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Columbian Quincentenary Collection

Identifier: MSS-582-BC

Scope and Content

This collection contains the official records of the 1992 commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Columbian voyages. The archive documents the full range of contributions, controversies, and movements inspired by the commemoration on both popular and scholarly levels. Material types represented in the collection include correspondence, administrative files, press kits and publicity, newsletters, magazines, news clippings, articles, audio and video materials, ephemera, exhibition catalogues, teaching materials, posters, maps, memorabilia, photographs, etc. Materials in the collection are predominantly in English and Spanish. The posters are also in Portuguese, Italian, Russian and Hungarian.

The scope of the archive is inclusive and incorporates a record of the diverse character of the activities the Columbian Quincentennial called forth in the United States, Latin America and in Europe. Included are the records of prominent Quincentennial organizations, the archives of Encounters and Encuentros, two Quincentennial serial publications, records from national, private and civic Quincentennial organizations, and a wide-ranging collection of journals, correspondence, and media reports reflecting varied points of view regarding Columbus and his legacy.

The collection is divided into the following series which overlap in scope and content:

Spain '92: The Spain '92 Foundation was a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, publicly supported organization established in 1988. Their main goal was to prepare the Spain-US program for the "commemoration" of the voyages of Christopher Columbus to the Americas. The organization wanted to represent the role, historically and contemporarily, of the Spanish government and its' people. The Spain '92 series is broad in scope. The materials include the organization's files pertaining to events related to the quincentenary of the arrival of Europe in the Americas. The files are representative of the celebratory nature of the event and express the very European perspective on the "discovery" of the American continents. Much of the materials look into the Spanish, Italian and Portuguese aspects of the Trans-Atlantic events, but there is a small amount of material dealing with Indigenous counter-events. Some of the events were funded or sponsored by the Spain '92 Commission, while others were independent events seeking additional funding. This series is divided into the following subseries:

Programs: contains materials dealing with films, academic panels and conferences, museum exhibitions, cultural events, etc. Significant programs include Sepharad '92, a conference about the diaspora of Spanish Jews; Seeds of Change, an exhibition at the Smithsonian; Raíes: In Search of Ones Heritage, which tried to help Latinos uncover their "Spanish" past; the Tournament of Roses in Pasadena, California; and the Spanish agency Sociedad Estatal Quinto Centenario.

LAI/Encounters: contains materials dealing with the publication of the joint Spain '92 and Latin American Institute (LAI) magazine, Encounters. Included are pre-production materials such as thumbnail sketches, preliminary designs, cover illustrations. Additionally, this subseries contains unsolicited manuscripts, correspondence, criticism and circulation papers.

Administrative: materials deal with the general celebratory nature of the Quincentennial, as well as the financial information about the Spain '92 Foundation. The materials include annual reports from 1989-1995, invoices, mailing lists, press kits, flyers, external publications and correspondence with the LAI and other organizations.

Christopher Columbus Quincentennial Jubilee Commission (CCQJC): The CCQJC was a Washington organization that dealt with preparing for the 500th anniversary of the Columbus voyage. Documents within this subseries state that the CCQJC was "a microcosm of the cultural and ethno-political tensions surrounding the Quincentenary." The bulk of these files contain the minutes and agendas for the many meetings of the CCQJC, as well as final reports, proposals, correspondence and memos.

Malcolm Richardson: Richardson was a member of the board of the National Endowment for the Humanities and served on the Christopher Columbus Quincentennial Jubilee Commission (CCQJC). He was, thus, deeply involved in Quincentennial activities on both a planning level and on a funding level. In addition, he recognized the cultural implications of the Quincentennial celebrations and early on, began collecting material from a variety of sources to document the event. This series includes his collection of Quincentennial materials, most of which concern exhibits held in the different states and abroad. Additional material includes: teaching or educational materials, correspondence, conferences, press coverage, book reviews and excerpts, ephemera, post-quincentenary thoughts and activities, and official CCQJC and National Endowment for the Humanities files. Subseries include States, Countries, Education, Correspondence, General Exhibitions, Conferences, Press Coverage and Book Excerpts, Christopher Columbus Quincentenary Jubilee (CCJC), National Endowment for the Humanities, Reviews/Post-Quincentennial Material.

Helen Nader: This series was compiled by Helen Nader, a history professor at Indiana University, who set up a planning conference for the quincentennial.She initially requested NEH funding and contacted potential speakers for the Research Planning Conference that was to be held from October 21-23, 1983 at Indiana University in Bloomington. The in-house title for this project was the "American 500." When NEH rejected the proposal, modified plans were underway for a more limited Research Planning Conference to be held September 28-30, 1984. This 1984 conference is also referred to as the Wingspread Conference, as it was held at the Johnson's Foundation's Wingspread Conference Center near Racine, Wisconsin. Plans to publish a volume of the conference proceedings in 1985-86 never reached fruition. In addition to proposal drafts and budgets, related newsletters and conferences, and extensive correspondence (1981-1986), this series also includes the Wingspread session transcripts and audio tapes of the conference proceedings. Cassette tapes of the conference are located in Box 50; master reel to reel tapes are located in the CSWR vault.

Christopher Dodge: Christopher Dodge, a librarian of the Hennepin Library System in Minnesota, co-edited Confronting Columbus: An Anthology (McFarland, 1992). From approximately 1988-1993, he accumulated news clippings, publications, and other materials that were either directly or tangentially related to the Columbus Quincentenary. His collection emphasizes counter-Quincentennial and Native American perspectives and commemorations. Minnesota, in part reflected by the 1992 Minneapolis Resolution in Support of Indigenous Peoples, was a prominent locale for counter-Quincentennial organizations and events. Subseries include Confronting Columbus, General, Publications.

Sanford Berman: Sanford Berman was head cataloger for the Hennepin County Library in Minnetonka, Minnesota. He was an active participant in the activities and resolutions of organizations that included the American Library Association, Minnesota Library Association Social Responsibilities Round Table, and Minnesota Librarians for Peace and Justice. His collection, particularly evocative of counter-Quincentennial sentiment, consists of news clippings and journal/newsletter articles, correspondence, mock trial proceedings, and Quincentennial statements from various organizations. His collection is contextually and temporally similar to the Christopher Dodge Series.

Latin American Institute (LAI): The Latin American Institute, currently called the Latin American and Iberian Institute (LAII) is a department at the University of New Mexico (UNM) offering degrees at the BA, MA an PhD level. During the Quincentennial, the LAI worked on various projects, including the publication of the NEH funded publication, Encuentros. This series contains materials dealing with Encuentros, both while it was at the LAI and when funding was cut and the Spain '92 Foundation took control.

Encuentros: Begun by UNM's LAI in 1986, Encuentros functioned as a clearinghouse for information on the Quincentennial. Included in the series are the records of the newsletter's production and much of the material that was consulted to put the publication together. A large quantity of Quincentennial material came across the desk of the editors, much of it unsolicited. This series provides a good picture of the character of Quincentennial activity from the very beginning.

Encounters: When NEH funding for Encuentros ran out at the end of 1988, Spain '92 decided to take over. The result was a change from a newsletter format to a glossy magazine format. Also, editorial design moved to the offices of Spain '92 (in continued cooperation with the LAI at UNM) giving the publication more of a Spanish feel. The records in this series originated from the LAI offices. Additional materials related to Encounters are in the Spain '92 series, which contains similar materials to this subseries, but with a more global flavor (contributors include Carlos Fuentes and Octavio Paz).

National Commissions and Quincentennial Organizations: This serie includes material organizations formed specifically to commemorate or protest the quincentennial, and the national commissions/international endeavors that produced officially sponsored projects and programs.

Native American Perspectives: This small series contains some of the Native American responses, programs, and publications related to the Columbus Quincentennial. Native Americans in the U.S. took a vocal stance opposing the celebratory character of the Quincentennial. The material is representative of various Native and alternative or counter-Columbus organizations, sharing a common Native American theme. The series contains newsletters, news clippings, notices of meetings and activities; material that is evocative of the Native American point of view.

John Alexander Williams : Williams served as Executive Director of the Christopher Columbus Quincentenary Jubilee Commission (CCQJC) from mid-1986 through mid-1988. He later served as a consultant for the Library of Congress on a quincentenary project of the American Folklife Center. Since 1989, Williams has been a professor of history and director of the Center for Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State. He co-wrote a book with Stephen J. Summerhill entitled Sinking Columbus : Contested History, Cultural Politics, and Mythmaking During the Quincentenary. The material included in this collection contains personal documents relating to the CCQJC and his experience as a director; research for his book with Summerhill and for a project of memoirs on his experience; notes from classes taught and conference papers given relating to Columbus; and correspondence with the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Williams tried to gather as much information as possible to represent aspects of Columbus, the man and the myth, he wanted to elucidate in his book: 1) the nationalists' Columbus of the early republic, 2) the romantic Columbus created by Washington Irving and the founders of American Hispanism, 3) the ethnic Columbus summoned in the late 19th century to the defense of Catholic immigrants, especially Italians, against nativist pressure, and 4) the navigator who became one of the patron saints of 20th century science and engineering, especially aeronautics and space exploration. In addition to the following subseries, documents from Williams' computer disks are available on microfilm (CSWR Mfilm MSS 583).

CCQJC: includes notes, minutes, correspondence and other official papers of the CCQJC from the personal collections of its Executive Director, John Alexander Williams, from mid-1986 to mid-1988.

NEH: contains papers on various projects funded by the NEH to celebrate, commemorate, and teach Christopher Columbus. Material on proposals for publications and conferences can also be found in this subseries.

Maritime issues, exhibits, conferences: includes eclectic material collected by Williams on maritime topics (mostly the caravels), exhibits to celebrate the quincentenary, and conferences given on Christopher Columbus. Williams collected material to document quincentenary celebrations in various parts of the world, mainly Latin America and the United States. The section on the conferences gives a good overview of the controversies surrounding Columbus.

Ethnic issues: illustrates Williams' concern about the ethnic Columbus summoned in the late 19th century to the defense of Catholic immigrants, especially Italians, against Native pressures. Williams also collected materials to present the Native American perspective on Columbus, and their opposition to the celebration. Finally, the materials in this subseries illustrate how "ethnic politics" influenced the course of the CCQJC and the various celebrations to commemorate the quincentenary.

Papers and publications: includes various drafts written by Williams for his publication with Summerhill. It also includes unpublished and published academic material from other scholars, collected by Williams. Teaching resources used by Williams for his university courses, and material to teach the legacies of Columbus to children can also be found in this subseries.

Press Clippings: This series is neither exhaustive nor even partially representative of the newspaper clippings and magazine articles contained elsewhere within the collection. The materials contained within this series are valuable in the breadth of local and non-local New Mexican and international newspaper sources they represent. The latter is primarily comprised of two major Brazilian periodicals, Estado de S?o Paulo and Folha de S?o Paulo. This series also includes numerous news articles published mainly in American newspapers, but it also contains Spanish-language articles. The clippings are generally organized by the month of their publication. Topics in the articles include the caravels, the celebration of the quincentenary in the US, corruption scandals involving the CCQJC, and other issues related to the life of Christopher Columbus. Most articles were published between 1991 and 1993. The final folder in this series contains administrative correspondence and documentation regarding the establishment of the Columbian Quincentenary Collection at the Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico, 1989-1992.

Quincentennial Ephemera, Documents, and Memorabilia: This series contains five subseries, each dealing with an aspect of the 1992 commemoration, and a sixth subseries, containing memorabilia and miscellaneous ephemera. This series contains printed material such as programs and flyers dealing with various exhibitions, conferences, educational material and views on the 500th anniversary of the "encounters" of Europe and the Americas.

Exhibits: These materials consist of publications, flyers, brochures and catalogs of exhibits and projects sponsored by major museums and libraries in commemoration of the Quincentennial. The Queens College exhibit, "Christopher Columbus: In His Name," contains numerous photographs and postcards depicting historical and contemporary U.S. sites related to the Columbus theme. The exhibits found in this series are not, in any sense, a comprehensive listing of Quincentennial exhibits nor are they representative of all of the major exhibits.The researcher is advised to complement these materials with those referenced in other series of the collection. Most of these materials were collected by Russ Davidson and/or the University of New Mexico's Latin American Institute.

Teaching Materials/Resources: Materials include children's coloring and activity books, educational publications, teaching guides and curricula. More materials regarding the Quincentennial Education Project (Christopher Dodge and Sanford Berman series) and the TADCORPS's comic books (Encuentros/Encounters) can be found in other series of the collection.

Landfall Controversy: In the November 1986 issue of National Geographic, the Senior Associate Editor reported the results of his recent study claiming that Columbus first landed in the New World in the far eastern Bahamas, specifically at the Samana Cay Island. These findings, in contrast to the traditionally maintained landfall site of San Salvador, or Watling Island, and some of the other posited alternative sites, renewed debate on the issue and instigated further research, including new translations of Columbus's log or "diario." The public papers and correspondence convey how heavily politicized the debate quickly became.

Symposia: Materials include mostly brochures, but also programs and abstracts from seminars, conferences, lectures, and symposia held both by academic and non-academic organizations in the U.S. and abroad.Hence, the material is organized according to the locality in which the event was held (i.e. by state), rather than by the location or residence of the event's sponsor(s).

Non-Secular Views: These materials consist of various Jewish and Catholic exhibits, publications, and resolutions. A significant portion of the Jewish materials was donated by the Jarkow Institute of the Anti-Defamation League and by Judith Laikin Elkin, project director of "Jews and the Encounter with the New World, 1492/1992." Almost all of the Catholic material is from the National Conference of Catholic Bishops's Ad Hoc Committee for Observance of the V Centenary of Evangelization in the Americas.

Miscellaneous Ephemera/Memorabilia: Consisting largely of 3 dimensional commemorative objects, this subseries helps document the commercial enterprises associated with the Quincentennial.

The Poster series consists of posters from around the world giving various viewpoints about Christopher Columbus and the Quincentenary.

Philatelic Materials were added in December 2017. Included are Christopher Columbus commemorative stamps and 1st day of issue covers and cards from around the world, particularly Latin America.


  • 1981-1995 (bulk 1990-1992)

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of CSWR material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws. Permission is required for publication or distribution.


68 boxes (67.5 cu. ft.) plus 6 oversize folders


This collection, containing the official records of the 1992 commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Columbian Quincentenary, documents the intellectual and social trends, contributions, and controversies surrounding the commemoration.

Alternate Format

Documents on computer disks from the John Alexander Williams series are available on microfilm only, 6 reels (ZIM CSWR Mfilm MSS 582 BC)

Related Material

Center for Regional Studies and the Center for Southwest Research Fellows presentation, Veronica Arias.

Separated Material

Many publications have been transferred to UNM University Libraries for cataloguing. They can be found via a title search for "Columbian Quincentenary Collection" in the library's online catalog.

Exhibit materials for "Voyages to Freedom: 500 Years of Jewish Life in Latin America and the Caribbean" are located at UNM University Libraries's North Storage facility.

Original audio material stored in B3.

Processing Information

A small amount of material was added to the collection in April 2010. A note has been added to the particular folders indicating that material has been added.

Posters were returned from the Pictorial collections and added in May 2010.

Philatelic material added to collection in December 2017.
Finding Aid of the Columbian Quincentenary Collection, 1981-1995 (bulk 1990-1992)
For Approval
Processed by Staff
©2002; ©2010; ©2017
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • June 28, 2004: PUBLIC "-//University of New Mexico::Center for Southwest Research//TEXT (US::NmU::MSS 582 BC::Columbian Quincentenary Collection)//EN" "nmu1mss582bc.sgml" converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131