Post by Alex See that little ticket in the corner? That's Helen's handywork!
Yesterday San Pablo hosted the exhibition Revisiting Ancient Oaxaca: an homage to John Paddock on the 15 year anniversary of his death. The event started with a viewing of Quetzalcoatl (1952 University of Southern California) a short film which retold the legend of the pre-hispanic god Quetzalcoatl with music composed by Paddock. Then a few of Paddock's students shared their memories of working and collaborating with Paddock. His dedication and passion inspired them and many others to do great work in the fields of anthropology and archeology especially in Mesoamerican and Oaxacan studies.
We then toured the temporary exhibit displaying pieces from Paddock's collection. It was incredibly cool to see documents and photos that Helen and I actually had the privilege to work with displayed for the public. A lot of hard work went into this exhibition, and even though Helen and I really didn't have any part in the preparation of the event (apart from pouring mezcal for the reception) it was an honor to hear more about Paddock from people who knew him well and worked with him closely. It also made me think about the work Helen and I are doing in the archive. It's true at times organizing documents and cleaning photographs can seem a bit monotonous, but as this plaque says it's an important step in making his amazing collection accessible to the public.
And the thing is, working with his collection makes me really want to share it. There's something really cool and almost personal about reading the same articles, newspaper clippings, memos, magazines and letters as Paddock. I've read some of his correspondences that not only mention plans for archeological digs, collections in the Museo Frissel, and courses at Mexico City College (now University of the Americas) but also talk about the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Kennedy Assassination. I could probably also write full anthropology, archeology, and phycology theses based solely on the academic papers and studies in Paddock's collection. Well maybe I couldn't, but they are truly incredible resources for students and researches waiting to be discovered. mmmm chapulines
So congratulations to Centro San Pablo and especially Nicholas Johnson for a wonderful exhibition! Oh and just in case you were wondering the reception was pretty great too--nothing like chapulines and a bit of mezcal to end an academic event.
Guests enjoying the reception
Browsing the Paddock display
Hard at work behind the scenes
post by Helen & Alex A demonstration in mounting negatives.
Thursday was our first official day at San Pablo. All the photographs and documents we'll be working with are part of the collection of the anthropologist John Paddock. Paddock and his colleagues' work concentrated in the development of Oaxacan cultures as well as many other Mesoamerican cultures. Helen and I were a little nervous at first, but we soon got the hang of working with the documents in the archive. We got much more comfortable after meeting Myra and Flor, two wonderful women who work in San Pablo's archive. They've been incredibly nice--showing us all the intricate steps of preserving and organizing Paddock's photos and documents.
We started by labeling some beautiful photographs of pottery found in archeological excavations in Oaxaca. We then began to sort through different publications, some written by Paddock himself. His collection is incredibly impressive. I've had the privilege to read correspondences between Paddock and other important anthropologists, archeological articles and drafts written from as early as 1932 to the 1990s, and publications from various academic institutions in Mexico and the United States. Most of what I have handled up until now has been to do with archeology of Oaxaca and Mesoamerica but his collection goes far beyond that.
Helen pokes her head out from behind a large stack of papers every now and then to share Paddock's diagrams of a typical Mixtec village, old maps, or even books of poetry on Zapotec culture. Despite this wealth of amazing information, Myra's discovery of a map of Washington, DC was also very exciting. Helen got to point out to our new friends her home town right down to the street of her high school! Another international treasure showed up when Flor showed us a print from a protest in Hong Kong. This incredible geographic and cultural expanse sometimes requires a little more effort. For example, many of the documents date back to colonial times and to read and categorize them requires skills in paleography. We are lucky to be working with Flor and Myra who can teach us a lot about the material!
We learned that the work we are doing now is just the first step in what will be a huge project: to first organize and then create an electronic catalog of the Paddock collection. There are still piles and piles of unopened boxes full of documents, photographs, and who knows what else! It's as if the four of us are unearthing treasures just like the archeologists in the articles...there's certainly a comparable amount of dust.