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About the Division

In 1927, Archer M. Huntington, founder of the Hispanic Society of America, established an endowment fund in his name, the first of several important donations for Hispanic studies at the Library of Congress. The second "area studies division" to be founded by the Library, in 1939 the Hispanic Division was established to acquire Luso-Hispanic materials in a systematic fashion. In that same year, the division's reading room, The "Hispanic Society Reading Room," named after the New York Hispanic Society of America, was inaugurated to service the Library's growing Luso-Hispanic collections.

Although primary emphasis has always been the acquisition of current materials and government documents the Hispanic Division has also acquired a rich collection of rare items. The Division was instrumental in acquiring significant gifts of manuscripts, music scores, and posters, photographs and films. It made efforts to develop special groups of materials such as collecting folk music from San Antonio, Texas, and pioneering the recording of Hispanic poets.

Through the generosity of countless donors, the Library of Congress has amassed the world's finest collection on the history and culture of Latin America, Iberia, and the Caribbean. Many of the rare items were received as gifts, such as rare books donated by Lessing J. Rosenwald and manuscripts given by Hans P. Kraus. Gifts and bequests have enabled the Hispanic Division to purchase materials in various formats, in addition to books and periodicals, and to record authors for the Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape. Further information on the various Luso-Hispanic collections can be found in the Hispanic Reading Room.

Lewis U. Hanke, the first chief of the Hispanic Division, brought with him from Harvard University the Handbook of Latin American Studies (established in 1935), which since 1939 has been prepared at the Hispanic Division. The Handbook reflects the breadth and depth of the Library's Hispanic collections. The Fundación Histórica Tavera of Spain, with the assistance from the Andrew W. Mellon FoundationExternal Link, financed the retrospective conversion of 53 volumes of the Handbook to CD-ROM format. In remembrance of their father, the children of Lewis Hanke donated funds to the Hispanic Division to place the entire automated database of the Handbook on the World Wide Web.

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  December 18, 2013
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