The Role of Collecting Diaries, Journals and Photographs for Genealogical Research: Case Studies (2014)

Moderator: Donna Canevari de Paredes, University of Saskatchewan
Rapporteur: Jill E. Baron, Dartmouth College

John B. Wright, Brigham Young University
Discovering Self through Ancestors’ Diaries

Peter Altekrüger, Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut PK, Berlin
De Amor, Crimen y Cotidianidad. Las Revistas Teatrales y Colecciones de Novelas Cortas Argentinas del Instituto Ibero-Americano

Ricarda Musser, Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut PK, Berlin
Cultural Magazines of Latin America. An Acquisition and Digitalization Project of the Ibero-American Institute / Berlin

Silvana Jacqueline Aquino Remigio, Biblioteca Españade la Artes del Centro Cultural de la Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Peru
Las Fotografías como Fuente de Información Genealógica: Breve Mirada al Caso del Archivo Courret

John Wright described growing up hearing family stories about his great-great-grandfather Oliverson.  In 1992, he transcribed James Oliverson’s diaries, consisting of 2 volumes: 1884-1886, 1886-1888, plus a smaller book on business dealings.  In the process of doing this transcription, he also did genealogical research.  He found references to Oliverson in the Brigham Young guide to Mormon diaries and among volumes in the Utah Historical Society, where he found a total of 12 diaries ranging from 1882-1893.  These diaries documented business transactions, such as selling butter, and lumber dealings.  John and his father transcribed the diaries and did research on the period, trying to complete the historical context of the diaries.  In sum, he found that although the diaries were written for personal use, they offer a poignant description of life at the time and offer raw material for reconstruction of the past.

Paloma Celis-Carbajal proxied for Silvana Jacqueline Aquino Remigio, as Silvana was not able to attend SALALM.  Silvana’s presentation described the photographic archives of Courret, a French photographer who lived in Lima, Peru in the 19th century.  Courret was one of the first photographers in Peru.  He arrived in Lima in 1860, where he set up a studio and photographed Limeño society.  Courret won many prizes for his work, and the archive includes around 70 years worth of material.  Peru received many immigrants from 1850-1950, and the photographs register this growth and diversification of the population. The Biblioteca España de las Artes del Centro Cultural de la Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Perú, with the cooperation of the French government, is now digitizing the collection, and efforts will be made to identify the subjects of the photographs.  This effort will involve user cooperation/input, and eventually the resource will be invaluable for investigating social, cultural and family history and immigration patterns in Peru.

Peter Altekrüger presented on a long-term project at the Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut to collect and digitize Argentine popular literature from the early 20th century, including theater magazines and short novels, or revistas teatrales and novelas cortas.  This project represents 10 years worth of collecting these materials, and benefited from investment from the German government of $300,000, which paid for 10 people, digital infrastructure, the catalog and travel.  The revistas teatrales and novelas cortas represent a popular genre, started in 1917.  Buenos Aires was a center for theater, and these materials were originally sold in the street, in kiosks, for theater-goers.  Writers for the magazines were both known and unknown.  The magazines include portraits of actors, caricatures, comedies, pieces about football, advertisements, and depict the increase of working women, the marriage crisis, tango, quotidian life, eroticism.  In sum, these materials reflect the growth of Buenos Aires in the 1920s, due to considerable immigration.

The collection at the IAI of revistas teatrales comprises 160 titles, or around 6000 issues, and is unique in its breadth and depth.  In 2013, the majority of the collection was digitized and put online.  Digitization is the only means of saving these materials as the magazines were printed on highly acidic paper. Every item is cataloged in the OPAC in addition to the digital presentation.  300,000 pages are digitized, which include maps, photographs.  The IAI put on an exhibit about these materials, which will travel to the Biblioteca nacional de Argentina in 2015.

Digital library of revistas teatrales.
"De amor, crimen y cotidianeidad" exhibit 

Ricarda Musser spoke about a new digitization project at the IAI involving Latin American cultural magazines.  The term “cultural magazines” encompasses a wide spectrum, including the humanities, sciences, arts, etc., particularly during the period for this project, 1880-1930.  What is more, the form of the articles in these magazines is diverse: stories, poems, interviews, reviews, and illustrations.  Ultimately they hope to produce a digital library of around 80 Latin American cultural magazines.

For this project, the IAI benefited from funding from a German research foundation that awards grants to research libraries for developing collections and initiating new lines of research. They selected 80 titles from 6 countries, including Caras y caretas (Buenos Aires).  With the funding, they were able to acquire collections and digitize them.  However, they struggled with incomplete sets of magazines and sometimes poor condition of paper.  To fill gaps in holdings, they have sought out the antiquarian book market in Peru and Argentina.  For other items they may try to collaborate with libraries.  Cataloging was performed with IAI money. It will take 36 months to finish the project.  They started in June 2013 with “Nativa” (Argentina) 1924-1973, and all who are interested should contact Ricarda for a complete list of titles.

Moderator Donna Canevari de Paredes (University of Saskatchewan) asked John Wright what was the most surprising thing you found in the diaries?  He answered that he didn’t know that his great-great-grandfather had lived in Montana for a time.  John kept finding references to “Dylan,” and realized that he was talking about a town in Montana.  The process of transcribing the diaries revealed a real person.

Irene Munster (University of Maryland) asked Peter if any of the titles that you are digitizing were intended for immigrants?  Peter answered that among them include translations of Russian authors, but otherwise does not know.  Ultimately he hopes that scholars will be able to answer this question.  He is surprised already at the amount of interest in these materials; already 30 scholars from Argentina have come to use these materials, studying all manner of topics.

David Block (University of Texas) asked Peter if he started collecting these materials at the suggestion of your researchers, or of your own doing?  Peter answered that this project was originally his own idea.  When they started, they had about 20 titles, and it seemed doable, but with each trip, he found more and more titles and the project grew.  While the bibliographic description seemed good, he later found that it is often wrong, and has been a significant challenge.  Into the future, they may not continue to collect at the same scale.