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Latin American Collections @ Penn


Penn's Latin American collections are strong in history, literature, and materials relating to indigenous peoples and languages. Extraordinary special colletions, such as the Berendt Linguistic and Brinton collections, which contain grammars and lexicons of Native American languages, and the Lea Library, with its materials on the Inquisition and the late medieval and early modern Catholic Church, supplement the general collections. Current emphasis is given to ethnography and archaeology, colonial history, ethnohistory, and literature. Though the largest number of Latin American related titles are held in Van Pelt Library, the Museum Library excels in Mesoamerican archaeology, languages, and codices. The Sydney Keil Collection of Latin Americana in the Annenberg Rare Book & Manuscript Library, complements current research emphases on colonial history, especially Mexican.
The serial and monographic collection found in the Van Pelt Library dates back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, when the University of Pennsylvania was one of the first U.S. institutions to offer courses in Latin American studies. John McMaster taught Latin American history, and Leo S. Rowe, who taught political science, became Director General of the Pan American Union in1920. Rowe's term at the University of La Plata represented, perhaps, the first experiment in university exchanges between Argentina and the United States. The library's general Latin American collections were at a level comparable to peer institutions during this period, but after World War II there was a sharp decline in the level of collecting of both vernacular and English-language materials. The declining trend was reversed by the late 1980s, at about the same time that Latin American studies at Penn were being energized by additional faculty, new courses, and growing student demand. The current level of collecting remains below that of peer institutions, but it is focused and strong in the areas cited above.
There is no special location for Van Pelt's Latin Americana. The collection is spread over the three main stacks floors of Van Pelt, the third through fifth. The greatest number of volumes in unbroken display can be found in the call number ranges for Latin American history (F1201-3799) and Spanish American literature (PQ7081-8560). It should be kept in mind, however, that an ever-increasing part of the Penn Library collections - because Van Pelt and many of the departmental libraries have reached capacity - is in an off-campus storage facility. Thus, browsing the stacks conveys only a partial impression of holdings, but browsing Franklin by subject or call number is a more accurate gauge of what is available.