post by Helen & Alex
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. 

PictureA demonstration in mounting negatives.
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. 

Renee Paddock Anderson
10/4/2017 05:04:04 pm

Did the electronic catalog ever get finished? I would love to see it and peruse it. Thank you

10/4/2017 05:11:56 pm

Dear Renee,

The John Paddock collection can be browsed online here:

Best wishes,


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