19th Century Broadsides in the Helguera Colombian Collection

About the Project

The J. León Helguera Collection at Vanderbilt University houses over a thousand broadsides from nineteenth and early twentieth-century Colombia. Dean's Fellow, Emma Banks, reviewed and selected 150 of the most important of these documents for digitization to be incorporated into the database, researched their context, and prepared an online exhibit, Rebellion and Nation Building in 19th-Century Colombia, with accompanying essays. The broadsides together with the pamphlets, newspapers and programas, form one of Vanderbilt’s most significant special collections and one of the most important Colombian collections worldwide. Many of these resources are not held in the national archive in Colombia and many are unique to Vanderbilt.

In nineteenth-century Colombia, people used broadsides to announce events, proclaim political decrees, spread important news, and report on local gossip. Printers usually produced broadsides in a single batch for quick distribution. People would generally post broadsides in local stores, churches, and municipal buildings where the pages were generally discarded or covered with a new poster within a few days. The impressive Helguera Collection of these 19th-century ephemeral documents is an important resource for scholars of Colombia and offers a window into the day-to-day reality of 19th-century Colombia.

Emma Banks

About the Fellow

Emma Banks is a PhD student in cultural anthropology. She conducts ethnographic research in La Guajira, Colombia, home to the world’s largest open pit coalmine. Her dissertation project focuses on the ways in which Colombian laws aimed at mitigating land and resource conflicts have led to new tensions between rural communities, natural resource extraction corporations, and state institutions as they debate how to distribute land and resource wealth. She hopes her research can contribute to improving Colombia’s post-conflict land redistribution policies to better meet the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized people. After graduating with a BA from Cornell University, she lived and worked in Cochabamba, Bolivia, for two years. Her research interests include corporations, natural resource extraction, spatial analysis, the state, violence, development, law, and conflict. She has an ongoing interest in how history and anthropology inform each other, believing that we must understand the past if we wish to comprehend the present.


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