Empires--including those that formed in Latin America--are conglomerations of several communities, joined together in complex and hierarchical ways. To join these disparate groups together, there must be a unifying force. Beyond violence, these communities are also constructed and maintained through general yet personal forces such as religion and common values. Media helps bridge the gap between the general and the personal, which makes it possible to imagine such large communities. Each of the objects of this collection were used to inspire the communal effort necessary to achieve a particular imperial ideal. Those with the means to produce these media, consequently, shaped the ideals upon which empires were founded.
The paper beaters were used to make amate paper on which the Aztec elite administered their pre-Columbian empire. The Mesoamerican codex and the Catholic choir book, both objects that reveal the interconnection between empire and religious power, recorded cosmological events and encouraged community formation through unified ritual song. The Isle of Pines photo album depicted an inviting island community in the Caribbean and enticed potential U.S. settlers to join an ongoing project of colonization. The album created a vision of empire that its producers hoped to make real.
Objects included are: