"¡Viva la Libertad!": Building Relationships with New Audiences

The Newberry’s latest exhibition, ¡Viva la Libertad!: The Age of Revolutions in Latin America, is on view in our galleries through July 24, 2021. This exhibition draws on a wide range of collection materials—from maps and rare books to music scores and poetry—to explore independence struggles in the Americas and the Caribbean. It also kicks off a multiyear program series entitled ¡Viva la Libertad!: Forming More Perfect Unions Across the Americas that will further consider the independence struggles of the Americas and their ongoing legacies.

“We have a number of goals in mind for this exhibition and program series, and some new ways of doing exhibitions at the Newberry,” says Will Hansen, curator of ¡Viva la Libertad! and the Newberry’s Curator of Americana. “First, it’s an entirely bilingual exhibition—the labels are all in both English and Spanish. This not only makes sense given the topic of the exhibition, but it also allows us to better serve members of the Latinx and Hispanic communities, who we hope will visit us to explore the exhibition and our collections.”

In fact, among the first visitors to ¡Viva la Libertad! were consuls from some of the Latin American countries whose histories are reflected in the exhibition. Over the course of four visits, Hansen and Newberry President Daniel Greene gave thirteen consuls—including those from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Peru, and Mexico, all of which are celebrating independence bicentennials—in-depth tours of the exhibition. Many commented on the astounding breadth and depth of the materials on display. One consul observed that many Chicagoans might assume they need to travel abroad to examine such items and would be surprised to see such treasures in their own backyards.

“Another goal of the exhibition is to highlight the extensive collection that the Newberry holds related to the Spanish and Portuguese colonies in the Americas,” says Hansen. “A lot of people think of us for American Indian and Indigenous studies. A lot of people think of us for US History. But we also have great materials for the end of the colonial period in the former Spanish and Portuguese colonies.”

Newberry Trustee Javier Laguna, who serves as Director of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) in Chicago, agrees. “The collection as it relates to revolutions in Latin America is extremely rich. We were delighted to be able to host consuls from some of the countries that this exhibition highlights and to show off these treasures. We look forward to deepening our relationships with them and with Hispanic and Latin American audiences as a whole,” he says. “The Newberry is a resource for everyone, and we hope that Latin American, Latinx, and Hispanic communities will see themselves and their histories reflected in our programming.”

Your support of the Newberry is a key factor in allowing us to provide the kinds of exhibitions and programs that will expand our audience. Thank you for your partnership in this important work.

Plan your visit to ¡Viva la Libertad!: The Age of Revolutions in Latin America at the Newberry Library.

Take a virtual tour of the exhibition in English or in Spanish.

View the calendar of upcoming ¡Viva la Libertad! programs.

Watch the ¡Viva la Libertad! opening event, aired on April 24, 2021.

¡Viva la Libertad! is being coordinated by the Newberry Library in partnership with the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, the National Museum of Mexican Art, Illinois Humanities, and Instituto Justice and Leadership Academy. The project has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom. The exhibition at the Newberry is made possible through the generous support of the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation.

This story is part of the Newberry’s Donor Digest, Spring 2021. In this newsletter the Newberry shares with its donors exciting stories of the success and innovation made possible by their generosity. Learn more about supporting the library and its programs.