About our website

The Curt Nimuendajú Digital Library is an information hub on indigenous South American languages, a place to create and gather online resources for both academic researchers and the general public. The digital library, active since 2008, was born out of a project started in 2002 as a mailing list. The list quickly evolved into a major forum for the discussion of research topics on South American languages, the promotion of events and online resources—in sum, a meeting point for all those interested in South American linguistics and related areas.

Initially envisioned as a portal for the discussion list (to post community rules and files, for instance), the website soon gained a life of its own. It is now one of the most comprehensive sources of information on indigenous languages and cultures of South America, with a strong presence in social media (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Flickr, and Blogger).


The Curt Nimuendajú Digital Library offers hundreds of resources (please see our live stats page), including books and articles, conference abstracts, and a comprehensive compilation of annotated links to open-access periodicals, news articles, and other online resources. Some of our most popular features, in terms of both hits and community participation, are our dissertation repository, which currently lists hundreds of freely-available theses and dissertations (many of which are author-submitted), and our collection of hard-to-find, out-of-print items. Since 2009, the website also publishes Cadernos de Etnolingüística (ISSN 1946-7095), a peer-reviewed, open-access online journal on South American languages.


The project is peer-maintained and community-driven, as our users (ranging from experienced scholars to undergraduate students) remain by far our most important sources. The library includes, in addition to items digitized by its own volunteer staff or by similar projects, a number of items donated by interested readers (including authors or their heirs).

Directory of South Americanists

The direct participation of linguists actively involved in the documentation of South American languages is a major characteristic of the Curt Nimuendajú Digital Library, contributing to keep our information relevant and accurate. To further contextualize the information we provide, we maintain a directory of South Americanists. Each author-submitted entry is an individual page containing basic information on the researcher: name, institutional affiliation, means of contact (email addresses are duly protected via ReCaptcha), interest areas, and languages of interest. The directory is cross-referenced with our ever-growing list of online resources, in such a way that, by clicking on a given language tag, one finds not only a list of related online materials, but ways of getting directly in touch with linguists working on that language as well.


Each item in our library (e.g. a book, an article, a news item) occupies a stable webpage, a citable permalink (meaning that it can be cited as a reference in a publication). We are strongly committed to avoiding link rot (a problem that is extremely common in academic sites), relying on user engagement to keep us informed on any issues involving a given item: each item in our collection has an individualized feedback form in order to enable users to send us suggestions, notify us of technical problems (e.g. missing or illegible pages, broken links), or voice objections to an item's inclusion in our website. Our feedback system is essential not only in increasing link stability, but also in ensuring community participation and quality improvement.

Context, context, context!

A major tenet of our "activist librarianship" is that information without context is, essentially, misinformation. That is why we strive to provide each item not only with additional information on related items (through our system of tags), but also on the authors and their lives (through curated collections, individual author pages, biographies, and our directory). Invited contributors to our blog, including linguists, anthropologists, and historians, help shed light on the historical circumstances surrounding an author's work, situating it in the larger landscape of our field. Another good example of this commitment to contextualization is the ongoing project to digitize and transcribe Herbert Baldus' monumental Bibliografia Crítica da Etnologia Brasileira, cross-referencing it with items in our collection.


"The electronic Biblioteca Curt Nimuendajú […] is a remarkable treasure trove of materials — which every Amazonianist uses and peruses." (Sacha Aikhenvald)

"The Curt Nimuendajú Digital Library is an example of digital humanities: the union of academic values with the tools and culture of the internet. A virtual community of both professionals and amateurs is behind the scenes, making the best use of the resources at hand for the common good, empowering those interested in indigenous sounds (including many researchers), and supporting endangered languages—a topic covered by most international declarations on intangible heritage." (Edgardo Civallero)

This site is part of the Etnolinguistica.Org network.
Except where otherwise noted, content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.