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date: 23 April 2017

Digital Research on the Visual Culture of Spanish America

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History. Please check back later for the full article.

Since the turn of the twenty-first century, a number of online projects have come into being that focus on the art and architecture of Latin America. These projects are all hybrids, growing out of the fertile ground between computational capacities—particularly image databases or similar aggregations—and scholarly capacities, in the form of imaginative new research. The field of visual culture of Spanish America, arguably the least familiar of the periods of Latin American art history, has given rise to projects that highlight the potentials and complexities of such digital research: Vistas, Visual Culture in Spanish America, 1520–1820, Mesolore, Digital Mesoamerica, and a range of cartographic sites, including the one centered on Lienzo de Quauhquechollan.

Online research in colonial visual culture has opened new possibilities for teaching and research, shifting what it means to produce histories of visual culture. “Greater access” has become a well-recognized feature of online projects directed by scholars, but accessibility is not an end unto itself, and producing and presenting new research online has given rise to a set of practices with larger implications for the trajectory of future scholarship. What kinds of intellectual questions have successful projects posed, what kinds of issues does this work bring to the foreground, and what are some of the limitations of this kind of work? What are the challenges of writing and designing effective online projects, as well as their requirements to be curated over time?