After months of working closely with the archivists and librarians of the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas in Austin, the Latino USA team wanted to dig deeper into the history of the library. So, last year, Latino USA producer Victoria Estrada traveled to Austin for a visit. The Benson is known as a “Library for the Americas,” and we wanted to know if it could live up to that title.

The Benson contains over 970,000 books, periodicals, pamphlets, and microforms; 4,000 linear feet of manuscripts; 19,000 maps; 93,500 photographs; and 50,000 items in a variety of other media from sound recordings, drawings, video tapes and cassettes, slides, posters, memorabilia, and electronic media. It holds the Latino USA archives as well as countless other collections. From Voces, a collection launched in 1999 to archive and preserve the stories of World War II-era Latinos and Latinas, to AILLA —the Archive of Indigenous Languages of Latin America, which holds recordings of 400 languages or 70% of the Indigenous Languages from the region— there is an untold number of stories in the archives.

But, the Benson has been around for more than a hundred years, and that long history comes with some baggage. In this episode, we look at some of the objects that connect the Benson to the past, explore its complicated history and possibilities for how the library can move into the future.

Here you can explore some of the other pieces we mentioned in the episode:

Collage by Victoria Estrada

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