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Colombia has long been a research focus at Vanderbilt. Faculty and student research projects are varied, ranging from colonial history and historical archaeology to literature, current politics and anthropology. The library is known internationally for its unique and rare special collections of Colombiana and its related digital initiatives and databases.

J. León Helguera Collection of Colombiana

One of Vanderbilt’s most important resources, the J. León Helguera Collection of Colombiana, spans a wide array of documents, broadsides, pamphlets, and programas, on topics ranging from politics to religion, offering a unique window into 19th- and early 20th-century Colombia. Selections of these rare materials (e.g., pamphlets and broadsides) have been digitized to form a database accessible to scholars everywhere.  To see published materials in the collection search the library’s catalog ACORN under Helguera AND keyword of interest.

Manuel Zapata Olivella Collection

Also housed at Vanderbilt’s Jean and Alexander Heard Library is the extensive collection of personal papers and manuscripts of noted Colombian author and scholar Manuel Zapata Olivella. Physician, award-winning novelist, anthropologist and diplomat, Olivella’s writings focused on people of African descent in Latin America. Today, he is widely considered one of the 20th century’s most influential Afro-Hispanic authors. Selections of the collection and corresponding essays have been digitized here.

Peace Corps Collections

These materials form part of the collections of Nicholas Hobbs and J. León Helguera. Hobbs was the first director of selection and research for the Peace Corps and this collection includes documents from the early years of the PC, such as correspondence, psychological tests and analyses that were used to develop suitable criteria for success, with a focus on the experiences of volunteers in Colombia. Helguera was one of the first to train and teach volunteers destined for Colombia in the early sixties and this collection consists of correspondence, publicity, teaching materials and related ephemera.

Slave Societies Digital Archives (SSDA)

Directed by Jane Landers, SSDA is a project that digitally preserves endangered ecclesiastical and secular documents related to Africans and Afro-descended peoples in the Americas. With funding from the British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme, teams of Vanderbilt faculty and students have conducted five preservation projects in Colombia. The teams captured at-risk documents in Cartagena, the Chocó, Córdoba, and Riohacha. The SSDA digital database of nearly 400,000 documents also holds records from Cuba, Brazil, and Spanish Florida.

Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP)

Hosted by Vanderbilt University, LAPOP conducts surveys on public political opinion throughout Latin America. Surveys taken in Colombia, dating back to 2001, have played a central role in this project producing a multitude of studies and publications on various aspects of democratic values and behaviors in the Americas.

Current Faculty and Students working on Colombia:

Emma Banks (Anthropology)
Chelsey Dyer (Anthropology)
Fernanda Bretones Lane (History)
Daniel Genkins (History)
Lesley Gill (Anthropology)
Jane Landers (History)
Michael LaRosa (History, Rhodes)
William Luis (Spanish)
Charles Orser Jr. (Anthropology)
Gloria Pérez (Anthropology)
Gretchen Selcke (Latin American and Latinx Studies)