Silvia Spitta

Out of the Archives and Into the Street

This past month, passers-by in the streets of Cuzco, Peru, saw double. For the city-wide exhibit El Cusco de Martín Chambi, 32 images of the city taken by world-renowned indigenous photographer Martín Chambi early in the 20th century were enlarged and set up around the city—“in the very spaces and whenever possible from the very angles where Martín Chambi took them,” says Silvia Spitta, a professor of Spanish and of comparative literature and the Robert E. Maxwell 1923 Professor of Arts and Sciences.

Spitta’s work with the Chambi archive was supported by an award from the Office of the Dean of the Faculty’s Scholarly Innovation Fund, and involved preserving and cataloging the archive’s holdings. At the same time Spitta “intervened” in the archive to make its holdings accessible to the public at large.

Dartmouth ‘Intervenes’ in Peruvian Photography Archive

Professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature Silvia Spitta and Dartmouth librarian Jill Baron traveled to Cuzco, Peru, in December, to organize and catalogue more than 40,000 glass plate negatives made by the late indigenous Peruvian photographer Martín Chambi.

With financing from the Office of the Dean of the Faculty’s Scholarly Innovation Fund, as well as support from the Dartmouth Library, Spitta and Baron worked with Teo Allain Chambi, the grandson of the photographer and director of the Chambi archive.

Spitta’s exhibition of Chambi’s photos, “Interventions in the Archive,” will be held in Cuzco from September 15 to October 18, 2014. The photographs will be enlarged and hung around the city, “in the very spaces where Chambi took them almost 100 years ago,” says Spitta, the Robert E. Maxwell 1923 Professor of Arts and Sciences.

These photos document life in Cuzco from 1920-1950, and capture everything from snapshots of street vendors, to formal studio portraits, to photographs of important Incan sites such as Machu Picchu and Sacsayhuaman.