Modeling Prehispanic Architecture at the Exposición Histórico-Americana, Madrid, 1892

Thursday, January 2, 2014: 1:20 PM
Senate Room (Omni Shoreham)
Byron Hamann, Ohio State University
In 1892, Mexico contributed four galleries of artifacts, drawings, photographs, and replicas for the Exposición Histórico-Americana in Madrid. This paper uses the two-volume catalog published for this event, as well as six recently located album-scale photographs of the galleries, to discuss the meaning and use of architectural models in the exhibits. Three of these models were of individual buildings (pyramids from El Tajín, Xochicalco, and Teuchitlan) but in addition the central space of one of the rooms was filled by a large, and innovative, multi-building model of an entire site. The model was not, as one might expect, of Tenochtitlan, but of Cempoala, where exhibit organizer Francisco del Paso y Troncoso had performed excavations the previous year. This presentation engages with prior scholarship on Porfirian archaeology and self-representation at World’s Fairs, as well as science studies perspectives of the role of models and modeling in social/scientific research, in order to explore three basic issues: 1) the relationship of these models to a prior history of architectural modeling in Mesoamerican archaeology, and especially the use of site models; 2) the role of models at other fin de siècle expos, in particular Paris 1889 and Chicago 1893; 3) the complex reasons for interest in the site of Cempoala circa 1892 (which was included in the Mexican galleries not simply as a site model, but also in the form of photographs and drawings). Cempoala was featured in the Exposición as the site of CortÚs' first indigenous alliance, and yet—as past scholarship on the displays by Dana Leibsohn and Barbara Mundy argues—Mexico’s “conquest” and viceregal past were both downplayed in the exhibits overall.