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Listening to Literature: Expanding Online Access to the Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape

(The Following is a post by Catalina Gómez, Reference Librarian, Hispanic Division.) 

Chilean Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda recording for the AHLOT in the Library of Congress Recording Laboratory in 1966.

Chilean Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda recording for the AHLOT in the Library of Congress Recording Laboratory in 1966.

As we settle into late summer, the Hispanic Division continues the exciting work of uploading recordings from the Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape (AHLOT) online. Listen to one of our recent additions!

Last September, the AHLOT Online Feature was launched, making a portion of this unique literary audio archive accessible for the very first time to anyone with an internet connection. We continue to add digitized material from the collection to the website on an ongoing basis.

Francisco Aguilera, founder of the AHLOT.

Francisco Aguilera, founder of the AHLOT.

The Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape represents the very best of 20th and 21st century Luso-Hispanic literature. Among its treasures are audio recordings with Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar and Gabriel García Márquez. The Archive was started in the early 1940s by the then Assistant Chief of the Hispanic Division, Francisco Aguilera, a Chilean who had a close acquaintance with Pablo Neruda, and who was a poet himself. The first recordings were made in the Thomas Jefferson Building Recording Lab, around the same time that the then Office of the Consultant in Poetry here at the Library of Congress began a similar effort to record American and international poets and authors. We recently found out that in 1943 Aguilera participated in one of the recordings made by the Poetry Office, translating the poetry of then Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish, and that this event could’ve been the inspiration for creating the AHLOT.

Today our archive has close to 750 recordings of the most important writers from Spain, Portugal, Latin America, the Caribbean and the United States where a large Hispanic population lives. Thirty-two countries are represented, as well as a wide variety of languages such as Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, Basque, Creole, English, Nahuatl, Aymara, Quechua, among others.

Brazilian author Jorge Amado recording for the AHLOT in the Library of Congress Recording Laboratory in 1977.

Brazilian author Jorge Amado recording for the AHLOT in the Library of Congress Recording Laboratory in 1977.

Since its beginnings, copies of the recordings from this archive have been available to patrons in our Hispanic Reading Room. (The original master tapes are safely stored in temperature-controlled vaults in the Recorded Sound Division.) Scholars and literature lovers have been taking advantage of this unique collection, and our goal today is for the collection to gain a wider reach through our collaboration with the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division (MBRS), and the Poetry and Literature Center of the Library of Congress. Today close to 100 recordings from the Archive have been uploaded to the site.

We also continue to record new voices for this collection. Just this year we have recorded new writers from Spain, Colombia, Mexico, and the United States. One of our favorite recent additions to the collection is our recording with poet Juan Felipe Herrera, who just began his second term as the Poet Laureate of the United States.

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