Mediateca INAH is the largest digital repository of Mexico’s cultural heritage. Developed by the National Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico (known as INAH), this open access platform brings together image and audio collections, catalogs, archives, libraries, museums, archeological sites, virtual tours, and national and international exhibits overseen by this governmental authority. It is an essential resource for scholars, educators, and students interested in the rich cultural history of Mexico. Mediateca INAH facilitates virtual engagements with over half a million interrelated digital reproductions of maps, paintings, sculptures, photographs, audio recordings, documentaries, books, as well as other textual primary sources. This extensive repository also comprises secondary sources, based on scientific knowledge produced across INAH cultural heritage educational and research centers. These include publications, presentations, and interviews with scholars who specialize in Mexico’s pre-Columbian history and antiquities.
The site offers students of Mexican history multiple paths to discover content, especially for those who like to browse. The Inicio (Homepage) is a dynamic menu that presents an overview of all available content on Mediateca INAH. The options on this page are also available through the main menu navigation tabs: Colecciones (Collections), Acervos (Cultural Heritage), Espacios (Spaces), Blog, and Mi Mediateca (My Mediateca). Users can begin their exploration with the Colecciones tab, which displays all the digital archives organized by Mediateca INAH. They can discover content on cave petroglyphs, indigenous languages, mommies, pre-Columbian objects, Mexican cinema, video capsules, music scores, and exhibits, among other sources. These groupings can help teachers make an initial selection of items and create activities centered around them.
If the lesson pertains to the Conquest of Mexico, students could visit the Códices (Codex) collection, search for specific segments of the codex Azcatitlán, and identify the segment representing Hernán Cortés’ entrance to Tenochtitlán. They can then describe the scenes and respond to historical questions, such as: Who is right next to Cortés? If it is La Malinche, why is she present? Who are standing behind Cortés? Why is there a black man in this party? What about the three native men carrying supplies, who are they? What are they carrying? Where do they all come from? Who are they about to encounter? What do you think the next códice segment will depict? From the Colecciones page, teachers can also scroll down to the “Compilaciones” section and select the presentation entitled, “Códices de México” to view an introduction (both in English and Spanish) to the concept of codex. For those interested in locating teaching materials on colonial-era codices within the World History Commons, they may want to check out sources on the codex Florentine and the codex Mendoza. The World History Commons also includes a nice selection of teaching sources related to the iconic figure of La Malinche.
Another way teachers could use the Mediateca INAH site in a classroom setting might be to ask students to check out the Blog posts, which include general synopses of particular topics of interest, as well as links to related Mediateca digital items. The images that accompany each blog post are animated gifs that are fun to look at. If students choose to read the blog post on El Águila, for instance, they will connect a short interpretive text on eagle Mexican iconography to the different digital representations of the eagle across the repository. The interpretive content included in these blog posts are written in a Spanish at a level that is understood by most intermediate-advanced Spanish speakers.
Students can also perform searches by using the general search box, which is visible from every page of the site. Through this general search, they could access the advanced search page, a feature that will let them filter results with the use of facets, such as source type, creator, date, theme, artistic periods, culture of origin, and location. If teachers—especially those with students who do not possess advanced Spanish-language skills—choose to create searching activities, it would be best if they have guided instructions available or preselected items for students to search. As the site does not contain a section devoted to learning resources, teachers would need to feel comfortable conducting advanced searches in Spanish before introducing their students to this platform.
The Mediateca INAH site includes two additional sections that, while they could be of great value to the general public, they may not be as intuitive for classroom activities: Espacios and Acervos. The first one is a directory of all INAH’s cultural institutions and centers across the country and it is intended to promote physical visits to the hundreds of archeological zones, museums, research centers, and libraries overseen by INAH. Although users would not access digital content from here, this page can give them a perspective on the magnitude centers overseen by INAH, similar to how the United States’ Smithsonian Museums operate. The Acervo tab lets visitors access content based on how the original objects are collected and curated by the various INAH institutions. For instance, if users select the Acervo histórico de miniaturas - Museo Nacional de Historia, they will be taken to a page that introduces them to this original collection of miniature paintings, present information about the institution that houses it, as well as links to digital representations available for view.
In summary, the Mediateca INAH is an important project that aims to preserve and promote the cultural heritage of Mexico in the digital space. Teachers covering the political, cultural, and social history of Mexico (from Pre-Columbian times to the present) may use this site for inspiration, to provide context, or as a basis for a project or activity. They may preselect images that students could then use in media presentations or assemble an image collection that depicts a theme or era for students to work with in a larger project.