive documentation about the Panama Canal, border relations with Mexico, treaties, and other topics.

William Ransom Hogan Jazz Archive, Jones Hall

Photographs, sheet music, scores, oral interviews, and other types of material relating to New Orleans jazz. The repository offers the opportunity to study the influences of music from Cuba, Mexico, and the trans-Caribbean area on local music. The photograph collection contains many images of African-American culture.

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