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Firestone exhibits Latin American artifacts

Pre-Columbian coins, 500-year-old letters from Christopher Columbus and 17th century maps of Latin American expansion are currently on display in the main gallery of Firestone Library.

The exhibition, "The Search for Latin America: Sources at Princeton," compiles the University's resources on Latin America with a journey through a thousand years of Latin American history. The exhibit will run through April 13, 1998.


The collection includes more than 200 University-owned items – books, maps, photographs, correspondences, coins and artifacts – from the library's Rare Books and Special Collections department, Mudd Manuscript Library and the Scheide Library of the Art Museum.

The exhibit begins with the earliest dated American manuscript in the library – a Maya conch shell with hieroglyphic text dated A.D. 761 – and ends with a collection of present-day political posters.

"The exhibition is not limited to printed material," said the collection's curator and bibliographer for Latin America, Spain and Portugal, Peter Johnson. "It includes examples of material culture," he said, emphasizing that photos and other crafts will also be on display.

The exhibit includes a range of documentation – from religious practices and literature to politics and government.

Original correspondences

Johnson said the University's collection incorporates original correspondences between Latin American intellectuals and writers, including personal letters from Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Pablo Neruda, Carlos Fuentes and Mario Vargas Llosa. The collection also features government documents and records of a Mexican merchant family.

Curator of manuscripts at Firestone Library, Don Skemer, said this exhibit is "not simply to interpret a time or place," but rather to bring attention to the resources readily available to undergraduates.


Johnson said the exhibit was designed to introduce faculty and students to the range of resources available at the University, adding that the exhibit does not attempt to show every unique Latin American item that the University owns.

"This exhibition shows examples of the areas in which the University has substantial depth of resources," Johnson said.

Tomas Amorim '99 and Meggan Louden '98 spent last summer researching various collections at Firestone and Mudd libraries for the exhibition.

"Often rare books exhibits don't have students in mind," Amorim said. Louden said she thought the exhibit would be especially helpful for junior papers and senior theses.

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"This is not a bunch of stuffy books on display," she said.