Development of Archives and Libraries in Mexico

Amanda Rosales Bada

Development of Archives and Libraries in Mexico

Cerro San Andrés 312, Col. Campestre Churubusco, Coyoacán, C.P. 04200, México

Mexico City, Mexico

UNESCO/Jikji Memory of the World Prize 2013 winner

Ten years of preservation of the memory of Mexico

ADABI of Mexico is a non-profit civil association sponsored by the Alfredo Harp Heluacute; Foundation whose mission is to assist the defence of the memory of Mexico for the benefit of society, through supporting the development of the archives and libraries of Mexico and consequently promoting the revaluation and use of  historical memory as a source that strengthens national identity.
ADABI was created on May 9th 2003 in order to provide support to institutions with valuable documentary collections in danger of being lost for some reason, including budget problems, lack of knowledge of the value of the documents and ancient books, and the lack of awareness necessary in the treatment, storage and use of documents.

The activities developed by ADABI started at the General Archive of Mexico (Archivo General de la Nacioacute;n), in the Anthropology and History National Library and in the Francisco de Burgoa Library, all located in Oaxaca City, institutions with a great historical vocation that represent the aspirations and thoughts of many scholars, intellectuals and citizens concerned with the conservation of the documentary and bibliographic heritage of Mexico. As a result of this, ADABI was born with a deep knowledge of Mexico, regarding archives and old bibliographic collections, with the experience of many years of dedicated work on these valuable collections.
ADABI also collaborates directly in the training of  staff located in every region of operation, providing the necessary inputs to rescue documents or books. The main activities  implemented by ADABI are  as follows:
  • Technical Advice and training in archives and documents
  • Infrastructure
  • Rescuing public, private and ancient libraries.
  • Description of collections
  • Preservation of documentary sources
  • Conservation and restoration of ancient bibliographic collections
  • Media and publications

The above activities are displayed through the project "ADABI of Mexico" that constitutes the meaning and purpose of the Association. By the operation of this system, resources are directed to institutions with specific needs, whose characteristics determine the types of support they will receive and the necessary actions that will be carried out.

Since its foundation, ADABI has benefited 986 different institutions across Mexico, located in 29 different States. Puebla, Oaxaca and Mexico City have been the most involved clients of ADABI regarding the rescue of bibliographic, documentary and artistic heritage. The beneficiary institutions trained and hired 67% of the required personnel who participated in such projects.

Without  doubt the rescue of ecclesiastical archives is the most innovative activity carried out by ADABI concerning the Mexican documentary heritage contained in colonial information. This information is really important because in most cases it helps to complete and explain civil documentation in different regions, lost by forgetfulness or human actions (177 inventories generated).

The leadership of ADABI in rescuing ancient documents and books in Mexico is unquestionable. ADABI has finished 811 projects, which shows an unparalleled activity developed in Mexico.
Among the above mentioned projects we would like to highlight the following ones in which innovation and initiative are present:
  • The antique bibliographic funds of Mexico database. This data bank  sorts and stores information about 132,649 ancient books. The classification includes identification of work units and supports broadcasting.
  • The Archivo Fotograacute;fico de beacute;isbol Alfredo Harp Heluacute; (archive of photographs of baseball, sponsored by Alfredo Harp Heluacute;), the only one of its kind in Mexico.
  • The Centro de Conservacioacute;n Restauracioacute;n y Encuadernacioacute;n which is committed to recovering the documentary heritage of Mexico, providing services in the field of conservation, restoration and binding to institutions, archives and libraries.
  • The rescue of parish archives is a very important activity due to the social, demographic and historical background that they contain regarding the Mexican vice- regal period. Such archives complement the information of local archives.
  • The organization and stabilization of the General Archive of the Executive Branch of the State of Oaxaca, which led to the creation of the City Archives in Oaxaca, and an architectural project that will house 16 km of linear shelves.
The success of ADABI lies in the compromise established between such an association and other institutions. ADABI generates the initial project, providing resources and the required advice to make it happen; it collaborates in the training of the staff in the operational regions to provide the necessary inputs needed to start the rescue of documents or books, always heeding the opinion of scholars and everyone involved in the projects.

The aforementioned procedure guarantees the continuity of ADABI's work and the optimal achievement of human resources in new archives.

One of the most important achievements of ADABI has been the enrolment of the local population in projects- considering that our work has spread through Mexico - so this situation enabled us to get involved with participants, share our philosophy and guidelines and to create employment and consequently obtain better conditions for the population.

Over its  10 years of work, ADABI has basically faced three challenges in the development of its work: the first, the lack of budgets of organizations to carry out projects; in many of these projects ADABI has covered the costs and paid for almost the entire amount of the rescues, especially in projects concerning libraries. The second challenge is the lack of trained personnel, which affects the entire situation both the preparation and results of the projects. It means that  ADABI has to properly train  all the necessary staff before starting the project itself. The third and final challenge arises from a combination of the two previous factors, the lack of resources and the lack of trained personnel, a situation that in many cases has led to the abandonment of the rescue project, whether documentary or bibliographical. Therefore it is not possible to hire qualified staff that can both take care of the public and maintain and keep the collections .

After all these years, experience has shown ADABI that the payment of the entire cost of one project makes the beneficiary dependent upon ADABI. The sense of obligation is always required to make things happen, whether in private or public organizations.

We define our professional excellence as a result of the following principles carried out by ADABI in all its activities:
  • Proven track record
  • Team work
  • Clear rules
  • Compromise with beneficiaries (private or public organizations)
  • Connection with civil society
  • Awareness of heritage value
  • Social responsibility
  • Initiative
We would like to encourage more people to reach the goals that ADABI has achieved always taking into account the three factors that make possible any potential project:  the disposition to work, the financial possibilities, and training. We are sure that if these elements come together in any project or plan, success will always be the result.


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