Monday December 11th 2017

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Why travel?

On the same trip that took him to Machu Picchu, Hiram Bingham purchased an enormous cache of manuscripts, printed books and periodicals that are among Yale University’s prized possessions.  A century after Bingham’s acquisition, I’m visiting Lima on behalf of the Benson Latin American Collection. But I get ahead of myself.

The passage of time and the consistent investment of library funds in the region has diminished the expeditionary character of working in Peru– llamas are no longer employed, DHL is. But the excitement of discovery remains very much a part of working here.

Because it is too fugitive to identify, too cheap to profitably distribute, or in formats that booksellers disdain, much of what scholars desire to view cannot be acquired through established channels.  For instance, this trip enabled the purchase of Peruvian feature films, many of which are located nowhere in North American research libraries, and a side trip to Bolivia brought back (alive) a collection of early 20th century photographs from Amazonia. Hiram would be proud!

Travel also nourishes relationships in a country where face-to-face contact remains a coin of the realm. Over the past year I have met twice with the director of Peru’s National Library to establish an agreement that deposits the personal papers of the feminist poet and political activist, Magda Portal, in the National Library and sends scanned images of the materials to Austin for mounting in our digital library. Expect additional details soon.

Your man in Lima,

David

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