The British Museum’s Santo Domingo Centre of Excellence for Latin American Research partners Hay Festival for Untold Microcosms project

Untold Microcosms, a new international collaboration announced today between the British Museum’s Santo Domingo Centre of Excellence for Latin American Research (SDCELAR) and Hay Festival will inspire new stories based on items from the Americas collection that are not on display in the galleries.

Ten writers will work with SDCELAR curators to write stories inspired by items in the Central and South American collection at the British Museum, to be published in September as Untold Microcosms: Latin American Writers in the British Museum by Charco Press (World English) and Anagrama (Volver a contar: Escritores de América Latina en los archivos del Museo Británico, World Spanish). The museum’s stored collection contains approximately 62,000 objects, spanning 10,000 years of human history, and Untold Microcosms will explore the narratives about our past that we create through museum collections, in spite of their gaps and disarticulations.

Participating writers (see detailed biographies here) represent a snapshot of Latin America’s most inspiring storytellers, including Yásnaya Elena Aguilar, Cristina Rivera Garza, Joseph Zárate, Juan Cárdenas, Velia Vidal, Lina Meruane, Gabriela Cabezón Cámara, Dolores Reyes, Carlos Fonseca and Djamila Ribeiro, coordinated by translator and editor Sophie Hughes, Charco Press publisher Carolina Orloff, and Anagrama editor and writer Felipe Restrepo Pombo. SDCELAR curators, Laura Osorio, Mercedes Martínez and Magdalena Araus, will carry out research alongside these writers to create access to and provide cultural and historical context for the Museum’s collection.

The project will be further explored with live Hay Festival events around the world including Hay Festival Cartagena later this month (29 January), followed by Hay Festival in Hay-on-Wye, Wales (26 May-5 June), Hay Festival Querétaro (1-4 September), Hay Festival Segovia (15-18 September), and Hay Festival Arequipa (3-6 November). 

Hay Festival international director Cristina Fuentes la Roche said: “Untold Microcosms invites some of the best writers from Latin America today to interrupt the profiling of cultures, making space for narratives shaped by imagination. We’re delighted to be working with SDCELAR for the first time and look forward to sharing the results with our global audience throughout 2022 and beyond with the support of Charco Press in the UK and Anagrama in the Hispanic world.”

Head of SDCELAR, Laura Osorio Sunnucks said: “This project is about the individuals behind museum objects and their narratives, which transcend the cultural and political histories of collections. The writers involved in our project will explore relevant political contexts from the past and the present, while also reminding us to leave space in these discussions for dreams and multiplicity. Their final compositions will suggest new structures with which we can read museum objects to consider the past.”

Hay Festival is the world’s leading festival of ideas, bringing readers and writers together in sustainable events to inspire, examine and entertain, reaching a global audience of millions each year. Tickets to Hay Festival Cartagena are out now at hayfestival.org/cartagena while early-bird events to Hay Festival in Hay-on-Wye are available now at hayfestival.org/wales. 

For more information, visit the Untold Microcosms project page here.