The new archive in Columbia’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RBML) includes more than 3,000 photos, musical scores, paintings, films, correspondence, manuscripts, recordings, posters, woodcuts and even editorial cartoons. Work by Irene Esser Delano, a noted illustrator and designer and Delano’s wife and artistic partner, is part of the collection, which offers a window on Puerto Rico’s economy, politics, society and culture from the 1940s-90s. “You cannot speak about Puerto Rican arts and culture in the second half of the 20th century without talking about the contributions of the Delanos,” Negrón-Muntaner said.
“The archive reveals the ways governments have employed arts programs to document and transform the living conditions of marginal populations and to educate the poor,” said Sean Quimby, director of RBML. “The contents show how the Delanos sought to comprehend and express the culture of an island that has sat at global crossroads for hundreds of years.”
The collection adds to the Latino Arts and Activism Archive, which includes the full run of the city’s oldest Spanish-language daily, El Diario/La Prensa, as well as works by Puerto Rican writers such as the poet Rosario Ferré and Manuel Ramos Otero and the Cuban-American playwright Dolores Prida.
Pablo Delano and Laura Delano Duncan, both artists themselves, donated their parents’ archive. Pablo Delano, a professor of fine art at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, said his parents worked in close partnership. “The collection shows the degree to which their entire artistic output is a result of their collaboration,” he said.