Researching in Spanish: Arte Publico Hispanic Historical Collection

By Bjorner, Susanne | Searcher, December 2011 | Go to article overview
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Researching in Spanish: Arte Publico Hispanic Historical Collection

Bjorner, Susanne, Searcher

This column concludes a series of reviews of three offerings from EBSCO having to do with Hispanic research. The December 2010 issue presented Referencia Latina, an excellent general interest resource for Spanish speakers and Spanish language learners. October 2011 covered Fuente Academica Premier. This issue delves into Arte Publico Hispanic Historical Collection, a digital compilation of historical content pertaining to U.S. Hispanic history, literature, and culture.


Arte Publico

Arte Publico differs from the current index and full-text collections previously seen in this series. EBSCO classifies Arte Publico as part of its archival collections; its content is drawn from the Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Project []. This is the largest national project ever to locate, preserve, and disseminate the Hispanic culture of the United States in its written form; it stretches from Colonial times until 1960. It is composed of 60,000 historical articles, hundreds of political and religious pamphlets and broadsides, and the complete texts of more than 1,100 historical books of Hispanic literature, political commentary, and culture. Approximately 80% of its content is in Spanish, 20% in English, with material indexed and searchable in both languages. Arte Publico runs on the EBSCOhost platform.

You can get an idea of the unique nature of this historical collection by scanning the title list, available in PDF [www.] or as an Excel spreadsheet. In general, publication dates are available only for books and newspapers; the books show 19th- and 20thcentury imprint dates. A handful of newspapers ranged into the 1970s and 1980s, but most of them showed end dates in the 1800s or by the middle of the 20th century. Pamphlets, broadsides, and other ephemera were generally undated. Most, but by no means all, publication locations are in what is now the United States.

The Subject/Genre column of the title list gives evidence that items are cataloged library-style, using Library of Congress subject headings or a similar scheme. There are lots of entries for religious and political literature, but the range is broad indeed. Browsing the index shows entries including these:


Cuban question-To 1895

Exiles, Spanish


Mexico-History-Revolution, 1910-1920


Serialized fiction

Spain-History-Civil War, 1936-1939


Texas-History-Revolution, 1835-1836


Voyages and Travels-Anecdotes, Cacetiae, Satire, etc.

Asking Questions

Because of its different scope and purpose, the standard questions that I have been using to review Spanish-language resources do not show off this unique resource to its advantage. It makes no sense to query on the 1981 Falklands/Malvinas war or on President Barack Obama in a database that ceases coverage in 1960 []. Nor would one expect to find any reference to the novel I have recently read for a Spanish class, Como Agua para Chocolate, which I have found in previous investigations was published in 1989, with a movie version in 1992. But the action of the novel, by the Mexican author Laura Esquivel, took place during a war, and some of the action, at least, took place in the U.S., in Texas to be specific. I had a somewhat difficult time determining what was going on in the world around the time setting of this fantasy novel. One reason was that I knew nothing of the history of the period. Arte Publico Hispanic Historical Collection seemed as though it would be the correct resource to help me out.

Like Water for Chocolate and the Mexican Revolution

The novel itself doesn't say which war was going on during the story--or if it did, the Spanish description went completely over my head.

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