These records document the activities which the Office of Quincentenary Programs coordinated or organized to mark the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's first landfall in the Americas on October 12, 1492. The Quincentenary programs began in 1985 under the coordination of Smithsonian's Directorate of International Activities, Magali Carrera. The Quincentenary activities took place in South and Central America, the United States, Spain, Italy and the Caribbean. The records document the Columbian observances which took place mostly in the United States. Observances included parades, festivals, exhibitions, symposia and other individual events celebrating the voyage.
The records include correspondence between the Director of the Office of Quincentenary Programs, Alicia M. Gonzalez, and other Smithsonian Institution bureaus. Most of the correspondence is between the director and various other national and international institutions such as museums, universities, embassies, archives, and professional and special interest organizations. Other records document a variety of exhibitions, public programs and scholarly publications to commemorate Columbus's voyage to the Americas. All the programs and events highlighted the Quincentenary themes: (1) Magnificent Traditions, (2) Dynamic of the Encounter, (3) Continuity of the Encounter and (4) The Next 500 Years.
The administrative records document travel, contract agreements, accounting records for various projects and functions, interpreters and caterers.
Interspersing the records are documents about a five-part bilingual, series of one-hour television programs entitled, "Buried Mirror: Reflections on Spain and the New World by Carlos Fuentes" (1991), exploring Latin America, past and present, focusing on themes, institutions, beliefs and symbols which have endured or changed; major Smithsonian Quincentenary programs such as exhibitions: "Seeds of Change", "American Encounters", "Where Next, Columbus", "The West as America", "Portraiture in the Reign of Philip II", "Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation", "Latin American Pioneers of Modernism", and the "Amazonia: The New World Explored on the Occasion of the Columbus Quincentenary".
The Office of Folklife Programs organized events such as the Festival of American Folklife "living exhibitions" which featured "The Caribbean: Cultural Encounters in the New World" (June/July 1989), the Festival's 1991 and 1992 features of the indigenous populations of the Americas, focusing on cultures of the rainforests, Andean Highlands, Valley, Desert, Northwest Coast, Woodlands and Pinenut gathering cultures, also the symposia, "Seeds of the Past" (1988), "Seeds of Commerce" (1989), and "Seeds of Industrialization" (1990), including Folklife Programs in collaboration with Smithsonian Folkways Records of music and verbal arts, Smithsonian Quincentenary radio programs highlighting living cultural exhibitions, teacher-training workshops and exhibition program books; and a Quincentenary multi-cultural curriculum, five-unit, bilingual kits, "Early Childhood Materials on the Peoples of the Americas" which the Office of Elementary and Secondary School produced for use in pre-schools in the United States, South America, Central America and the Caribbean.
The records pertaining to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) document co-sponsorship of the Fourth World Congress on the National Parks in Panama, an international symposium, "Non-Imperial Polities in the Lands Visited by Christopher Columbus on His Four Voyages to the New World" (1990) and the 1992 Fourth World Congress on National Parks which was convened by the International Union of Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).
Correspondence, excerpts from books and book reviews document a variety of books on themes related to the Columbus Quincentenary at the popular and scholarly levels, including Smithsonian Institution Press efforts to develop publications from the many exhibitions and scholarly symposia which took place over the period of the Quincentenary observance.
Included are photographs; brochures; pamphlets; posters; color slides; prints; maps; newspaper and newsmagazine clippings; excerpts from published books; copies of research papers presented at the Quincentenary symposia; minutes of various planning committees; reports to the Smithsonian Secretary, Robert Adams; lists of organizations within and outside the United States, lists of guests to various functions; audio cassette tapes; videotapes; records concerning establishing a Quincentenary newsletter, "The New World"; exhibition proposals; budget projections and justifications; and miscellaneous documents.