MEXICO CITY – Amid the sobriety of the ancient Baroque oratory and the vitality of its murals, the Miguel Lerdo de Tejada Library has protected since 1970 one of Mexico’s most important heritage book collections for historical research.
“It’s one of the richest libraries for preserving books and newspapers from centuries past. There’s not a single historical study in Mexico that doesn’t make use of this library,” the institution’s director, Juan Manuel Herrera, told EFE.
The library was founded in 1928 in the Chapel of the Empress at the National Palace, seat of Mexico’s executive branch of government, and in 1970 was moved to its current location in the Ancient Oratory of San Felipe Neri, under the protection of the Treasury Secretariat.
The library “preserves the memory of historical events: it invites study, review by citizens and a critical view of the past,” according to the book commemorating the 80th anniversary of its founding.
After the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1917, books kept at the former New Spain Royal Treasury were stored in a way that made them unavailable for study, until Treasury Secretary Luis Montes de Oca saw the opportunity to organize a new bibliographic heritage.
Every day the library enriches its patrimony, and one can read publications from the Diario de Mexico newspaper from the start of the 19th century to the national newspapers printed every day.
Among its bibliographic heritage is the economic, historical and artistic collection that the National Bank of Mexico gathered over more than 120 years, along with the National Financial Library.
According to Herrera, the library welcomes close to 2,000 readers every month, including researchers from Mexico, the United States, Latin America and European countries, who find in the heritage collection an enormous historical database to help them carry out their studies.
The Ancient Oratory of San Felipe Neri, in the historic center of Mexico City, was also the Arbeu Theater, which with its lobby covered the entrance to the church, which in turn saved it from being torn down during the seizure of all the clergy’s belongings in the 19th century.
Miguel Lerdo de Tejada (1812-1861) was a Mexican politician, judge of Mexico’s Supreme Court of Justice, and in his position as secretary of the Treasury published the Reform Laws as a preamble to the Mexican Constitution of 1857.