Saturday, 19 September 2015

misty start, bright colours in j's early-autumn garden, latin american gems


Misty start today. Loved how bright it made the colours look in J's early-autumn garden.

I thought the mist would soon clear but it lingered well after I got back from cycling. Should be a summer-like afternoon, though, they say.

Last night I chaired the first event of the Latin American Centre's 50th anniversary weekend: Latin American Gems in the Bodleian Collection: Ancient Mesoamerican Manuscripts.

Fascinating talks from all the speakers - Virginia Lladó-Buisán, Head of Conservation and Collection Care at the Bodleian Libraries, Professor Maarten Jansen and Mrs Gabina Aurora Pérez from Leiden University and Dr Halbert Jones who runs the North American Programme at St Antony’s College.

There will be a podcast of the event available at some point and I'll post the link on jtns.

Professor Jansen's talk focused on the magnificent Selden Roll, which is on display in the Bodleian Proscholium till 1st November. The exhibition can be viewed during library hours and is free.

Here is my intro to the event:

It is a great honour to be chairing this event at the start of the weekend’s celebrations of the Latin American Centre’s 50th anniversary.

Indeed this is a year of double celebration at the Centre because the Bodleian Latin American Centre Library is itself 40 years old.

What started as a few shelves of books has grown into a 16,000 volume specialist politics and economics collection, which includes a substantial history section. In addition, there are some 200 boxes of what is euphemistically called 'grey' literature. Nothing grey about this literature.

The boxes contain fascinating donations from the region which have been made over the years by visiting scholars, by students returning from field trips and, most importantly, by our alumni.

It is fitting in this celebratory year that the contents of these boxes, arranged by country, have successfully been added to the University library catalogue, thanks to the hard work over a number of years of my colleagues Rebeca Otazua and Sam Truman.

I should, I think, put my role at the Centre’s library in context. I have been there for just over a 10th of the Centre’s existence. I am enduringly grateful to the work of my predecessors Ruth Hodges and Laura Salinas who managed the library for many years and who gave so much valuable advice to me about the collections.

When I arrived at the Centre I was immediately struck by the warm and inclusive welcome from my new colleagues, both administrative and academic. It is the warmth of the family atmosphere at the Centre that is one of its most engaging strengths - and it is one that, talking to alumni, has been there since the early days, making the Centre such a supportive and positive place to teach and study, and indeed, to be a librarian.

Students at the Centre, however, have not simply our collections at their disposal. They have the immense opportunity of deepening their understanding of the subject area by consulting the wider collections of the Bodleian library and the other libraries within its group. Over the last four years or so I and my colleague at the Taylor Joanne Edwards have tried hard to promote this wide-ranging and very widespread broader collection and to point students in its many directions.

At the heart of these broader collections are the historic texts that the Bodleian has been collecting - well, since the 17th century, as it happens. It was these books that now Emeritus Fellow of the Centre Malcolm Deas and the late Robert McNeil of the Bodleian - a great Latin Americanist - did so much to draw scholars’ attention to.

At the apex of these historic books, of course, are the Gems that we are here to learn about this afternoon.

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