My name is Maria Fernandez and I’m a junior here at Dartmouth. This winter I have had the great opportunity to intern at the Hispanic Division in the Library of Congress. I’m currently pursuing a history major with a concentration in Latin America and after extensively using Library of Congress material on the Spanish-American War for a U.S. history class I took my freshman year, I have been aspiring to come and use primary sources here at the Library of Congress. Working as a student assistant at Paddock Music Library and Rauner Special Collections Library throughout my time at Dartmouth has also helped me to develop a passion and great respect for librarianship.
It has been a privilege to come to the Library of Congress and witness the functioning of this fascinating institution from an insider’s perspective. The experience has been absolutely wonderful so far. Think Borges and Library of Babel amazing. Not only is the Library of Congress the largest repository of recorded knowledge in the world, but it is also the home of one of the world’s finest collections on the history and culture of Latin America, Iberia, and the Caribbean.
During my internship I’ve been digitizing annual reports for the Hispanic Division and formatting them so that they can be posted on the Division’s website. The Division was founded in 1939, and over the past few weeks I have been able to digitize the reports up until the mid 1960s. To my pleasant surprise, the reports are an over-abundant source of history regarding acquisitions, research questions, records of special visitors to the reading room and the development of partnerships between the Library of Congress and libraries all around the world. There is also detailed documentation on the development of the Handbook of Latin American Studies, founded in 1935, and the recruitment of various scholars as contributing editors.
Right now I’m currently going through the Hispanic Division’s photograph collection and scanning different pamphlets, maps, and photographs to be presented with the annual reports online. One of the most well documented special events in the annual reports was the visit of then Prince Juan Carlos I of Spain in 1958. There are several photographs documenting this historic moment. I’ve included some of them below with the official LC captions.
LC caption: His Royal Highness, Prince Juan Carlos of Spain visited the Library of Congress on May 8, 1958. He was taken on a tour of the library and was greeted by the Librarian of Congress, who presented to him the facsimile published by the Library in 1947 of the Doctrina Christiana, the first book printed in the Philippines (1593).
Above, Prince Juan Carlos examines one of the original copies of the Bill of Rights and the “rough draft” of the Declaration of Independence. Accompanying His Highness are (third from left) William Rivera and (far right) Nathan A. Haverstock of the Library’s Hispanic Foundation.
LC caption: His Royal Highness, Prince Juan Carlos of Spain visited the Library of Congress on May 8, 1958. He was greeted by the Librarian of Congress, L. Quincy Mumford, who presented to him the facsimile book printed in the Philippines (1593).
Above, left to right, His Royal Highness and the Librarian examine the volume following the presentation.
Working on this annual reports project, I’ve gotten to know all the ins and outs of the Hispanic Division, from various details of the architecture of the reading room to a greater understanding of library politics and financing. I’ve also learned a lot about the remarkable historic figures that founded and directed this division like Archer M. Huntington, Lewis Hanke, and Howard F. Cline. One of the most memorable sections of the annual reports that I came across was from the 1957 report when the Division Director Howard F. Cline commented on the role of the Hispanic Division within the greater context of the government (Note that at the time, the Hispanic Division was named “The Hispanic Foundation”). :
“In the wave of anti-intellectualism which seemingly has engulfed many Government agencies and activities, the Hispanic Foundation is self-avowedly an island of intellectuals. It is not at all ashamed to deal in ideas. We believe that the continued and balanced quest for truth is at the core of our effort to make the Hispanic Foundation a center for the pursuit of studies in Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American culture.”
This statement is somewhat of an anomaly, especially within the context of formal annual report writing, but it truly encompasses the underlying mission of the Hispanic Foundation within the greater context of the Library of Congress.
I have also enjoyed learning about how the Hispanic Reading Room, which is located in the Jefferson Building, has changed over the past several decades since it originally opened in 1939. Below are some photographs comparing the Hispanic Division reading room circa 1939 to what it looks like at present.
Although I have learned a lot about the Hispanic Division working on this project, I have to say that it is the Librarians in the Hispanic Division that have made this internship truly remarkable. My supervisor, Dr. Everette Larson, who has been working in the Library of Congress for over 40 years, is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to the collections in this reading room. A few weeks ago, Dr. Larson showed me a facsimile of the Huexotzinco Codex, the first legal case against the Spanish colonial government to be won by the Aztecs in 1531, and a copy of Covarrubia’s “Tesoro de la Lengua Castellana, o Española,” (1611) the first dictionary in Spanish with definitions of the words presented in Spanish (instead of Latin, for instance).
We also had a really interesting conversation about obsolete technology (the library has kept some prehistoric computers for accessing information on floppy disks and other old documentation methods) and we began to compare the loss of human documentation propelled by technology to the loss of languages and academic attempts to retrieve them. In order to illustrate this conundrum, Dr. Larson used the example of “quipu” or talking knots that the Inca used to communicate. Although quipu have been preserved, we have yet to decipher the messages hidden behind this intricate system of knots. After this fascinating conversation, Dr. Larson showed me a gift from the National Library of Peru to the Library of Congress that was an ornate clam shell mimicking the shells which had once been used by Inca messengers to safely transport the quipu centuries ago.
In addition to the projects I’ve been working on in the Hispanic Division, I have tried to take advantage of the events open to the public here at the Library. For instance, in January I had the opportunity of attending a poetry reading by the National Poet Laureate, Natasha Trethewey and just last week I sat next to a Holocaust survivor during a lecture on the various manifestations of the Holocaust in post-war German film. I’ve also taken several reading room orientations in order to learn about the different divisions within the Library. Unfortunately, I only have a few more weeks left here in D.C., but I’m so thankful for the experiences that I have had so far. Being here at the Library of Congress has given me a fresh perspective on my own academic pursuits at Dartmouth and I look forward to returning to campus this spring.
If you are interested in learning more about the Hispanic Division at the Library of Congress, check out the website: http://www.loc.gov/rr/hispanic/
Written by Maria Fernandez ’14