The portal, Mexican American Art since 1848, depends upon partnerships with libraries, archives, and museums (LAM) across the nation. One of our first steps was to generate a landscape analysis to locate relevant collections of Mexican American art and documentation throughout the United States. Drawing upon the expertise of the co-Project Directors and members of our National Advisory Council, we used two references: 1) the Internet and 2) published exhibition checklists, which frequently identify the artwork’s lending institution. This reverse-engineering was also applied to current collection sites, such as the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), which gleans over 40 million digitized images, texts, videos, and sounds. The exploratory method resulted in the identification of over 70 institutions with Mexican-heritage visual art. We shared the preliminary results with curators of Chicana/o and Latinx art, who identified an additional seventeen libraries, archives, and museums, bringing the total to 87 sites. Since our launch of the Rhizomes Institutional Map, we have located a total of 93 LAM with relevant content.

The Rhizomes Institutional Map was funded by the Henry Luce Foundation.

data visualization through mapping

In Spring 2019, using the software application, ArcGIS, we created a map that visualizes the data we found. The map is a helpful visual representation of the national database of LAM with Mexican American art and related materials. The database inventories the following information: the name and type of institution; its geographic location (address); and, when possible, the name(s) of the collection(s) holding Mexican American art and/or related documentation. The map is continuously being updated and also allows users to toggle views of the different types of institutions across the US.

Mexican American art collections are nationwide

Given the history and demography of the United States, it is unsurprising that LAM are clustered in the American Southwest, the traditional homelands of Mexican American communities. However, important libraries and archives with relevant collections are scattered across the Midwest, Pacific Northwest, and East Coast. For instance, The Smithsonian Institution, an interdisciplinary and multi-site facility, is comprised of multiple locations and collections, and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas holds early twentieth century paintings.

Next phase: crowdsourcing

The next phase in developing the map is to add the names of collections and add new sites. Following the crowdsourcing method successfully employed by US Latinx Digital Humanities, we plan to invite the Internet-reading public to add new information to our database. Our broad approach to visual arts, Mexican America, and related documentation suggests that we will identify additional institutions, particularly those with collections of nineteenth-century crafts, religious and devotional objects since 1848, everyday textiles and material culture with an aesthetic sensibility, nineteenth-century painters and sculptors, as well as lowriders, performance art, and community archives.

Futures: Mexican american art made visible

We are currently exploring a number of components for initiative advancement, including: