research in the BnF

It’s my last full day in Paris and it started with Bon Iver on the radio.  This made me a bit homesick.  Plus it’s a Saturday, which means that my body & brain instinctively move slower.  But as it’s my final day for research and I still have three reels of microfiche to review, I’m determined to get as much done as possible.  Tomorrow I head off to Barcelona for the Decolonizing Knowledge and Power Summer School — the second part of this three part research trip.

In honor my time spent at the BnF (Bibliothèque nationale de France), I thought I’d share a few things that I learned about the library for my own reference and for anyone who’s thinking of heading there:

1) Fill out an online application to get pre-approved (Formulaire de pré-accréditation).  It takes a day or two to get approved (though online it says 10 days…)

2) Go to the EAST wing of the library at Mitterand to get your ID card.  Make sure to bring money, since a 3 day pass will cost you about 8 Euros or so.

3) Check your oversize Longchamp bag, but make sure to remove your MacBook Air, moleskine notebook, water, apple, and pen before heading in.  If you’re working in the manuscript section of the Richelieu, leave the latter three items in your bag and take a pencil.  Take some money (coins and small bills) if you’re even thinking of possibly photocopying or printing something b/c you’ll need to buy a card for that from a machine that doesn’t give change.

4) Note that because you’re using a MacBook Air, you won’t be able to plug into their internet system since they don’t have wifi (!).  Then bemoan the fact that your virtual connection to the outside world will rely solely upon computer kiosks with those really funny French keyboards.

5) At Mitterand, scan your pass and head down the two extremely long escalators and straight to the librarian’s desk.  Hopefully a friendly English-speaking Brazilian PhD student will be patient enough to walk you though the process of reserving a seat in one of the reading rooms online as well as explain how to reserve books online.  Definitely use this online catalogue.  You’ll also be able to create an online account with your library card which will allow you to reserve space, books, etc. in your next visits.  If you’re looking for manuscripts, it’s a totally different website to view their collections (of course).

6) Eventually you’ll realize that what you actually need is at the Richelieu branch, which has more limited hours, so you’ll hop on the Metro 14 and take the 15 minute ride over there.

7) You’ll have to make really good friends with each of the rotating librarians (they change every 2 hours or so, it seems) because you’ll need to request extremely valuable manuscripts and lots of microfiche.  The nice thing about the manuscript dept. is that you can make requests on the spot for most of their collections, though I think you can also use this online formulaire.

And you’re off!  Until your lunch break, which if you’re at Richelieu will definitely consist of some yummy Japanese food from the dozens of delicious looking Japanese restaurants nearby.



There’s kind of this mandatory Diego-Frida obsession that I think everyone goes through at some point or another when hanging out in D.F.  Despite the fact that there are a ton of talented artists to come out of Mexico, they are the quintessential pair that epitomizes the idea of “Mexico” for most foreigners.  Though always hesitant to buy into that kind of popular hype, I’ve got to admit that there is something really compelling about their work and their story.

I’ve already seen the murals in the Palacio Nacional, so I thought I’d head off to the Secretaría de Educación Publica to check out the murals there.  Though less relevant to my research topic, they were still quite powerful — especially the Wall Street Banquet, a personal favorite.  Today’s Diego-Friday in D.F. excursion is to the Museo Frida Kahlo in her old house on Londres 247 in Coyoacán.


I made a last-minute trip to Mexico City to meet up with Demián Flores before I head back to San Diego on Friday and I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical at first.  I had only spent a week in D.F. and that was over 3 years ago.  I love my Oaxacan life, friends, and food, and I didn’t want to leave all that behind for the big city.  Despite my initial hesitations, I’ve had a really amazing time here and my time with Demián was fantastic.

After flying in and dropping off some things at the Hotel Marlowe (good budget option close to Bellas Artes), I headed off to visit the museum that Diego Rivera designed to house his Pre-Columbian artifacts — the Anahuacalli.  After a metro, train ride, and 10-minute walk, I arrived at this imposing monumental structure (a modern temple of sorts).  Not only is the building impressive, but the collection is quite amazing and every detail from the mosaic ceilings to the contemporary art installation really resonated with the research that I’ve been doing.  The small craft fair was a bonus, as was actually understanding 90% of the Spanish-language tour, proving that I’ve finally gotten to a good level with the language.

25 / 25

I just found out about the fifty-fifty challenge through KPBS online and seeing that it’s quite unrealistic for me to being this challenge almost mid-way through the year, I’ve decided to start it, but cut it in half.  So, the goal, my friends, will be to read 25 books and watch 25 films in 2012.  I’m going to count my art history books in that 25, but hopefully will throw in some good fiction and creative non-fiction as well.

Inspired by my first trip to Powell’s Books and the fact that I’m working for Kaya Press, I’m going to make sure that some of those books are actual, physical books rather than just those digital whimsies that magically appear on my Kindle.  Perusing through Powell’s, I realized how much I love the look and feel of books — the weight, the rough edges of hand-cut paper, the beauty of a well-designed cover.

Even contemplating joining the Indiespensable club or at least figuring out how Kaya can get involved.  If only I had an endless book-buying fund…

small victory

All my hard-work spent tweeting during CAA a few weeks ago paid off when I was quoted TWICE in the online Art History Newsletter for my comments:

“Academic publishing as a colonization of intellectual property.”

“F1219 – yes, everyone in the rooms has memorized the library of congress call number for Pre-Columbian art history.”

And TWICE more in this episode:

” ‘Aztec rulers were cool and hot’ – Emily Umberger”

Love the idea of 4-dimensional calendars integrated into the Olmec landscape.”

This might not seem like much, but in this epic battle for a PhD, it’s certainly something!

archive love

There are few things I love more in life than a really great archive.  Well, maybe not in my whole life, but definitely in my academic life.  A good archive makes you feel productive even when you’re not really finding anything special.  And when you do find something special, a good archive rewards you with more.  A good archive is there for you when you’re about to give up — when you think it has nothing more left to give.  Just when you’re thinking about flying home early, that archive pulls you in and says, “not yet.  don’t go!”  A good archive lets you take its photo and doesn’t require extra careful handling.  It’s durable, but still leaves pieces of itself in your hands.

I FINALLY found something actually written by Eufemio Abadiano and that’s actually related to the selling of the collection (much of which ended up in Sutro’s hands).  So far, so good.  There’s still about 7 books I need to go through, but this little document above is like a piece of heaven sent down by Eufemio himself.  Gracias, amigo.

Abadiano on the brain

I’m at the Sutro Library trying to get as much done as possible before they close for 2 months.  I’m looking at anything related to Eufemio Abadiano in their collections — and I mean anything!  I’ve included a sample of receipts for you to get a sense of how detailed the receipts are, but, alas, the receipts aren’t exactly what I’m looking for.  Sure, it’s interesting to see who bought what book, or how much you paid for a few candles each week, but all the documents are before Eufemio’s time.  There are some books that the Abadiano’s published and I’ve been able to track their relocations across Mexico City (or perhaps just the foundation of multiple stores).  AND the most exciting thing is that I think I figured out how Abadiano got his name (from the town of Abadaño in the Basque region of Spain!).  All that is super fantastic and are pieces of the puzzle.  But I’m not quite there yet.  I have to get there in the next 2 days though.  And that’s the trouble with research on a limited time frame.

the big c

I really love this picture of me when I was little.  Al says that it’s amazing how I still make the same expression.  Yes, the expression is recognizable, but I think the underlying attitude might be different.  In some circles, with close friends and family, you might see that same smirk that reveals an underlying self-assuradness.  Even in undergrad, in some art history or film classes, a close observer might notice that I honestly felt that I knew what I was talking about.  While I still retain some semblance of confidence in my work for student government or Kaya Press, what may only show during seminars, conferences, and other interactions with art historians is a glimmer of uncertainty, a tinge of self-doubt, a lack of confidence.

Yes, confidence.  The big “C” in my life right now.  It takes a lot of confidence to write a book review for publication, to defend a dissertation prospectus, to presents a paper at a conference.  Heck, it takes a lot of confidence to even approach speakers after a talk or even make an appointment with an artist.  I used to be more confident and felt like I knew everything about art history.  But then something happened.  There was a major shift after an event I’d rather not disclose.  Since that moment, it’s been an uphill battle to recover my confidence.  I’m definitely getting better.  I can now open my email without the rush of heart palpitations, can attend an art history event without worry.

And though these last few years since the unnamed event have been rough, in retrospect, I think that every scholar gets shaken up in some way or another.  Either your beloved manuscript gets rejected, or maybe you have to settle for a NTT position for a while.  Maybe you just fail completely at being an academic and switch to another career that’s actually more enjoyable and rewarding.  If that’s the worst that can happen, then it’s really not that terrible.  I still believe that failure is an integral part of success, and that the biggest mistake you can make is not trying at all.

So, with that, I return to reading a very complicated book by Walter Mignolo, not sure whether I totally understand his theories of modernity/coloniality, but willing to try at the very least.