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Library Fellows Projects

Fall 2016 Library Fellows Project

Helguera Colombiana Collection

Description: The Library Fellows will review Vanderbilt's rare collection of early 20th century Colombian pamphlets that comprise a portion of the Helguera Collection of Colombiana to select the most important documents to be incorporated into the database, research their context, and prepare an online exhibit with accompanying essays.

Background: The pamphlets, broadsides, 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. Previously, a former Dean’s Fellow reviewed the 19th century pamphlet collection and selected over 300 documents to be digitized and described, also placing each within the context of Latin American and Colombian history. Additionally, as part of an independent study, she wrote essays on major themes in Colombian 19th-century history and selected pamphlets to form part of an online exhibition. The 300 pamphlets were also added to the Helguera database. This proposed project will create a new digital collection of early 20th century materials with an exhibit highlighting principal themes and issues in Colombia’s more recent history.

Collection Description: The Helguera collection provides special insights into the social, political, and cultural life of Latin America through ephemeral materials that few collectors retained. The Helguera collection of pamphlets from 1900-1935 consists of over 1,500 items and is wide ranging in scope.  It includes topics such as: the Panama Canal and secession, presidential messages, government reports, literature, civil war, border disputes, mining, railroads, industry, race, indigenous issues, and homages to heroes.  These are materials not available in the US or Colombia and their digitization will be of great value to scholars engaged in 20th century Latin American history.  Historians in Oxford, Colombia and Switzerland have all written testimonials in support of digitizing these resources.

Project: The goal is to make 100 of the most important pamphlets available in the online Helguera database with descriptive metadata.  The Fellow will also write essays on selected themes within it and will construct an online exhibit of significant materials relating to the chosen themes.  The website will be reconfigured to better showcase the online exhibits and the search capabilities of the entire database.  The Dean’s Fellow will develop research skills relating to Colombia and its social and political history as well as curatorial skills.

Scanning will be done in the Central Library with OCR.  It is estimated that approximately 100 (or more if time permits) pamphlets will be selected, described, given metadata and scanned to form part of the database.  Approximately 30 of these could be selected to be included in the essays. A liaison in Technical Services will collaborate on the metadata creation to insure consistency (since metadata exists for the 19th century collection materials an initial thesaurus exists).

Select materials to be prioritized for digitization and design and prepare an online exhibition of selected images and text that reflects the society and culture of early 20th-century Colombia.

Become familiar with Colombian social and political history and the appropriate historical reference resources, with the help of the Latin American Bibliographer.

The exhibition should reflect several key themes in history based on the strength of the collection (e.g., education, the church, Panamanian secession, the role of women).

Develop descriptions of the pamphlets to be included in the digital collection and in the online exhibition.

Skills Needed Or To Be Developed: 

  • Knowledge of Spanish required.
  • Organizational skills and a demonstrated ability to meet deadlines
  • An interest in Latin American history and culture
  • Strong writing skills


Skills to be Acquired:

  • Research skills using primary sources to gather information about Colombian events described in the broadsides
  • Web design for online exhibit and metadata creation

Mentors: Paula Covington, Latin American Librarian; Kathy Smith, Associate Director of Special Collections and University Archives; Carla Beals, Digital Projects and Exhibits Coordinator, Vanderbilt University Library

Dates of Employment: Fall 2016

Potential Candidates: Students interested in Latin American social history, literature, and culture

Contact: Paula Covington  or (931) 308-1761

Please follow the Application Process to apply for this fellowship. Applications will be accepted through April 4, 2016.

See other Fall 2016 Fellowships