By Jesús Alonso-Regalado, Subject Librarian for History, Latin American Studies, and Romance Languages

Last fall, the University Art Museum hosted Libros/Arte: Handmade Books from Latin America & the Caribbean. The exhibit ran from August 7th  through December 4th, 2023. This has been truly a collaborative effort. The University at Albany Libraries and M.E. Grenander Special Collections and Archives have generously supported this exhibit in partnership with the University Art Museum; the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures; and Department of Latin American, Caribbean, and U.S. Latino Studies.

Jesús Alonso-Regalado and Ilka Kressner (Photo by Bethany Bump)

This exhibit showcased over 80 handmade books by small presses that push the boundaries of traditional printing techniques, while addressing a range of political, social, and cultural subjects. These handmade books from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and several South American countries become documents of protest, tools for forging cultural pride, and records of their creators’ resourcefulness. Made with innovative papermaking processes, they at times contain unexpected materials, including cardboard, jute, seeds, wax, fabric, and found objects. In a digital world dominated by topics such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, or the latest technological developments, this exhibit succeeded in conveying the importance of a tangible experience through books. 

Like two previous exhibitions in the University Art Museum, Libros/Arte is fully bilingual (Spanish and English). It is also the first that dedicates a whole museum floor to showcase Latin American and Caribbean books from the Department of Special Collections & Archives. This collection contains more than 200 books. A beautiful visual catalog provides you with detailed information of each book in the collection.

Connected to the exhibit, we developed an ambitious program throughout the fall semester to support student success and public engagement at the local, regional and international level. The most successful of these events were two hands-on workshops opened to the UAlbany community where anyone could make their own cartonero book (a type of handmade book very common in Latin America). The contents of the book included six texts by UAlbany graduate students who read their work aloud during the sessions. 


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Cartonero exhibition

Make a Cartonera Program (Photo by the University Art Museum)

At the regional level, several dozen Spanish teachers from around the state, including UAlbany in the High School teachers, toured the exhibit and were inspired to create lesson plans in their classrooms around the books. In order to reach a global audience, we developed a series of five webinars to foster conversations with some of the publishers featured in the exhibit. The recordings of these webinars can be accessed on our YouTube Channel

We supported student and faculty success through the use of this collection for teaching, learning, and research purposes before, during and after the exhibit. Over the years, many courses and groups have been invited to learn about the collection, and faculty have implemented pedagogical activities related to it. 

During the first UAlbany Showcase in April 2023, a panel of graduate students presented on various aspects of this collection. Also, in 2023, a graduate student received the Patricia Stocking Brown Research Award to undertake research related to the Latin American and Caribbean handmade books. Also, a podcast hosted by UAlbany students focused one of their programs on this collection.


Want to learn more about Libros/Arte or Latin American and Caribbean handmade books?


Visit our online Curated Collection today!

Future projects connecting this collection with research endeavors are underway. For example, a panel featuring a UAlbany professor and students will be presenting at the Northeast Modern Language Association (NEMLA) conference in March 2024. 

Further information about the exhibit can be found in its exhibition brochure and press release. If you would like to access the whole collection of handmade books from Latin America and the Caribbean, or if you have any inquiries, please contact the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections & Archives, located on the third floor of the Science Library.

We hope that this unique collection will continue to generate interest from the UAlbany community and beyond!


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Libros/Arte book

Image provided by the University Art Museum

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