Snapshots in time

Clara Araujo
Sounds, whispers, and incessant audible repetitions of concepts seemed to penetrate, without haste, each of the walls of those rooms. A warm atmosphere of constant sensory stimuli revealed the most intricate complicities in the study.

My photographic adventure in the libraries of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) began in this sublime way.

The mission seemed simple: pick up images to illustrate the magazine and rush off to continue my hectic day. Book editing, material selection, political speeches, corporate workshops: everything seemed more urgent than stopping to admire the dynamics of an apparently already-known environment.

I arrived at the first library, set up the digital memory, made sure to put in the right battery, chose the optimal lens, and decided to focus on my target. A second later and without being able to avoid it, the intense brightness of that place had forever enveloped me with its magic.

I realized that entering a university library requires fearlessness, the gallantry to discover new worlds and to see one’s own with other eyes rich in light and an eager gaze to observe details out of the chaos within.

Architecture, layout, sound, and finely designed radiant pathways gave each campus multiple optimal environments for reflection, study, and even introspection, a luxury rarely accessed in the modern world.

Whether it was the library of a faculty, a high school, or the largest library in the UNAM Library System, the order was as perfect as it was imperceptible. And how could I not recognize it when it is that easy —and almost automatic— to find the location of a text among many, many others in the country?

It was enough to sharpen my senses and listen to the stories of its people to soak up the essence of each place. Regardless of size or information needs, each library treasured a unique collection that enriched the university community and contributed to the preservation of the Spanish language through each of the thousands of texts stored in it.

Thus it was on my tours in search of the great library treasures that I discovered, surprisingly, an unexpected jewel: its people. Committed collaborators who, with fervent passion, made an admirable machinery of service run at a very good pace. People who, although not very visible, were devoted to the care, preservation, and dissemination of the diversity of information resources historically preserved by our Alma Mater.

And it was precisely they who turned my images into stories: They revealed to me their affection for the texts through The Hero, a book they named this way after this volume absorbed water and saved the rest of the copies during the rupture of a pipe on the upper floor; they showed me the term incunable, those books printed before the year 1500; they allowed me to discover facsimiles, exact reproductions of texts and drawings; they shared with me the difference between muletas and other book preservation techniques, and, above all, they infected me with their dedication and sensitivity to safeguarding the historical and cultural heritage of our country.

For all these reasons, these snapshots in time are a tribute —through the lens— to the hundreds of people who collaborate in the libraries of UNAM throughout the length and breadth of Mexico. Their daily achievements turn the bibliographic and hemerographic precincts into amazing places of knowledge and preservation of the greatest documental wealth of the country. And so it is that we find a world that, although it seems to be overcome by technology, strengthens and discovers for itself an echo capable of shaking the most incredulous visitor.

Visit the UNAM libraries: learn about their history, admire their architecture, and explore their information resources. A state-of-the-art Library and Information System in Latin America, comformed by 134 libraries and is coordinated by the UNAM’s General Direction of Libraries.

To learn more about all the resources of the Library System visit:

Clara Araujo is a doctoral candidate in Political Science from UNED, Master from the Rey Juan Carlos University, both in Spain, and a degree in Communication from the Intercontinental University. She combines her profession with photography. She is co-author of the photography books 1968/50, De imágenes y relatos and El país en la ciudad, published by UNAM, and has coordinated the edition of the series Image in Letter: Letter in Image (Humanities Coordination) and the book for the 99th anniversary of CEPE, Destellos magistrales.
Current issue
Previous issues
No category (1)
Encuadre (9)
Entrevista (6)
Entérate (8)
Experiencias (2)
Extensión (4)