LAMP Project History

The Latin American Microform Project: The First Decade

by Carl W. Deal
Originally published in Microform Review, v. 15, no. 1, Winter 1986, 22–27
[For a more recent article, see "Treinta Años de LAMP—A Brief Look Back" (FOCUS 2005)]


With a major interest in providing scholars in the United States and abroad with microform copies of materials not readily available, and with a commitment to the preservation of materials in danger of being lost or becoming inaccessible due to a variety of causes, the Latin American Microform Project (LAMP) has built an impressive catalog of completed projects and has in progress a number of ambitious and important new activities. The project was developed by a committee of the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials (SALALM) in cooperation with the Center for Research Libraries (CRL) after several years of careful study and planning. (1) From a founding membership of sixteen libraries in 1975, it has increased in 1985 to twenty-nine member libraries.

LAMP is one of four foreign area cooperative microform projects administered through the Center for Research libraries that focus on Latin America, Africa, Southeast Asia (under two related programs), and South Asia. (2) The program that most influenced the goals and policies of LAMP is the Cooperative Africana Microform Project (CAMP), the oldest of the CRL area programs. Moderate annual membership dues for these five programs, which range from $200 to $1,000, has made it possible for most interested institutions to participate. The annual membership in LAMP of $500 has not changed since the project was inaugurated.

Governed by an Executive Committee that meets during the annual meetings of SALALM, it has been customary for LAMP representatives to consult not only with scholars from the member institutions but to confer with representatives of professional Latin American organizations like the Conference on Latin American History and the Scholarly Resources Committee of the Latin American Studies Association. The open meetings of the LAMP Executive Committee, which are conducted during the annual SALALM conferences, attract librarians from member and nonmember institutions alike, and they provide a very broad forum that is helpful in making project decisions. A staff member of the Center for Research Libraries acts as the permanent coordinator for the project.


LAMP is administered by an Executive Committee consisting of six institutional representatives selected from the full LAMP Committee which is comprised of representatives from each of the subscribing project members. In order to maintain close ties with acquisition, preservation, and other activities undertaken by the Library of Congress (LC), the LAMP representative of the LC serves as an ex-officio member of the Executive Committee unless serving as a full member. This liaison has been a key to the success of original microfilming that has been in progress since 1978 in Rio de Janeiro, where the Library of Congress Office has actively facilitated LAMP filming agreements with Brazilian institutional partners.

The permanent coordinator from CRL also serves as an ex-officio member of the Executive Committee, and is funded by LAMP to attend the annual meetings. Among the coordinator’s responsibilities are the circulation of ballots for voting on new projects that require decision by the full LAMP Committee, the distribution of agendas and minutes of annual meetings, and the administration of funds that support the activities undertaken by the project. All microforms are ordered, stored, and circulated by CRL in accordance with the LAMP prospectus and CRL policies. The other area projects affiliated with CRL are coordinated in much the same way.

A prospectus describes the objectives and goals of LAMP and provides for the responsibilities and privileges of membership. (3) Presently, CRL circulates LAMP materials only to project subscribers, and membership is open to any nonprofit institution, although membership in CRL is not required. The focus of LAMP is directed toward unique filming and preservation projects that CRL is neither staffed nor equipped to carry out for its broader membership. Scholars who require use of LAMP materials, but who do not belong to a member institution, may request copies of original LAMP microforms by paying only a percentage of the original cost of the negative and the cost of the positive, or they may use the materials in a LAMP members library.

Microfilming Activities

At its first meeting in 1975, the LAMP Executive Committee decided to begin establishing an inventory of holdings by concentrating its modest resources provided from sixteen institutional memberships on the purchase of microfilms on Mexico and Brazil, (4) the countries of greatest interest to the membership at that time. Sixty reels of positive film already available for the Mexico City Newspaper, Siglo XIX (1841–96) were LAMP’s first purchase. In keeping with this initial policy, several original Brazilian filming projects were also approved in the early years. Among those were filming of three important document collections published in Sao Paulo: “Atas da Camara da Cidade de Sao Paulo,” “Registro geral da Camara da Cidade de Sao Paulo,” and “Inventorios e testamentos; papeis que perteneceram ao lo cartorio de orfaos da capital.”

The preservation filming of journals, which has been a primary goal from the beginning, began as funds accumulated and the project was able, financially, to expand beyond its initial focus on Mexico and Brazil.  Thus, filming of two popular cultural and political journals, Siempre from Mexico and Ercilla from Chile also were undertaken by 1979, after copyright permission was secured from the publishers by scholars who were engaged in field research in those countries. While Siempre, which was filmed in this country by CRL and which LAMP updates on a continuing basis, is now available, Ercilla is being filmed for LAMP by the Biblioteca Nacional in Santiago, Chile and is only partially complete. This illustrates that filming in the United States usually provides faster results although, in the case of Siempre, assembling a complete collection for filming by CRL required the acquisition of missing issues by a LAMP member from the Hemeroteca Nacional (National Periodicals and Newspaper Library) in Mexico City. It has been LAMP’s constant experience that for journals it desires to film, it is often not possible to assemble complete files from holdings in North America, and contacts in the field by LAMP library representatives and Latin Americanist scholars have been essential to the completion of a number of microfilming projects undertaken in Chicago by CRL.

It became evident early to LAMP members that there are special advantages to a microform consortium. Not only does cooperative purchasing expand the amount of material available to the participants, it also provides a network for a more effective identification of titles for filming and for locating the most complete files available for filming. (5) This networking advantage is important since it is often required to combine holdings from various locations to complete a project. Because standard guides like the Library of Congress’ “Union List of Serials and Newspapers in Microform,” Rosa Mesa’s “Latin American Serial Documents,” and Steven M. Charno’s “Latin American Newspapers in United States Libraries” are often incomplete in the holdings they report, the location of important titles in a number of unreported repositories by LAMP participants has been extremely useful and necessary. Furthermore, a number of important journals and newspapers considered for filming by LAMP have been referred for preservation by the Library of Congress, including La Nacion, a leading daily Buenos Aires newspaper, and “Suplemento Literario,” an important Brazilian literary supplement to the official gazette of the state of Belo Horizonte, Brazil. This practice permits LAMP to use its modest resources for other original filming projects, and at the same time provides an opportunity to identify titles and make helpful recommendations on preservation to the Library of Congress.

At its second meeting in May 1976, the LAMP Executive Committee voted to use the greater part of its funds in the future for original filming and to purchase positives of existing negatives of materials only when they are not widely held by its members. This practice has been followed since then, including the filming of Siempre, Ercilla, and the three collections of Brazilian documents already mentioned, to which can be added the original filming of the Buckley collection of newspaper clippings on revolutionary Mexico, completed in 1985 at the Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas, Austin. Original microfilming of the Brazilian relatorios is a major project which has been in progress since negotiations began in 1976 in Rio de Janeiro, and filming of the West Coast Leader, a leading weekly newspaper from Lima completed by Yale University Library for CRL in 1980, the first year of Uno mas uno from Mexico City (completed by CRL in 1980), and Zig-Zag from Santiago (completed by CRL in 1982) are other original microfilming projects that distinguish LAMP’s holdings.

Foreign Microfilming Projects

The foreign projects undertaken in Brazil, Chile, and Mexico have required field negotiations by LAMP participants, and filming of journals or newspapers for which copyrights are still in effect have required written permission and/or collaboration of the publishers. Extensive projects like the Brazilian relatorios, which must be carried out in foreign repositories are always complicated. In the case of the Brazilian project, LAMP representatives personally negotiated the project with the directors of the Biblioteca Nacional and the Arquivo Nacional in Rio de Janeiro. The final agreement called for LAMP to provide funds for salaries of the microfilm technicians and materials (raw film, bulbs, etc.). The materials were sent by CRL to Brazil through the Library of Congress Office in Rio de Janeiro. The Brazilian partners secured local grants for providing students to collate and prepare the material for filming and to underwrite other project costs. Since the great majority of the relatorios filmed for this project have been indexed for statistics by Anne Hartness Graham, they are especially accessible to scholars. (6)

The relatorios of the Brazilian Imperial Period of 1822–89 are the official records of the government that appear as annual reports of the chief administrative officers, at that time known as presidents (governors), of the twenty Brazilian provinces. The original cooperative filming undertaken by LAMP with its Brazilian partners, which would expand later to include filming relatorios of the period of the First Republic after 1889, and also the annual reports of principal Brazilian government ministries of the twentieth century, is truly a significant and rapid advance for Brazilian research in a broad range of social, political, and economic topics. The bringing together of widely dispersed documents in a single Brazilian location for preservation microfilming under Library of Congress standards, with copies made available to scholars in both Brazil and North America, is a proud LAMP accomplishment.

Cooperation in this project was enthusiastic from the start as the Brazilian partners went beyond the original agreement to search out in regional archives additional relatorios or copies more acceptable for filming than those found in the Biblioteca Nacional or the Arquivo Nacional. The success of this project also led to further cooperation in filming the Almanak Laemmert (1884–89) and the “Relatorios ministeriais” (annual reports) of the ministries of the Treasury, War, Interior, Justice, Navy, and Foreign Relations from approximately 1825 to 1890. With the expansion of the project in 1982 to film these annual reports into the twentieth century, this collaboration promises to continue.

It is amply evident that reciprocity between LAMP and foreign repositories has been advantageous to all institutions involved. As a matter of policy, LAMP has provided a copy free of charge for the foreign repository or publisher. In the case of microfilming now underway for Ercilla in Chile and for the Brazilian relatorios in Rio de Janeiro, those projects have been facilitated by CRL’s provision of raw film through official U.S. government channels. If purchased in those countries, the price of the raw film would have made the costs of the Projects prohibitive not only for LAMP but for the cooperating foreign repositories as well. The costs to LAMP participants is especially attractive with the cost per reel in 1980 figured by CRL at $4.32 per roll. Five years later the per reel cost per member has decreased slightly in spite of the rising cost of raw film and labor.

Original filming with a foreign partner is not always possible to sustain over a long period of time, as has been the case with the filming of Uno mas uno, a leading Mexico City daily newspaper. LAMP negotiated with the publisher to provide a microfilm copy for the publisher and for LAMP, and the early successful stage of the project saw the completion of almost all issues (nos. 1–670) that appeared from November 1977 to September 1979. The project was interrupted and the newspaper announced the availability of a microfilm copy directly from the publisher. The availability of only 16mm microfilm copy, however, and the absence of readily accessible information from the publisher seem to have prevented the publisher from marketing the microfilm widely outside of Mexico. It is possible new negotiations could reopen the very successful initial relationship. Additional foreign based projects that have required time and site visits to implement have been the filming in Mexico City of two out-of-print newspapers, the Semana Mercantile and El Dictamen, the latter of which has been completed.

The reluctance of prospective foreign partners to cooperate in filming or in selling positive copies of existing microfilms to LAMP has been encountered on several occasions. This was particularly disappointing in the case of one institution that refused to sell a microfiche copy of important labor archives it had filmed. Even the intervention of a noted scholar in the field for LAMP was unsuccessful in arranging a sale or exchange for other LAMP materials. This reluctance is seen as a reaction of the foreign repository to claim of U.S. research colonialism which have been voiced frequently in Latin American academic circles over the years.

The most recent major original microfilm project completed was the filming of the premier Chilean magazine Zig-Zag (1905–67). LAMP contracted with the University of Utah Library for the filming of this journal, which is now complete in 218 reels. Combined with a selection of more than fifty Latin American newspapers and journals which appear in the LAMP catalog, this represents a major addition to the prominent body of periodical and journal literature available to the membership.

Microfilming in the Caribbean and Central America

In recent years LAMP’s interests have moved into the Caribbean and Central American regions. There have been serious but futile efforts to complete runs of the Nicaraguan opposition newspaper, La Prensa, from holdings in this country and from the publisher in Managua. Censorship by the government, causing periodic cessations of the newspaper difficult to track abroad, have made this a priority concern of LAMP. There is further fear that government action against the newspaper might result in destruction of back numbers not held anywhere else in North America. The project has offered to provide additional funding to allow the microfilming of available current issues as soon as possible through the Foreign Newspaper Microfilm Project, which is managed by CRL. Efforts have also been made to film this daily newspaper for the period prior to 1966, which is not held in microfilm by the Foreign Newspaper Microfilm Project.

Two very recent LAMP projects have focused on the Caribbean: one on Puerto Rico and one on Haiti. The Puerto Rican project is the first filming of an archive undertaken by LAMP. Completed in 1985, it preserves in microfiche the vertical file materials of the Library of the Centro de Estudios Puertorriquenios, now housed in the Centro at Hunter College of the City University of New York.

The second Caribbean undertaking, approved in 1984, is an ambitious project that selects from the Haitian periodicals in the Saint Louis de Gonzague Collection in Port-au-Prince, Haiti for filming. This remarkable collection of some 330 Haitian newspapers and journals is especially rich for the period of 1840 to the present. The project, which also has been provided with funds from the Ford Foundation, allows for the selection and filming of titles in this collection not held by other libraries in Haiti or elsewhere. Begun in 1984, it continues under the direction of Professor Leon-Francois Hoffman of Princeton University.

Institutions participating in LAMP represent varying and different foci of research and library needs. While LAMP’s revised 1985 Prospectus reiterates that it will conduct original filming whenever possible, it also continues to permit the purchase of positive copies of microfilms. The evaluation of the purchase of positive copies is carefully undertaken to avoid undue duplication; in fact, an evaluation of the purchase of literary periodicals from one commercial vendor led to the discovery that the materials being offered were not second generation positive copies made directly from the camera negative.** As a result, the original negatives were located for some titles in order to purchase the best possible copy.

New Sources for LAMP Funding

A new initiative is being undertaken by LAMP to secure outside funds to film Latin American serial documents. The project has supported the planning and development of a proposal by a librarian who is an expert in this field. In the planning stage the importance of Latin American serial documents to research in the area has been carefully analyzed and documented, and decisions identifying documents to be selected for filming are underway. If funded, this project can contribute to better management on a national scale of this important and large body of poorly accessible and rapidly deteriorating research material, and will have a very broad reaching and positive impact on libraries and scholarly research on Latin America.

The CRL Connection

From the day it was founded, the policies of LAMP have been closely related to those of the Center for Research Libraries, which now counts more than one hundred full institutional library members. Scholars should pay special note to the holdings of the Center described in its Handbook (7) as well as to those mentioned in a special list of Latin American holdings at CRL prepared in 1979. (8) Important items on microfilm that are not LAMP titles, but are available to the full CRL membership are a collection of the “Diario de los debates” of the Mexican Congress for 1857–75 and the “Diario de los debates” for both the Mexican Camara de Diputados and the Senado for the period of 1875–1914. In addition there are holdings of many Latin American newspapers, especially for the leading dailies of many countries from the period of 1954 to the present, which are included in the Foreign Newspaper Microfilm Project. Extensive holdings of official gazettes are also owned by CRL, although these are not currently maintained.

Most recently the Center was one of some ten subscribers along with several LAMP institutions to a cooperative project conducted by Clearwater Publishing Co., Inc. with the Public Records Office in London to film the British Foreign Office Records of Mexico for 1920–48. Before undertaking the contract, the publisher was able to identify within the CRL and LAMP membership sufficient interest to complete negotiations with the Public Records Office.

CRL can now stretch limited resources by referring to LAMP and other special area studies programs purchase requests for microforms of more specific interest. Thus, the purchase of the “Wesleyan Missionary Society Archives” for the West Indian Section, which was referred to and purchased by LAMP assured, availability of these archives to a wide group of Latin American scholars. Similar purchases by the Cooperative Africana Microform Project and the South Asia Microform Project made similar purchases of the Society's archives in their respective areas. Another archive that LAMP purchased because of limited interest within CRL was the Gibbs Archive, which includes the papers for the period of 1805–1903 of Anthony Gibbs and Sons, a London merchant and banking house that maintained major centers of activity in Chile, Peru, Mexico, Argentina, and other Latin American trading and banking centers.

There is no doubt that the interdependence of LAMP and CRL to serve scholarship through cooperation has led to the obvious successes of the project. The nature of that relationship has been formed by LAMP’s ability to identify and undertake very special projects in the United States, as well as in Latin America, which CRL could not hope to attempt nor have approved by the larger CRL membership. Likewise, without the administrative infrastructure and support that CRL has so effectively provided, the LAMP consortium of libraries could not have realized many of these projects. That close cooperative relationship is perhaps the most important dynamic that has made the first decade of LAMP activities so successful.


By any standard of evaluation, LAMP has proved to be a viable program. In its first decade, it has produced an inventory of materials that would have been impossible to assemble except through a cohesive and cooperative effort undertaken by its members with the Center for Research Libraries. During this time, the project has acquired some 1,200 reels of microfilms of more than ninety titles and projects of which 650 reels have resulted from the original filming of fifty-five titles and collections. Research materials on Brazil, formerly inaccessible in a single repository, are now available in both Brazil and North America and are having significant impact on new Brazilian scholarship. The preservation of original archives, newspapers, and journals just described are only some of the LAMP projects that will benefit present and future generations of Latin Americanist scholars. A complete list of LAMP titles in microform would be too long to provide here, but it may be requested from the Center for Research Libraries.

Benefits to participants, as the project increases its resources, will become massive as they continue to accumulate in the years ahead. An expansion of activities is already under study, which will investigate the exchange of microforms held by LAMP with institutions in Western Europe. This theme will be explored fully at the thirty-first annual meeting of SALALM to be held in Berlin on April 21-25, 1986, at the Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut.

While the potential number of members for LAMP is of course limited, some future growth can be expected. Growth, small or large, will broaden the interest of other institutions in the project and expand its ability to better serve the research needs of its members and of the Latin American research community. More information on LAMP, conditions of membership, etc., is available upon request from the LAMP Coordinator at the Center for Research Libraries, 6050 South Kenwood, Chicago, Illinois 60637.

Libraries from the following institutions are LAMP subscribers:

  • University of California–Berkeley
  • University of California–Davis
  • University of California–Los Angeles
  • University of California–Riverside
  • University of California–San Diego
  • University of California–Santa Barbara
  • University of California–Santa Cruz
  • University of Chicago Library
  • Columbia University Libraries
  • Cornell University
  • Harvard University Library
  • University of Houston
  • University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign
  • University of Kansas
  • Library of Congress
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Minnesota
  • New York Public Library
  • Ohio State University
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • Princeton University
  • Rutgers University
  • Stanford University
  • University of Texas–Austin
  • University of Toronto
  • Tulane University
  • University of Wisconsin
  • Yale University Library


  1. Carl W. Deal, “The Latin American Microform Project,” Foreign Acquisitions Newsletter 43 (Spring 1976): 7–12. This article describes the activities of the organizing committee. For additional information on organization and LAMP's original prospectus see also Carl W. Deal. “The Latin American Microform Project (LAMP) Is Inaugurated,” SALALM Newsletter 3:3 (March 1976): 11–16.
  2. Ray Boylan and Cecelia L. Shores, “Collecting Retrospective Material From Developing Nations: A Cooperative Approach through Microforms,” Library Acquisitions: Practice and Theory 6 (1982): 211–19. The authors examine the functions, goals, and policies of the four projects.
  3. “The Latin American Microform Project Prospectus” (Chicago: Center for Research Libraries, 1975). This document is periodically amended, but original goals and objectives described therein virtually have remained unchanged.
  4. Latin American Microform Project. Minutes of the Meeting of the Latin American Microform Project Committee, Meeting of December 15, 1975. While the minutes of LAMP are a source for this article, hereafter they are not attributed specific citations.
  5. Boylan and Shores, op. cit. The authors note that files for filming are assembled at CRL, but the actual filming is done by the Photoduplication Department of the University of Chicago.
  6. Ann Hartness Graham, “Subject Guide to Statistics in the Presidential Reports of the Brazilian Provinces, 1830–1889.” (Guides and Bibliographies Series: 9) (Austin: Institute of Latin American Studies, University of Texas, 1977.) The LAMP project includes an additional twenty-five percent of material not indexed in this work.
  7. CRL Handbook. (Chicago: Center for Research Libraries, 1981). Those interested in the full range of CRL’s purchasing policies should review this handbook and its latest Supplement published in 1984.
  8. Ray Boylan, comp. “Latin American and Caribbean Research Materials Available from the Center for Research Libraries,” Rev. ed. (Chicago: Center for Research Libraries, 1979).
    • Carl W. Deal is the Director of Library Collections in the University Library of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Urbana, IL
    • Editor’s Note: Microforms from commercial vendors are usually third-generation positive copies made from second-generation negative printing masters.

Reprinted by permission from K. G. Saur, Ortlerstr. 8, D-81373 Munich, Germany.

April 17, 1912 edition of El Mercurio

LAMP has acquired microfilm for 1909–13 issues of the Santiago, Chile newspaper El Mercurio, which was founded in 1900. Today the conservative title is considered the country’s newspaper-of-record.