All posts by Travis Willmann

Hurricane Harvey from satellite imagery. NOAA/NASA GOES Project.

Recovering from Harvey

The recent succession of weather events provided a rather inauspicious beginning to the new semester, though the main campus and our local branches have been spared all but an abundance of rain. Our family and friends along the coast, however, weren’t so lucky.

For those who attempt to recall the list of branch locations overseen by the UT Libraries, it’s not uncommon to overlook the one library that doesn’t reside in Austin, but rather on a usually pastoral stretch of sand a few blocks from the Gulf of Mexico. The Marine Science Library serves the faculty and researchers at UT’s Marine Science Institute (MSI) in Port Aransas, which is just across the bay from Rockport, Texas — a city that was the focal point for much of the news coverage surrounding the arrival of Hurricane Harvey on Friday, August 25. Port Aransas actually took a direct hit from Harvey and suffered catastrophic damage, which was also visited upon the MSI, including the building where the library is located.

Hurricane Harvey landfall.

As a matter of course, the Libraries have a Collections Emergency Team composed of relevant administrators, dedicated facility staffers and outstanding preservation experts, who jump to action in the event of a threat to the resources or infrastructure of the libraries.  With any storm of Harvey’s magnitude and destructive impact, staff are paying close attention and preparing for potential issues, but in the case of this hurricane and the position of its landfall, most proactive considerations gave way to planning how to react to whatever damage would inevitably be wrought upon the library and its collections.

Immediately in the wake of the storm, the island and the surrounding areas lost power and, subsequently, most communications were sporadic at best. It wasn’t until Sunday that the Libraries became aware of the extent of damage to MSI, but without specific information about the library, so staff began to prepare for the worst possibilities. Liz DeHart, the Libraries’ liaison at MSL, was contending with the personal effects of Harvey and unable to get to the library, and administrators at MSL were prioritizing assessment of the impact on research assets and infrastructure at the campus, which had suffered severe damage. Representatives from the College of Natural Sciences (CNS) in Austin became the conduits for information about the situation on the ground, and eventually an initial assessment was returned suggesting that the damage to the library was hopeful, with wet floors, but dry books — almost miraculous, since the same building that contained the library had extensive roof damage, flooding and blown out windows. But there was also no air conditioning or power, and as one might imagine, paper doesn’t fare well to exposure to the balmy coastal climate of late summer. As much as the team wanted to rush to the coast on a rescue mission, widespread destruction, impassable roads and a moratorium on travel to the island by non-residents made that seem like an impossibility.

Roof of MSI where the library lives.
Roof of MSI where the library lives.

By Wednesday, August 30 — the first full day of the fall semester — staff had worked with CNS to obtain permission for a response team to travel to Port Aransas to assess damage and hopefully, recover the most valuable of the  close to $9,000,000 worth of collections, but there was a caveat: they had one day to do it.

A team of Geoff Bahre (Manager), Matt McGuire and Bill Gannon from the Facilities & AV unit along with Joey Marez, a library specialist from the Preservation department, immediately began preparations for all contingencies that could be imagined on a first trip into a storm disaster zone: food, water, tools and equipment, supplies for any mechanical trouble. And gas.

Geoff Bahre, Joey Marez and Bill Gannon grab a much-deserved break.
Geoff Bahre, Joey Marez and Bill Gannon grab a much-deserved break.

The window was tight, so the team left Austin at 3:30 a.m. on Friday, September 1, agreeing to make sure they refilled fuel on the south side of San Antonio, but discovered that the rush on gas stations had already drained supplies when they stopped to refuel. A fortunate encounter with a kind soul at a local pancake house directed the team to a station with adequate fuel supplies, and the team continued its journey to the coast.

Because the ferry wasn’t yet operational, the team had to travel through Corpus Christi and up the length of Mustang Island to reach Port Aransas in the mid-morning hours of Friday.

Upon arrival, an initial assessment verified earlier information about the state of the library — some wet flooring, but the books were dry, and no apparent mold — and even some welcome evidence that local administrators at MSI had taken measures to mitigate environmental threats with the arrival of fans and dehumidifiers that were powered by portable generators.

The environment in the library, nonetheless, wasn’t at an optimum stability, so the team began to identify items that they would return to Austin for temporary safekeeping and care. Thanks to earlier efforts to identify salvage priorities, the team was charged with bringing back 900 special collection items, and due to conservative estimation, were able to also rescue additional theses, dissertations and maps.

By 8 p.m. that evening, the team had returned to Austin with the most valuable resources from the MSL in tow. The following week, MSL staffer Marg Larsen relocated to Austin temporarily due to the storm, and so was available to process and assist in storing the rescued materials in the Collections Deposit Library at UT to await their inevitable return to their home in Port Aransas.

There are currently no firm timelines for recovery and reopening of the Institute or the Library, but as with a Gulf hurricane or other natural and unnatural disasters, we’ll be prepared when the time comes.

It’s easy to imagine that a library is a simple machine where books fall onto a shelf and then into hands before returning to the shelf again, uncomplicated by the affairs and events beyond its doors and walls. But out of sight and mind, there are an army of loyal people working to build, protect, rescue and share our body of collective knowledge, both in the face of an average day or during extraordinary times.

Looking forward to rebuilding.
Looking forward to rebuilding.
Ervin Perry.

On Ervin Perry’s Legacy by Gene Locke

Dr. Ervin Sewell Perry.
Dr. Ervin Sewell Perry.

The following statement was presented by Gene Locke — Dr. Ervin Perry’s nephew — to the University of Texas Black Alumni Network at their Legacy Dinner on September 8, 2017, in recognition of the 40th anniversary of the Perry-Castañeda Library.

On behalf of the family of Dr. Ervin Perry, we express our appreciation to the Black Alumni Network for recognizing Dr. Perry at your Legacy Dinner.

The Perry-Castañeda Library now has forty years of service to the UT community. During these years, many of you have been in and around the library that bears his name without knowing the story of Ervin Perry. Yes, you may have known that he was the first African American professor at a predominately white university in the South. Perhaps, you even knew that he was a civil engineer of recognized distinction. Maybe, you also knew that Dr. Perry was one of several trailblazers as students at the University of Texas-all who played an integral role in opening the university to people of color.  However, our beloved “Ervin” was so much more.

Ervin Perry was born in Coldspring, Texas, in rural East Texas in 1935 during the height of the depression and in the midst of brutal Jim Crow segregation.  Ervin started out with two great assets: a mom, Edna Perry, and a dad, Willie Perry, who appreciated hard work, family and faith.  They were dirt farmers who valued education and who dreamed for better lives for their children. Willie and Edna Perry worked miracles with their income from a small cotton crop.  Ervin and his twin brother, Mervin, were the last of six children; all of whom somehow got thru college and graduate school despite money limitations and the inequities of racial segregation.

The Perry Family.
The Perry Family.

There was a “specialness” about Ervin Perry that might be instructive to all of us today. Despite all of the successes he enjoyed as an engineer and a university professor, he was at all times humble and down to earth. He was a man of high character who gave an excellence of effort in everything he did. He was a devoted family man (husband, father, brother and uncle). Ervin grieved at the inequities that others suffered, while fully appreciating the burden of the spotlight on him for being the first of us on the faculty at the university.  In truth, Dr. Perry was smart-SUPER SMART-but he never felt the need to demonstrate this at the expense of others. His first love was his family.  He drew strength from his unsung heroine, Jean Perry, his wife and he got enduring satisfaction from his daughters, Patricia, Edna and Arvis.

When Ervin joined the UT academic faculty in 1964, American society was so different from-yet so similar to-today’s society.  HOPE-HATRED-HESITATION. These three characterized the times in 1964. HOPE that the civil rights movement would change America’s social order. HATRED as manifested in the strong resistance to social change and the accompanying violence.  HESITATION by political and civic leaders who were afraid to take a bold stand for true equal opportunity for all.

Dr. Ervin S. Perry.
Dr. Ervin S. Perry.

Against this backdrop, the University of Texas did not hesitate.  UT made Dr. Perry a faculty member in 1964. This was truly a bold step by the university that had a history of segregation and exclusion–but it was made so much easier by the character and academic accomplishments of Ervin Perry.  In 1977, the university took another equally bold step in naming the new library in his honor.

Our family is immensely proud that the library bears his name. As we think of the historic significance of naming the library for him and for Dr. Castañeda, we hope that having Ervin’s name on the library has been a small inspiration or source of pride for African American students and all students at UT thru the years. We hope that it continues to serve a small nail in the coffin of racial stereotypes that impair our ability as a nation to love and respect  all  humanity.

As alumni of the University of Texas, we ask that you keep working to make sure this, our state’s flagship university, embraces diversity and demonstrates itself to be an institution for all.

Thank your again for your recognition of Dr. Perry.

Attorney Gene Locke
Nephew of Dr. Ervin Perry

Gene Locke (second from left) with members of the Perry Family during the PCL 40 weekend of celebrations.
Gene Locke (second from left) with members of the Perry Family during the PCL 40 weekend of celebrations.

 

 

 

Dr. Carlos Castañeda

Collection Highlight: The Carlos Eduardo Castañeda Papers

Historian, archivist, educator Carlos E. Castañeda was born November 11, 1896, in Camargo, Tamaulipas, Mexico. His father was a professor of French and government at the College of San Juan in Matamoros, but the family moved to Brownsville around 1910. Castañeda’s parents both died before he was 15, leaving him with 3 sisters and 3 brothers.

Though he began his college career as an engineering major, Castañeda switched to his major to history (under the influence of E.C. Barker), and graduated with a BA from The University of Texas in 1921, having been elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He was married in 1922, and his first daughter, Gloria, was born in 1923, the same year that he obtained his MA from The University of Texas and began teaching Spanish for the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

From the Carlos E. Castañeda Papers.
From the Carlos E. Castañeda Papers.

In 1927, Castañeda was asked to return to The University of Texas, to take control of the newly acquired Genaro García collection, which served as the foundation for Latin American collections — and specifically, the Benson Latin American Collection — at UT. While acting as librarian for this collection, Castañeda began work on his PhD, producing more articles on the early history of Texas. Castañeda also collaborated with Texas State Library archivist Winnie Allen to launch the Mexican Photo Print Company, in an effort to recover copies of documents he had discovered in Mexico, a project that faced an unfortunate end with the advent of the Great Depression.

Castañeda completed his doctorate in 1932, his dissertation being a translation of the famous Morfi’s History of Texas.  He re-discovered the text — at the time believed lost — while searching through the records of a Fransiscan monastery. Later that year, Castañeda’s second daughter, Consuela, was born.

Castañeda did not begin his career as a full professor for The University of Texas until 1940, after some protracted debate in the 1930s concerning his salary and teaching responsibilities (Castañeda felt that his salary had been reduced because of his ethnicity). It was these issues that led to his leaving in 1933 to become the Superintendent of the San Felipe School District in Del Rio, Texas, where he met with resistance from white families due to his ethnicity. He remained in that position for only a year.

Photo by Bill Monroe.
Photo by Bill Monroe.

After returning to The University of Texas for the 1935 school year, Castañeda resumed his career as a professor, and continued work on Our Catholic Heritage in Texas, a massive seven-volume life-spanning work on the early history of Texas, the last volume of which was not published until just prior to Castañeda’s death. Shortly after his return to the university, Castañeda was knighted by the Catholic Church as a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre, and in 1951 became a Knight Commander in the Order of Isabel the Catholic of Spain. These honors were granted on the basis of Castañeda’s long-time work with the Catholic community and Catholic history more generally.

Being concerned with the plight of minorities in Texas, Castañeda took another leave of absence in 1943 to work for the Fair Employment Practice Commission (FEPC), an agency that was concerned with helping minorities to obtain the same working conditions and jobs that whites were granted in the 1940s. Though the commission ended prematurely with the onset of World War II, Castañeda continued to actively work against discrimination, and became involved with the Pan American Union, and on its behalf, gave an internationally broadcast radio address in 1948.

In the 1950s Castañeda’s health failed, and he suffered three heart attacks during the decade, severely limiting his ability to write, teach and stay active in his many causes. The author of twelve books and over eighty articles, and recipient of many honors, Castañeda died on April 3, 1958, at the age of 62.

Along with first African American faculty member at The University of Texas at Austin Dr. Ervin Perry (engineering), Castañeda’s legacy was recognized in 1974 with the approval by the University of Texas Board of Regents to name the university’s new central library in his honor. The Perry-Castañeda Library opened in 1977, and remains the flagship library at the university to the current day.

The Carlos E. Castañeda Papers feature includes articles, speeches and drafts of books, notably Our Catholic Heritage in Texas (commissioned by the Knights of Columbus) and Castañeda’s translation of Morfi’s, History of Texas, along with transcriptions, translations and notes.   The collection also documents Castañeda’s involvement with The University of Texas — including records of his faculty appointment and restricted student records —the Catholic Church and his international activities and various projects he took on over the years. Materials from his time in Del Rio, his service with FEPC, his work in many voluntary organizations, his teaching and departmental activities and his library and acquisitions work reflect the extent of his professional activities. The papers also feature a collection of historical documents dating from the late 15th century to the early 20th century, as well as a large selection of photographs, 8mm movies, phonodiscs, maps and book illustrations.

Benson staff are hosting a workshop on tracking relationships in research with network visualization and analysis tools using the Castañeda Papers on Wednesday, October 25. More information here

 

 

 

Architectural rendering of PCL.

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

Though most of the current denizens of the Perry-Castañeda Library (PCL) are too young to appreciate it, the campus’s flagship library turns 40 this year, which is significant in the life of a modern library given the change that the institution has experienced in the last couple of decades.

When PCL was conceived, it was believed that the new building would accommodate the growth in physical collections for the foreseeable future; little did our 20th century forebears imagine the impact digital technologies and a global information network would have on the preservation, storage and distribution of knowledge.

With the upcoming celebration of the Perry-Castañeda Library’s 40th anniversary on the horizon, let’s take a moment to look back at what else was happening back in 1977…

  • Biochemist Lorene Rogers is president of The University of Texas at Austin, and Harold Billings is director of the university’s General Libraries, and enrollment at UT is 41,660.

UT President Lorene Rogers at the dedication ceremony for PCL.

 

  • Dolph Briscoe is the governor of Texas, Austin has a population of 321,900 (now 947,890), and Texas has 13.19 million (now 27.86 million).
  • Median income: $13,572. Average cost of: a house — $54,200; a car — ~$4,300; a gallon of gas — $0.62; annual tuition, room & board — $2,411.
  • Apple Computer is incorporated, and later in the year, the first Apple II series computers go on sale.

Apple II.

 

  • The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough is the best-selling fiction of the year.
  • Laverne & Shirley is the top rated TV show.
  • The critically-acclaimed television miniseries adaption of Alex Haley’s Roots airs.

ABC's miniseries adaptation of Alex Haley's "Roots."

 

  • The punk band The Clash’s debut album The Clash is released on CBS Records.
  • Optical fiber is first used to carry live telephone traffic.

Fiber optic installation. Chicago, 1977.

  • The first Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre opens in San Jose, California.
  • George Lucas’s Star Wars opens in cinemas and becomes the highest-grossing film of its time. Woody Allen’s Annie Hall wins the Oscar for Best Picture. Also released: Close Encounters of the Third KindEraserhead, and Smokey and the Bandit.

Star Wars movie poster.

 

  • Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s the Night,” is Billboard’s Top Hot 100 single for the year, and Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors is the top-selling album.
  • Elvis Presley, the “king of rock and roll”, dies in his home in Graceland at age 42.
  • Jimmy Carter signs legislation creating the United States Department of Energy.
  • NASA launches the Voyager 1 spacecraft.

Artist's concept of Voyager in flight.

 

  • British punk band Sex Pistols release Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols on the Virgin Records label.
  • San Francisco elects City Supervisor Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official of any large city in the U.S.

 

  • Saturday Night Fever is released, launching the careers of John Travolta and resulting in multiple hits for the Bee Gees.
  • Atari, Inc. releases the Atari 2600 game console in North America.

Atari Video Computer System (or Atari2600).

 

  • The first children’s cable channel The Pinwheel Network (later known as Nickelodeon), is launched.
  • The first ever event is hosted at the newly opened Frank Erwin Center on November 29 when the Longhorn men’s basketball team defeats Oklahoma, 83-76.
  • The Longhorn football team finishes the regular season with an 11–0 record, and running back Earl Campbell wins the Heisman Trophy, leading the nation in rushing with 1,744 yards.

What were you doing in 1977?

3D printing structure.

Design Thinking (and Learning) in the Library

Once again the summer break has provided enough clearance for us to undertake a major renovation project, and mirroring last summer, that effort is occurring at the Fine Arts Library.

Dovetailing with last year’s completion of the Foundry — a creative maker space loaded with technology and production tools — the fourth floor of FAL has been cleared of physical resources in an effort to create space that blurs the line between classroom and library.

The reimagining of previous stack space will result in new classrooms and collaborative spaces to accommodate the Center for Integrated Design (CID), an interdisciplinary program administered in the College of Fine Arts that connects design, engineering, information, business, computer science and architecture programs from across the university to bring solution-focused design thinking to university curricula in a comprehensive way. The center seeks to provide all UT students the opportunity to study design methodology and apply it in creative and entrepreneurial scenarios.

Students in Jared Huke’s Intro to Design Thinking course work together on a problem. Photo credit: Jared Huke

Recent expansions of CoFA curricula into areas emphasizing innovation skills and design thinking are meant to better prepare students for a professional landscape that is ever-evolving in the face of technological development. But these programs have strained the college’s existing facilities, and partnerships with the Libraries — like the CID space and the Foundry — are helping to address the needs of current and future undergrads and graduates.

The 4th floor renovation includes the creation of two large classrooms — one of which will be equipped with active learning and creative technologies — a large seminar room, a medium seminar rooms that seats 12 and two small seminar rooms. The changes will also provide new office space for the faculty and staff in CID, as well as for faculty in the Center for Arts and Entertainment Technologies (CAET), a primary partner with the Libraries in the development of the Foundry.

Libraries staff moved more than 100,000 books, bound journals and scores to offsite storage facilities to accommodate the new construction, and moved the remaining 195,000 items to the stacks on the fifth floor of the building. Thanks to a robust delivery system developed over the last decade, the Libraries can provide campus access to any remote materials within 48-72 hours.

The renovation is on schedule and expected to be complete in time for the opening of classes this fall.

 

 

Chemistry, Construction and Champagne

Photo courtesy College of Natural Sciences.

On April 20, the Libraries joined students, alumni, faculty and friends of the Department of Chemistry in celebrating the grand opening of the renovated wing of Welch Hall after an almost 2-year construction project.

Attendees for the “Champagne & Sledgehammers” event got a first peek at the new space with speed talks by faculty researchers and scientists, some chemistry fun with explosive experiments by Dr. Kate Beiberdorf, various science demonstrations by students and even some liquid nitrogen ice cream.

Photo courtesy College of Natural Sciences.

Originally built in 1929, Welch is one of the university’s largest academic buildings, hosting 10,000+ UT students every day for classes, seminars and labs with its world class faculty. The renovation is the first phase in modernizing the facility for 21st century needs of the department, providing new classrooms, research and teaching labs, and infrastructure updates

The second phase of the project was simultaneously launched at the event, which will address needs in the newer 1978 wing of the building. The combined renovations will result in the transformation of a total 19,000 square feet of space — the first significant step in the College of Natural Sciences five-year Master Space Plan.

The Mallet Chemistry Library was featured centrally in the festivities, functioning as a meeting space straddling the two project areas where alumni joined to mingle with students and faculty, share in rounds of historical trivia about the department and indulge in some very scientific molecular gastronomy in the form of champagne caviar — little gelated balls of bubbly created through the liquid spherification.

Though outside the scope of the larger plans for Welch Hall, the Libraries are working with the College of Natural Sciences to develop a strategy for updates to the Chemistry Library that would enhance it as a community center for the sciences and incorporate more discipline-specific services and resources in alignment with other modernizations to the building. Current goals are to raise $3.5 million by the end of 2017 in order to begin design and planning efforts for library renovations.

See more photos from the event at the CNS Flickr page.

Please comment below if you are interested in being contacted with more information.

Turning 40 on the Forty Acres

Daily Texan supplement announcing the opening of PCL, August 29, 1977.
Daily Texan supplement announcing the opening of PCL, August 29, 1977.

In February, one of the university’s oldest libraries — the Tower — celebrated a landmark 80th birthday. Not to be outdone, one of the youngest will mark its 40th this fall.

Situated just off the southeast edge of the original Forty Acres, construction of the Perry-Castañeda Library (PCL) was authorized by the UT System Board of Regents in 1972, and construction began a few years later. The project was completed and the doors swung wide for the incoming class on August 29, 1977. The Library still ranks as one of the largest academic library buildings in North America today.

Designed to serve as the main library of UT Austin,  the six-level, open-stack facility is named for two former University professors, Ervin S. Perry and Carlos E. Castañeda. Professor Perry was the first African American to be appointed to the academic rank of professor, and Professor Castañeda played a central role in the early development of the Benson Latin American Collection.

The Longhorn marching band recognized the opening of the PCL during a halftime show.
The Longhorn marching band recognized the opening of the PCL during a halftime show.

In recognition of the anniversary, the Libraries will be hosting a series of events in the early fall, including an historical exhibit on the building, a panel discussion on the future of libraries, a blowout tailgate and a reception with members of the Perry and Castañeda families.

The events will take place September 7-9, so keep an eye on the calendar at the Libraries website for details and plan to join us in celebrating UT’s flagship library.

Squirreling Around During Finals

Each fall, a fresh-faced bunch of newlings comes to campus with dreams of independence and future prospects dancing about their heads, a world of opportunity and exciting new experiences presented at every corner. And at the end of each successive spring, harried and exhausted, the same students trudge about PCL all hours in a fog of dread and worry, struggling to meet project deadlines and prepare for finals.

In recent years, staff have attempted to ease attending anxieties by different means, from art therapy on the whiteboards throughout the library to partnering with campus units for healthy snacks and massage chairs to the recurring presence of therapy pets from local agencies, all of which efforts have been met with great appreciation from library users,

Being on the front line, our circulation staff have the most frequent contact with students in the throes of finals pressures, so they also tend to be the most attuned to the stress cycles, and are great at imagining ways to overcome or at least temporarily alleviate them.

This semester, staff wanted to try something new, something fun and goofy that would shake the doldrums and reinvigorate the weary denizens of PCL with a jolt of the unexpected. By now, most people have come across some version of the ubiquitous T-Rex costume that’s been a major currency of YouTube videos; that buzzy novelty is what created the spark of an idea for the eventual decision by staff to create their own costume persona that could serve as the embodiment of silliness and distraction for overtaxed students in need of a break.

Staff settled on creating the albino squirrel.

For the uninitiated, the albino squirrel* has become a bit of a folk hero around the Forty Acres. The squirrel (or squirrels — who knows?) is told in lore to be a harbinger of good fortune to anyone who spots the animal. Students are known to actively seek out the tree-dweller for particularly worrisome exams, so it made perfect sense for staff to conjure the animal for the benefit of students, especially at this particular time of the semester.

Being that staff had an idea and some spanking new tools with which to act upon it — in the form of the new Foundry makerspace in the Fine Arts Library — they only lacked volunteers to set about the task. From among their ranks they discovered that they had the requisite skill sets to create the form for the creature.

Early in the spring, senior library specialist Janeice Connors and Tré Miles, a student associate from the Kuehne Physics-Mathematics-Astronomy Library and Textiles major, began intermittent work on designing and creating a man-size version of the bushy-tailed talisman in the Fabric Arts Lab at the Foundry. By late April, the Connors and Miles had logged dozens of hours cutting, fitting, sewing and stuffing, and the suit was finally ready for its debut.

JD Torian, the Albino Squirrel (aka Joe Dobbs) and Lorraine Haricombe.
JD Torian, the Albino Squirrel (aka Joe Dobbs) and Lorraine Haricombe.

On Wednesday, May 10, accompanied by Libraries Director Lorraine Haricombe and Austin’s Pizza owner J.D. Torian, the albino squirrel stepped off the elevator on the 6th floor of PCL, and began a whirlwind tour of the library, spreading joy and smiles (And pizza. And KIND bars.) to appreciative students who got a much deserved break from their studies and a hopefully a little luck from their friends at the Libraries.

Postscript: Tré Miles graduated in May, and parlayed his experience building a squirrel (not really) to land a spot at Michael Kors in NYC. Congratulations, Tré!

*Yes, yes, Mr. Smartypants…we’re well aware that it’s not really an albino, just a rodent with a recessive gene.

UT Treasures at LBJ

Paul Cret's campus master plan. Alexander Architectural Archives.
Paul Cret’s campus master plan. Alexander Architectural Archives.

Great universities have great libraries, and great libraries have great collections, so it follows that great universities have great collections. In the case of The University of Texas at Austin, those collections extend far beyond the walls of the Libraries, a fact made plain by the publication of the significant tome “The Collections” in 2015 by the UT Press, and more recently by the opening of a new exhibition at the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum.

Deep in the Vaults of Texas” brings together rarely presented artifacts from archives, museums and repositories across the university representing a cross-section of areas of scholarship at UT in a modest but wide-ranging exhibit on the entry level of the presidential library. Collections as disparate as the Blanton Museum of Art and the Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sport commingle in a fascinating juxtaposition that provides the public with a sampling of what lies hidden on shelves and in drawers mostly behind closed doors — though largely accessible — in collections that serve a distinct research and learning purpose for the UT community.

letter from F.Scott Fitzgerald to Blanche Knopf in which he lists all the tenses of a made-up verb "to cocktail." Harry Ransom Center.
 Letter from F.Scott Fitzgerald to Blanche Knopf in which he lists all the tenses of a made-up verb “to cocktail.” Harry Ransom Center. Photo by Jay Godwin.

Featured highlights of the exhibit include journalist/writer Dominick Dunne’s notes from O. J. Simpson trial (Briscoe Center for American History), Tom Landry’s iconic fedora (Stark Center) and painter Peter Dean’s 1982 interpretation of the Oswald assassination, “Dallas Chaos II” (Blanton Museum) and crayon drawings by Caroline and John Kennedy, Jr. (LBJ Presidential Library). “Deep in the Vaults” also includes samples from our own holdings in the Fine Arts Library (A Brief History of the Ukulele, housed within an old soprano ukulele

A Brief History of the Ukulele. Fine Arts Library. Photo by Jay Godwin.
A Brief History of the Ukulele. Fine Arts Library. Photo by Jay Godwin.

(“A Brief History of the Ukulele,” housed within an old soprano ukulele), the Alexander Architectural Archives (Paul Cret’s masterful architectural drawing of UT’s Tower clock) and the Benson Latin American Collection (Santa Anna’s memoirs from exile, which partners nicely with the Briscoe’s Secret Treaty of Velasco).

Visitors can view these and other items from the aforementioned collections as well as the Harry Ransom Center, the John L. Warfield Center for African & African American Studies, the Tarlton Law Library and th eTexas Archeological Research Laboratory.

The exhibit runs through September 6 and is included with admission to the LBJ.

See more images from “Deep in the Vaults” on the LBJ’s Flickr page

Contributing to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Beyond Barriers.

In 1928, the city of Austin adopted a plan contracted by a Dallas urban planning firm that effectively segregated the city’s African American and white populations.

Nearly ninety years later, the effects of that decision were still being experienced by minority populations in the city as evidenced in a study by the University of Toronto that showed Austin-Round Rock as the most economically segregated large metro area in the country.

Last November, Austin Mayor Steve Adler announced the formation of a task force that would try to address facets of a community-wide problem by assessing the effects of institutional racism on issues of equity in the city. The resulting committee of business and civic leaders, community activists, educators and law enforcement officials was charged with developing an action plan to address institutional racism and issues of economic and racial disparity across the city’s demographic and geographic landscape to provide city leaders a framework to systematize solutions.

The university itself has recently experienced sometimes newsworthy incidents of bias and intolerance that have encouraged calls from the community to address inequality and privilege on campus. Administrators have responded with both assurances and new policies intended to engender an environment of inclusivity and tolerance across a diverse, global population.

Libraries have traditionally served as a sanctuary from dogmatic attitudes where a currency of knowledge provides a bridge for reasoned debate and discussion on opposing viewpoints. How then can institutions where the rational exchange of ideas is a norm apply its experience to influence or contribute to a larger dialogue on issues of diversity, equality and inclusivity?

Austin Mayor Steve Adler will join UT Libraries Director Lorraine Haricombe along with UT Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement Gregory Vincent, AISD Board of Trustees Paul Saldaña, and American Library Association President and Austin Community College Library Services Dean Julie Todaro, for a broad-ranging discussion on the impact of inequality in local communities and how core institutions of government and education can work together to implement solutions to create a better society for all. Topics will include:

  • The unique relationship between the university and city of Austin, and how that relationship influences concepts of equality in the area.
  • The respective roles of the university and libraries in fostering inclusivity across the shifting demographics of a city experiencing a period of substantial growth.
  • How K-12 education can overlap with institutions of higher education to create opportunities for underserved populations.
  • Efforts to promote information literacy as a means to combat cultural/social misperceptions.
  • Ways of addressing institutionalized racism in civic and educational systems.

The event — “Beyond Barriers: The Community’s Role in Sustaining Diversity” — takes place Thursday, April 27, at 6:30 p.m. at the Perry-Castañeda Library, and is free and open to the public.