Treinta Años de LAMP—A Brief Look Back

This year, the Latin American Microform Project (LAMP) will mark its 30th anniversary. Formed by the foremost specialists of Latin America in North American libraries through the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials (SALALM), the project was established to promote better access to materials from Latin America that are otherwise unavailable or at risk of being lost to scholars if not preserved. LAMP emphasizes original microfilming of materials and focuses on publications largely inaccessible due to location, environmental conditions, or bibliographic obscurity.

LAMP's early history has been well documented in Carl W. Deal's engaging article The Latin American Micro form Project: The First Decade (originally published in Microform Review, Vol. 15, No. 1, Winter 1986). In the article, Deal highlights some of the early acquisition projects as well as several important aspects and challenges to cooperative microfilming of Latin American material.

At the first meeting of LAMP, the project identified both newspapers and government publications among the most desirable items for acquisition. Over the past 30 years, LAMP has stayed the course of its original vision and continues to highlight these resources in its acquisition. As of 2004, LAMP counts among its holdings more than 500 reels (and 360 microfiche) (continued from page 3) of newspapers representing approximately 300 film years. Its collection of government publications has expanded from its original holdings of Brazilian "Relatórios" (reports of chief administrative officers) to incorporate ministerial reports, presidential messages, official gazettes, statistical bulletins, and important archival holdings.

Of course, the collection extends far beyond these narrow parameters, encompassing literary journals, pamphlet collections and other gray literature, corporate records and institutional archives, and other rich sources for primary research. Given its breadth, the collection can only be covered summarily in a report such as this, and the following will document but a few highlights of the collection and activities of LAMP over the past 30 years.


The collection of reports from Latin American ministries is one of the crown jewels of the project, and by far the most extensive and ambitious microfilming project done by LAMP to date. Latin America's government ministries (Ministerios, or sometimes Secretarías) are the operational organs of the Executive branch, often imbued with substantial authority to promulgate rules and regulations. The official publications of the republics constitute the largest available body of historical documentation about administrative, economic, social, and cultural conditions in these countries. They are a major, and occasionally the exclusive, source for statistical data from early independence periods.

These materials were found to be a compelling project for major preservation efforts, as the documents themselves were often issued in limited runs on poor-quality paper. In the U.S., the materials were scarcely held and dispersed among many scattered collections, often inaccessible due to poor bibliographic control and well along the road to disintegration. In 1985, LAMP successfully applied to the National Endowment for the Humanities for a $255,300 grant to assemble and preserve more than 235 complete or near-complete titles from all Latin American countries. Issues were compiled from the Library of Congress, New York Public Library, and additional institutions, and filmed at the Library of Congress. The project completed its original term in 1992, though LAMP and the Library of Congress continue to cooperate on filming additional titles of this class.

Theological and Religious Periodicals

As Latin America engaged in social and political transformation in the 20th century, grassroots movements were greatly influenced by the belief systems of the responsible individuals. The journals and bulletins issued by various churches and organizations are an important source of study of how religion affected, and was itself changed by, the social, economic, and political environment in the region. Religious journals had been considered early in the project's history, but did not come to the fore until 1991, when Princeton Theological Seminary proposed a project to film ca. 130 religious periodicals from its collection. The journals are derived from 17 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean and represent a wide range of Christian and ecumenical perspectives.

Human Rights Documentation

LAMP has increasingly become more interested in archives with substantial human rights material. LAMP acquired film of a large set of court documents (processos) from Brazil's Military Supreme Court. Copied in secrecy, the Brasil Nunca Mais project documented the cases of more than 7,000 persons arrested, charged, convicted, and/or executed by the court between 1964-1979. In a more recent project, LAMP worked with the Fundación de Protección de la Infancia Dañada por los Estados de Emergencia (PIDEE), a human rights institution in Chile, to organize and preserve case files of children and families affected by the torture and brutal treatment of the Pinochet dictatorship.

International Cooperation

A practice adopted early by LAMP was to cooperate with institutions in Latin America to film materials held in situ. A number of projects involved filming in countries with archival filming capacity. In many cases, LAMP members or scholars would identify institutions or agencies with filming equipment during field visits and negotiate on LAMP's behalf. Later, archives identified through the Harvard University Program for Latin American Libraries and Archives (PLALA) became prime candidates for follow-on preservation activities.

LAMP entered into a Convenio in 1992 with the Biblioteca Nacional in Mexico and the Hemeroteca Nacional to exchange film and work jointly on projects. In 1995, the Biblioteca proposed to film ca. 1,500 bound volumes of books, pamphlets, manuscripts, maps, articles, and other documents held in the Coleccion Lafragua. Many consider the Coleccion unsurpassed for the study of early 19th century Mexican intellectual history. The filmed collection contains almost 20,000 items (on 236 reels), though a comprehensive reel index has been unavailable. LAMP is negotiating the full bibliographic description of the set.

LAMP has also periodically worked with the Biblioteca Nacional in Argentina, most recently in 1997, to film holdings of Critica, an influential title from Buenos Aires considered one of the first modern Latin American newspapers.

International cooperation has never been a particularly simple process, particularly in areas with scarce resources for preservation or restrictive regimes. As a case in point, LAMP sought to participate with the Instituto de Historia de Cuba to preserve valuable scholarly periodicals. However, due to bureaucratic and administrative challenges, this project achieved only moderate success, producing eight titles from the late 19th century on microfiche.

Similarly, LAMPs long-standing project to film Haitian newspapers at the Institution Saint-Louis de Gonzague was challenging and required a high degree of maintenance to stabilize. Conditions in Haiti, as in Cuba, were difficult, especially in the period of government transition in the mid-1980s. The filming agency suffered staffing and power problems, and the destruction of its equipment in riots following the overthrow of Baby Doc Duvalier. Still, these preservation efforts netted more than 50 titles of early Haiti newspapers in scattered runs.

Some projects met worse fates, providing LAMP important lessons on the challenges of working in Latin America. In Bolivia, for example, attempts to preserve material in the corporate archives of the Aramayo-Francke mining company, one of the principal mining ventures of the 19th century, met with one setback after another. The preservation staff was robbed at the rail station on arrival. Labor problems resulting from 10 deaths in the mines caused delays in archival access, and power fluctuations caused several burnouts of the film equipment. Finally, suspicions from the local authorities in Tupiza led to the confiscation of the filming equipment and the threat of incarceration of the filmers effectively terminating the effort. Miraculously, 34 rolls of material were completed and are available for consultation. A copy of the film was delivered to the National Archives in Bolivia.

By far the most successful cooperation with an international partner was with the Biblioteca Nacional do Rio de Janeiro. LAMPs second major project engaged the Biblioteca to microfilm its holdings (and those of the Arquivo Nacional) of the annual reports (Relatórios) of the presidents of the 20 Brazilian provinces published between 1830 (when the provinces were organized) and 1889 (when they became states of the republic). The Biblioteca made extensive efforts to identify and collect all additional reports it could locate in Brazil, creating a far more comprehensive collection.

So successful was the collaboration, LAMP engaged in several subsequent projects with the Biblioteca Nacional (continued from p. 5) to film the Almanak Laemmert (1844- 1889, reporting on the Brazilian Imperial Court), the ministerial reports (Relatórios ministeriais) of the Imperial Period, and provincial presidential reports of the First Republic (1889-1930). Further work, extending the cooperative arrangement through the 1990s, expanded the coverage of ministerial reports through 1960 and added federal presidential reports for the period 1889-1993. The assistance of the staff at the Library of Congress field office in Rio de Janeiro has been invaluable to this effort.

LAMP continues to pursue these types of projects, most recently working with repositories in Brazil and Argentina to film newspapers, journals, and archival collections. The relative strength of preservation capacity in Latin America and increasing contact with archives in the region has allowed for continual new opportunities for the project.

Brazilian Government Document Digitization Project

LAMP was invited to propose a project exploring aspects of digitization from microfilm, and in 1994 the Center was granted $225,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to digitize its collection of Brazilian government publications. Building on the successful cooperation with the Biblioteca Nacional, LAMP selected these materials because of their scarcity, importance, and volume. Completed in December 2000, the project digitized more than 670,000 page images of government publications, as follows:

  • Provincial Presidential Reports, 1823-1930
  • Ministerial Reports, 1821-1960
  • Presidential Reports, 1890-1993
  • E.H. Laemmert Almanak, 1844-1889

Details of this project were presented in past issues of FOCUS (Spring 2002 & March 2000). The detailed final report may be found on the project's Web site.

LAMP's collection is freely available to institutions participating in the project. Other CRL members may benefit through limited borrowing of materials. Items are cataloged in OCLC and available through the Center's online catalog. Any institution may join the project to participate in the selection and preservation of materials and contribute to the strategic direction of the ongoing activities of LAMP. For more information on LAMP, its collections, governance, and news, please visit the LAMP Web site.

LAMP's Important Early Acquisitions

In its first 10 years, LAMP concentrated heavily on valuable newspapers and journals from Latin America, particularly Mexico and Brazil. In the mid-1980s, LAMP also began filming and purchasing archival records in microform. The following are noteworthy early LAMP acquisitions.

  • El Dictamen (Veracruz, Mexico); 1920-1947 This daily was a major early newspaper in Mexico and represented the commercial perspective of merchants in Veracruz and Mexico City.
  • Peru Today and West Coast Leader (Lima, Peru); 1910-1940 These titles are critical for researchers engaged in the study of Andean commercial, industrial, and financial development and its political and social ramifications in the early 20th century. The implantation and expansion of English and American interests in Latin America are essential elements in the historical evolution of the region.
  • Zig-Zag (Santiago de Chile); 1905-1964 Chile's premiere periodical publication, useful for researchers of Chilean politics, literature, and society. This illustrated weekly features contributions from Chile's most respected writers, including Pablo Neruda, Gabriela Mistral, Pedro Prado, and Pablo da Rokha. It is particularly important for the period up to the 1930s.
  • Vertical Files of the Library of the Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños (Hunter College)
    This collection of clippings, pamphlets, flyers, unpublished papers, and reports documents a wide range of social and political developments in Puerto Rico as well as in the barrios of the United States. Most unique are ephemera and periodical publications of political parties and groups such as the Partido Socialista, Partido Comunista, Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico, and others.

Recent LAMP Acquisitions

  • Archivo José E. Miguens
    • The Archivo Miguens, held by the Biblioteca Max von Buch at the Universidad de San Andrés, contains primary source information on public opinion research conducted by the Centro de Investigaciones Motivacionales y Sociales (CIMS) in Argentina from 1958-1973. Polls conducted over this period explored attitudes of the population on such themes as privatization, international conflicts affecting Argentina (especially border disputes), perceptions of political parties, the military, the Catholic Church, social institutions, etc. The polls were conducted in the capital as well as several other cities and regions. A comprehensive index is available at
  • Publicaciones Políticas y Culturales Argentinas (C. 1917-1956)
    • The Centro de Documentación e Investigación de la Cultura de Izquierdas en la Argentina (CeDInCI) specializes in all formats of printed materials issued by the political left and anarchist movements in Argentina. LAMP assisted in a project to preserve periodicals, books, pamphlets, flyers, and other material published by communist, socialist, anti-fascist, and other leftist groups. A comprehensive guide to the collection, published by CeDInCi is available here
  • Nascimento Archive (project in progress)
    • Abidas Nascimento was the first Afro-Brazilian senator in Brazil and an activist for Afro-Brazilian human rights since the early 1930s. The archive chronicles the evolution of 20th century Afro-Brazilian consciousness. It includes personal papers, news clippings, manuscripts, correspondence, theses and dissertations, mimeographed material from various world events, and other ephemera including dramatic works by such groups as the Convict's Theater, founded by Nascimento.
  • Standard (Buenos Aires, Argentina) 1861-1874; 1938-1939; 1942-1959 Filmed at the Universidad de San Andres, this is a major English-language title in Argentina.

LAMP Membership 2004-2005

43 Institutional Members (35 CRL members, *8 non-members)
  • Brigham Young University*
  • Columbia University
  • Cornell University
  • Duke University
  • Harvard University
  • Indiana University
  • Library of Congress*
  • New York Public Library*
  • New York University
  • Ohio State University
  • Princeton University
  • Rice University
  • Rutgers University
  • Stanford University*
  • Tulane University
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • University of California, Irvine
  • 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
  • University of Connecticut*
  • University of Florida
  • University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign
  • University of Kansas
  • University of Massachusetts*
  • University of Miami
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Minnesota
  • University of New Mexico*
  • University of North Carolina
  • University of Notre Dame
  • University of Pennsylvania*
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • University of Southern California
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • University of Toronto
  • University of Virginia
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Yale University