Campus News - September 17, 2001

Library acquires Latin American posters
McCune Foundation assists with collection preservation

The UNM General Library (UNMGL), widely recognized as a major Latin Americana research facility in the United States, recently acquired a collection of more than 11,000 Latin American and Spanish political posters from a private collector and scholar in Mississippi.

The collection, valued at $230,000, believed to be the largest of its kind in the world, constitutes a unique visual record of political, social and cultural life in Latin America and Spain from the late 1960s to present. The library is purchasing 720 Cuban posters, valued at $60,000, with the remainder of the collection being donated.

The library successfully sought a grant from the McCune Charitable Foundation to allow it to purchase map cases and archival materials in which to store and preserve the collection.

The Sam L. Slick Collection of Latin American & Iberian Posters, named after its originator and long-time owner, is largely unduplicated in other repositories. The posters, ranging in size from 24”X36” to billboard size, will be catalogued and preserved, but a strong emphasis will also be given to reproducing images for classroom use.

“That this collection exists is attributable to the single-minded interest and dedication of Sam Slick, a former Spanish professor at the University of Southern Mississippi,” says Russ Davidson, curator of Latin American and Iberian Collections for UNMGL.

“Sam Slick was at Sam Houston State University in the mid-70s when he started collecting. He latched onto political posters as a key documentary source for interpreting Latin American social and political reality,” says Davidson, who adds that Slick built up a wide network of contacts among embassy, university and cultural offices who periodically sent posters to him.

The subject matter of the posters, says Davidson, “is rich and varied, encompassing campaigns and elections, workers’ strikes, literacy campaigns, solidarity and human rights movements, feminism, anti-imperialism, environmental and public health campaigns and other topics.”

Davidson met Slick when he co-organized a conference panel on the visual representation of Latin American popular culture. “I wanted him on the panel. It coincided with his decision, not reached easily, to dispose of the collection. He thought it suitable to donate it to a repository with strength in Latin American materials, particularly in popular and graphic art,” he says. Davidson says that other institutions approached him to purchase the collection, but because of his friendship with Slick, and UNM’s strong reputation in Latin American studies, “we gained the upper hand,” he says.

The collection had already been organized by country “with some rudimentary cataloging,” says Davidson. Because the University of Mississippi gave Slick space in its library to house the posters, they are generally in excellent condition.

“We have begun a long-term project to catalog and preserve the collection. Other components of the project include digitizing selected images and making them available on the Web, organizing a poster exhibit, planned for 2003, in collaboration with the National Hispanic Cultural Center and loaning segments of the collection to other libraries and museums for exhibit,” says Davidson.

The Sam L. Slick collection enhances the library’s already extensive Latin American pictorial holdings.

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