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MEAP in South America: Digital Archives and Contemporary History

Join the Modern Endangered Archives Program for an online symposium exploring cultural heritage preservation in South America. The event will introduce new digital archives and feature a robust discussion on how digitization can shift research about and understanding of South America.

The Modern Endangered Archives Program at the UCLA Library has been funding projects to document and digitize at-risk cultural heritage materials around the world since 2019. 31% of these funded projects have been focused on preserving archival materials in South America. What kind of impact has MEAP made in the field of Latin American archives through these first five years of funding? How have individual projects and the expansion of digital archives opened up new opportunities for exploring and understanding 20th Century South American History?

This online symposium will take up these questions from the perspective of project leads and consider how collections from across South America document histories of profound transformation in the region. Bruno Witzel de Souza (Ibicaba Project, Brazil), Felipe Bellocq (Alonso Collection, Uruguay), and Ruth Borja and Charles Walker (Peruvian Peasant Confederation Archive) will discuss the process of converting physical archival material into digital collections, revealing both successes and challenges as they worked through the Covid-19 pandemic to share different kinds of historical materials.

Event Details

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

2pm Pacific * 4 pm Lima * 6 PM Montevideo/Brasília

Virtual Event on Zoom * Registration Required(opens in a new tab)

Note: Event will be in English


Bruno Witzel de Souza, Visiting Assistant Professor at UCLA and Associate Researcher at the University of Tübingen

As the Principal Investigator for the Ibicaba Project, Witzel de Souza worked with a team to digitize financial and managerial ledgers from the Ibicaba Plantation (São Paulo, Brazil). Ibicaba was the first plantation to have experimented systematically with non-captive laborers during the Brazilian transition from slavery. Composed of 200+ historical ledgers, this collection documents the management, working conditions, and livelihoods of laborers with very diverse backgrounds – from European immigrants to ex-enslaved African-Brazilians – from the 1850s to 1970s.

Felipe Bellocq, Filmmaker, Professor at Catholic University of Uruguay, and Cine Casero(opens in a new tab) Member

Bellocq led a team of archivists and researchers in Uruguay to inventory the Alonso Collection, a film collection from Carlos Alonso, a pioneer of Uruguayan filmmaking. This collection of 40+ rolls of nitrate film provides new views of the Uruguayan countryside in the 1930s-1940s and serves as a unique source for studying the transformation of space and livelihoods in Uruguayan provinces. Spaces outside the capital city, Montevideo, are not well represented in existing archives. This film collection, once digitized, will offer new ways of seeing the country.

Ruth Borja, Professor at San Marcos University, Archivist at National Archives of Peru (AGN)

Charles Walker, Professor of History at UC Davis

Walker and Borja lead a team of archivists in Peru to digitize and document the Peruvian Peasant Confederation Archive (CCP), an invaluable collection that documents the history and international resonance of the CCP organization. CCP was an active participant in various labor movements and peasant struggles of twentieth-century Peru, particularly in the difficult era from the 1970s to the 1990s. The collection documents the deep structural changes undergone by the Peruvian rural economy and society, especially the attempts of agrarian reform, the ensuing violations of human rights against peasants, and the subsequent strife for better socioeconomic opportunities and political representation.

Rachel Deblinger, Director, Modern Endangered Archives Program