The Mexican state of Oaxaca has a long and complicated history that is recorded in an vast historical archive. These artifacts, some dating back to the late fifteenth century, chronicle Mexico’s transition from a colonial to post-colonial state. The papers detail the fairly tumultuous and complicated interactions between Spain’s governmental representatives and the sixteen indigenous people groups that comprised the state of Oaxaca. The archive is a unique one and holds vast potential for learning and scholarship.
Unfortunately, while this archive is extremely rare and contains significant historical value, it has fallen into disrepair. The majority of these documents sit in boxes, on shelves, or just in piles. They are exposed to the open air, rodents, termites, and- in the rainy season- flooding. Some papers have even been burned by government officials who were either unaware or unimpressed with the document’s contents.
That’s why MATRIX is working with Dr. Benjamin Smith from the MSU Department of History to help preserve this endangered archive. With support from the British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme, Smith will help provide equipment and training for six Mexican archivists in the best practices for digitizing and preserving the materials in the Oaxaca collection. The result of this work will be a digital repository of the Oaxaca information in both Spanish and English, as well as a fully equipped digitization staff that can remain in Mexico to continue the work of document preservation.
This is the third Endangered Archives grant MATRIX has received. Previous awards were for similar work in Mali and the Gambia. MATRIX is thankful for the support of the British Library and hopes to partner with them in future projects focused on using digital technology to protect historical archives.