Hispanic and Latino Organization (HALO) at the National Archives

Hispanic Heritage Mural, ca, 2003-2004 (National Archives Identifier 6190418)

It’s National Hispanic Heritage Month! Visit our web page for resources on related records and how we are commemorating the month.

Today’s post comes from Kathleen Brown, an archivist in the Textual Processing unit at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. She is also co-chair of the Hispanic and Latino Organization (HALO) Employee Affinity Group (EAG) at the National Archives.

The Hispanic and Latino Organization, better known as HALO, is one of several Employee Affinity Groups (EAGs) at the National Archives that staff may join. The general goals of these groups are to promote interagency collaboration, diversity, and inclusion, and to provide a sense of community.

Beyond these overarching goals, each EAG has individual goals related to the community that it represents both within and outside of the National Archives.

HALO exists not only to connect National Archives employees who identify as Hispanics/Latinx and their allies, but also to promote cultural awareness of Hispanic/Latinx culture in the United States, and the individual and diverse cultures of the many countries that comprise Latin America.

What better resources are there to promote Hispanic culture than the National Archives records related to this topic?

Who better to highlight those records than our staff with the help of a growing group of citizen archivists?

And what better time to highlight HALO and our current initiatives than the start of Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15–October 15)?

In 1961, NARA published a Guide to Latin American Records, a comprehensive research guide to assist researchers in identifying and locating “the most significant materials in the National Archives that relate to the countries of the Western Hemisphere south of the United States.” Unfortunately, the guide hasn’t been updated and republished since 1974.

In the early 1980s, there was considerable work done on a proposed Guide to Materials in the National Archives Relating to Hispanic People in the Southwest, but the endeavor was later abandoned.

And finally, as recently as 2013, staff from the National Archives at New York compiled a Guide to Puerto Rican Records that is available as a PDF on our website.

Images from the National Archives at New York’s Guide to Puerto Rican Records, 2013.

The primary benefit of guides like those listed above is that they can provide much more contextual information about the records than a typical finding aid or catalog record.

Due to the extensive research involved, however, these guides can take years to prepare and are updated infrequently. Government agencies are constantly creating records that will someday come to the National Archives, which means that by the time any guide is completed it is already out of date.

So, the problem is—can we find a sustainable way for staff to make records easier to identify and locate? One of HALO’s current initiatives tackles this problem, and it involves tagging. You can learn more about tagging on our Citizen Archivist Dashboard, but at its core, it simply means to apply a word, a descriptive term, or label to a record in the catalog to make it more discoverable online.

lag_2017 tagging example
Example of tagging in the National Archives Online Catalog (Papers Relative to Seizure and Confiscation of Property).

Since last October, I’ve added the tag prg_2013 to all the records that appeared in the Guide to Puerto Rican Records in New York and then added the tag to records concerning Puerto Rico that did not make it into the guide.

More recently, HALO members and other Archives staff have responded to a “call for volunteers” on our interoffice network and have begun tagging records related to Latin American countries with the tag lag_2017 and those related to prominent Hispanic Americans, Hispanic and Latino issues in the United States, and related records with the tag lax_2017.

Other tags have also been added as relevant, including personal names, geographic locations, and subject matter.

Tagging these records not only allows us to identify records that promote Hispanic culture but will also allow us to group these records together and create “resource portals” that will enrich our existing web page of Hispanic Heritage resources, ensuring everyone will be able to discover them.

Please join us in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month by looking through our catalog and tagging a few records!

HHM tagging example
Example of tagging in the National Archives Online Catalog (Ceremony for the National Hispanic Heritage Week Proclamation).

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