The Villa Ocampo Documentation Centre comprises Victoria Ocampo’s library and personal archives and the archives of the Sur journal and publishing house, lent on a loan and restitution contract to UNESCO by the Fundación Sur (established by Victoria Ocampo herself). The joint consolidated archives comprise over 11,000 books, 2,500 periodic publications, 1,000 photographs, 4,000 letters, papers, manuscripts, records, music scores, a complete bound collection of the Sur journal annotated by Victoria Ocampo, a collection with the books kept at the Sur publishing house and other documents. All these offer an exceptional vision, helping us to understand intellectual development in Latin America in the twentieth century.
The documentary holdings at Villa Ocampo are a unique and irreplaceable testimonial to the process of production of one of the most important Spanish language journals of the twentieth century. The Sur journal and publishing house, under the direction of Victoria Ocampo was a true bridge between cultures and a forum for readings and writings giving shape to a vast intellectual circle that read and intervened in the major debates of its time. From distant regions of the world, men and women such as Barthes, Borges, Sartre, Huxley, Gandhi, De Sica, De Gaulle, Lacan, Cortázar, Breton, Malraux, Gide, Mistral, Stravinsky and Le Corbusier were, among others, the interlocutors and producers of the collection of documents held here.
The collection is associated with the history of Villa Ocampo, the house where Victoria Ocampo lived until 1979, and which she donated to UNESCO in 1973 following a recommendation by her friend André Malraux. Villa Ocampo holds the books and documents that were in the house at the time of her death and the collection of the Fundación Sur. Both patrimonial groups are a reflection of the years of literary work and of the Sur editorial – publications of considerable relevance for Argentine liberal arts and for Hispano-American liberal arts in general.
The Sur journal was first published in 1931 as a quarterly publication and comprised 199 pages. From the start it had a Foreign Council, including the following members: Ernest Ansermet, Drieu La Rochelle, Leo Ferrero, Waldo Frank, Pedro Henríquez Ureña, Alfonso Reyes, Jules Supervielle and José Ortega y Gasset. The Editorial Council comprised Jorge Luis Borges, Oliverio Girondo, Eduardo Mallea, Alfredo González Garaño, Eduardo J. Bullrich, María Rosa Oliver and Guillermo de Torre among its members. The Sur editorial published its first book in 1933 and, until the death of its owner, continued publishing and translating the most outstanding writers of the Americas, Asia and Europe.
The Villa Ocampo documentation centre holds the belongings of Victoria Ocampo that were to be found at Villa Victoria – her residence in Mar del Plata- and her residence at Rufino de Elizalde street in Buenos Aires City. Before she died, the owner of Sur had her belongings transferred to Villa Ocampo, her house in San Isidro on the outskirts of Buenos Aires and left them under the guardianship of UNESCO. The Documentation Centre has also received various donations.
Presently the team working with the Documentation Centre is cataloguing, digitalizing and doing conservation work, in addition to receiving researchers who are interested in consulting the holdings. The Centre is also in contact with other archives and institutions contributing to enhancing the collection and the research being carried out on it. Furthermore, it undertakes curatorship of documentary exhibitions giving the public access to its material and giving an account of the diverse interests and cultural movements that crossed the life, work and readings of the director of Sur, in addition to participating in editorial and communication projects disseminating the work of Victoria Ocampo and the journal and editorial she directed.
The UNESCO Villa Ocampo Observatory Documentation Centre was included in the Memory of the World Register for Latin America and the Caribbean in 2014, and approved by the International Consultative Committee because of its importance as a symbol of the collective memory and part of the world documentary heritage, to be preserved, protected and to be permanently and unrestrictedly accessible.