Observatorio de bibliotecas y pueblos originarios en América Latina

Observatorio    Introduction

Observatory of Libraries and Indigenous Peoples in Latin America

Observatory | Introduction


The "Observatory of Libraries and Indigenous Peoples in Latin America" is a project framed in the digital humanities. It proposes the creation of a virtual space for the recovery, systematic organization, public exposition and dissemination of data related to indigenous knowledge in Latin America in general, and to libraries providing services to Latin American indigenous peoples in particular.

With international participation and support, the project aims to elaborate the first state-of-the-art report on this subject in Latin America. A carefully documented and updated report that will present:

  • the general situation of the traditional knowledge of the continent's native societies: distribution, validity, uses (through the spoken word and oral tradition, as well as through written/printed word), needs, problems, opportunities and threats.
  • the role of libraries, archives, books (and publishers) and other means (especially new technologies) in its recovery, preservation and dissemination.
  • any other relevant, related information: regional and national legislation affecting indigenous knowledge, institutions and individuals responsible for the development and implementation of policies and guidelines, statistics, official documents, academic literature, news, etc.

The information to be recovered through the "Observatory" is currently very disperse, or just invisible. This space seeks to collect it with the collaboration of direct actors and (inter)national organizations from various disciplinary fields, and present it, organized, in a single site. The data will be structured in three main axes: orality, books and libraries.

  • The orality axis collects all existing information about knowledge transmitted through the spoken word. Associated with it are the languages used and their vitality, the uses of orality, their need to transmit certain knowledge, etc.
  • The books axis gathers data on the knowledge that has been written and the methods to achieve that goal: codes used, editorials, editions (private or public), and policies and legislation (edition of books as responses to treaties and laws on publication as support for indigenous peoples).
  • Lastly, information on conservation and knowledge management spaces, traditional or not, is organized around the libraries axis.

The systematization of this information in a single platform obeys the need to have a broad, solid and interdisciplinary information landscape. Such a scenario is essential to identify and understand the problems and shortcomings that afflict indigenous knowledge and its producers. The processes of conservation, support, revitalization and diffusion of indigenous knowledge need, first of all, a solid initial recognition of its state: to identify its components, actors, validity, distribution, main characteristics, channels, forms and contents, processes and uses, the threats to which it is subjected, the problems it has, the pressures it suffers, the opportunities it has... Without this information, it is impossible to elaborate a firm policy or an action plan in the long term, on areas such as intercultural education, preservation of threatened languages, recovery of knowledge related to sustainability, social inclusion or use of new technologies. Only through clear information can policies be established and actions designed to recover and strengthen the intangible heritage and the identities of the different Latin American native societies.

In a second stage, the "Observatory" proposes to analyze the information collected to detect and identify topics that can be worked through teams of direct collaborators, e.g. patterns of problems and deficiencies, and possible reasons and solutions. From the results obtained through such analysis, it can be produced (a) hypotheses, to be verified through field work; and (b) basic educational materials, recommendations, guidelines, policies and handbooks that support decision-making and project design.

In the long term, the "Observatory" aims to become the central node of a Latin American network devoted to the research of indigenous knowledge and its channels, systems and technologies of transmission and preservation; in a provider of strategic information and institutional support; and in a reference space for proposals related to this topic.

The project is fully replicable: a good practice exportable to any other region or nation on the planet where indigenous populations exist. It will be developed from a digital humanities' perspective, combining academic methodologies and values with the tools, culture and values of the Internet. This approach from the digital humanities will allow the "Observatory" to become, in addition, a plural and multidisciplinary space of encounter, discussion, research and construction of knowledge, which will summon actors from different backgrounds, experiences and professions.



The person in charge of the "Observatory" is Edgardo Civallero. Please contact him at his personal email, edgardocivallero (at) gmail (dot) com.

This project was started in February 2017. The website, created in August 2017, is currently under construction.