Reviewed August 2020
L.E. Eames, Instruction Librarian
University of Colorado, Colorado Springs
The ICAA Documents Project/Documents of Latin American and Latino Art is a free-to-use collection of primary sources from Latinx artists in Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and the United States. Their sources range in type from letters to artists books to articles and have been made available online thanks to grant funding and a Panamerican network of partnerships. The Project states that it is not itself trying to be an archive but rather an access point for these documents so that the archives can remain in their contexts. The creators of the Project seek to facilitate scholarly connections via their publications, awards, exhibits, and conferences, but the documents remain the core of their project. Comparable works include the Canadian Women Artists History Initiative and the Early Seattle Theater History Project, which also seek to make the subject-specific collection of documents accessible online but do not themselves seek to be archives.
Partner institutions work with the ICAA to populate this collection. Their partnership with Fundación AMA yielded the most recent addition: Critical Documents of Chilean Art. It is moreover gratifying to see their transparency about their network. Core partners are listed under “Partnerships” and “History,” and these lists go a long way toward explaining some of the gaps noticed by this reviewer, especially around performance art and documents from the 2010s. The Documents Project is still a significant collection of documents from Latinx artists and it is still growing so these gaps may be addressed in the future.
Each entry includes the image of the document, some basic metadata (including where the original document lives), and a paragraph each of synopsis and annotation. The synopsis and annotation helpfully place the documents in context and provide background. The images are of high quality and are legible online. There are not transcripts on the Documents Project website, but the PDF that users can download if they have created their free account is an OCR scan.
Overall, the site is easy to navigate and the Project makes effective use of its platform. Running a handful of representative pages through an accessibility checker reveal some contrast issues, but on the whole, the site is screenreader accessible. The Browse by Author and Date functions work particularly well, but the Browse by Title and Topic options are somewhat frustrating. The Browse by Topic option reveals some underlying metadata issues on the site. In the example above of the Manifiesto Antropófago, the “de Andrade, Oswald” listed as the author is not the same “de Andrade, Oswald” in the Browse by Author tab nor does it link to the full set of documents he authored in the collection as a whole. The topic tags also do not appear to be uniformly applied. Some are from Getty AAT, but others appear to be native to the ICAA.
Unlike the other three Browse By options, Browse by Title does not let you jump to different letters of the alphabet, which necessitates scrolling through all 8,000+ documents to find a specific title. If you know the title you’re looking for, the search function works well but there are no facets on the search result page to limit your results. However, the fact that their search by language facet allows users to browse all documents by language without entering any other search terms means that this resource is useful for language students in addition to being valuable to college-level art history and Latin American studies students and professors. In spite of some small gaps and missteps, this reviewer would recommend ICAA Documents Project/Documents of Latin American and Latino Art. The collection has unique depth in this subject area, and overall the user experience is a positive one.