The Our Americas Archive Partnership is a collaboration between University of Maryland’s Institute for Technology in the Humanities, Maryland’s Early Americas Digital Archive and Rice University’s Humanities Research Center, Fondren Library and Americas Digital Archive. Its goal is to make digitally available texts written in or about the Americas that represent the full range and complexity of a multilingual “Americas” including Canada, the Caribbean, and Latin America. In Fall 2005, Rice began to acquire an Americas archive collection that includes original letters, broadsides, pamphlets, printed materials and books documenting the political and cultural relationships between the United States, Mexico, Central and South America, Cuba, Spain, and Portugal.
The partnership between Maryland’s Early Americas digital archive (1492-1820) and Rice’s Americas collection (1811-1920) creates unique new research and teaching opportunities. The point of convergence between the Maryland and Rice archives is the cultural transformation created by the revolutions for independence that took place over a span of fewer than sixty years. The archive, however, spans the five hundred year period that saw the making of modern and colonial cultures in the Americas. Because of its range, the archive promises to reinvigorate the study of American literary and cultural history by creating surprising juxtapositions, emphasizing different models of periodization, and suggesting new avenues of cross-cultural influence.
For many decades, the study of literature and history has been partitioned into national categories. This Partnership adopts a new paradigm for the study of American cultural and literary history that situates them in the context of the American hemisphere rather than the nation state. The archive takes its name from Cuban nationalist José Martí, whose famous 1893 essay “Our America” has become a touchstone for literary and cultural history scholars who have undertaken to understand “America” not as a synonym for an isolated United States but as a network of cultural filiations that have extended across the hemisphere from the period of colonization to the present. The archive fosters new research that examines American literatures from a hemispheric perspective, develops a collection of texts, curricular models and teaching materials that embody a hemispheric approach to the study of the early Americas, and generates professional and intellectual exchanges among scholars from various fields.
Collectively, the two archives gain from collaboration between the institutions’ humanities technology tools – Maryland’s Institute for Technology in the Humanities and Rice’s Digital Press and Connexions Initiative – a Content Commons collection of free scholarly materials and software tools to help authors publish, instructors build custom courses, and students explore the links between concepts, courses, and disciplines.