I was recently writing a paper on Maya religious adaptation and religious hybridization during the colonial era, and discovered the work of a prolific expert on the subject named John F. Chuchiak IV. I had previously read his article “In Servito Dei: Fray Diego de Landa, the Franciscan Order, and the Return of Extirpation of Idolatry in the Colonial Diocese of Yucatan, 1573-1579,” but as it turns out, he had also written numerous articles that were closely related to the topic that I was researching. As a result, I spent the next month or so tracking down every article I could find by him from a number of resources, including transcripts from symposiums that as far as I could tell had never been “officially published,” and at least one from an expensive foreign compilation on the Maya.
I originally came from a literary background, and this got me thinking: why aren’t compilations of articles by a particular researcher or author a standard in academic history? Successful literary authors often compile their short fiction into single volume collections for those interested in collecting it. Even writers of popular history get their short work compiled: after the success of The Lost City of Z, author David Grann published a collection of his previous articles on history as The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession. Why can’t academic authors do the same thing? There might not be a huge market for it, but as a student I certainly would have found it useful to be able to easily track down all of articles by a particular expert, especially one whose work was so closely related to the topic I was researching, such as John Chuchiak or Matthew Restall.
Not only would this be useful to the academic community and bring a greater degree of visibility to individual researchers and the continuing direction of their work and research, but it would also allow authors to “follow up” on prior research and revisit it, as they could write introductions or conclusions to each piece to talk about refinements of their research or new sources that had become available since the article was originally written. Also, as a historian of the Maya, it is sad to see just how much of the work of past researchers and luminary greats of the field is largely forgotten because their articles were never compiled. If nothing else, it would act as a sort of milestone in a researcher’s life, creating a solid record of the direction of their research and their academic contributions over time. This is just a thought, but if these sorts of compilations were available, I would certainly buy them.