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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,” 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.
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.
Before his death in 2006, club owner and Austin music scene icon Clifford Antone brought his vast knowledge of music — more specifically the blues and rock and roll — to the Forty Acres for a lecture series hosted by the Department of Sociology called “The History of the Blues According to Clifford Antone.”
Antone’s affable style and enthusiasm for the subject matter easily won over students of the 12-week guest spot in Dr. Lester Kurtz’s course, “Blues, Race and Social Change” (SOC 308).
Antone was the founder of his namesake club Antone’s, a legendary blues club that launched the careers of Texas music artists like Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Charlie Sexton, and helped Austin to become “The Live Music Capital of the World.”
This is a series of lectures was recorded and resides both in the collection of the Fine Arts Library and online at the university’s digital repository, Texas ScholarWorks.
Houston architect Karl Kamrath had an opportunity to meet Frank Lloyd Wright when he visited Taliesin in June of 1946. The encounter had a profound effect on Kamrath’s architectural designs as he began creating Organic architecture, integrating human habitation with the natural environment.
The archive provides insight into the prolific Texan’s work, much of whose modernist design aesthetic paid homage to Wright, and includes some of Kamrath’s award-winning projects such as the Kamrath residence of 1939, Temple Emanu-El in Houston, the Houston Fire Alarm Building, M.D. Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute, and the Contemporary Arts Association in Houston. The archive also includes a number of volumes from Kamrath’s personal library that shed further light on his influences.
Karl Kamrath grew up in Austin and earned his bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas. In 1934, he moved to Chicago, where he worked for the architectural firm Pereira and Pereira, the Interior Studios of Marshall Field and Co. and the Architectural Decorating Company.
In 1937, he and another former graduate of the university, Frederick James MacKie Jr. opened their own architectural firm, MacKie and Kamrath in Houston, Texas. MacKie and Kamrath were among the first Houston architects to follow a modernist approach to design for which they received national recognition.
Kamrath left the firm from 1942 to 1945 to serve as a captain in the Army Corps of Engineers. Shortly after his return in 1946, Kamrath met Wright and immediately became an advocate of Wright’s Usonian architecture style.
Kamrath became a member of the American Institute of Architects in 1939 and was elected to fellowship in the institute in 1955, and at various times served in an adjunct capacity at the University of Oklahoma, The University of Texas, Texas A&M University and the University of Oregon. He was also a founder and served on the board of the Contemporary Arts Museum from 1948 to 1952.
A year ago, Rachel E. Winston joined the staff of the Benson Latin American Collection, taking on an entirely new post with the library as its Black Diaspora Archivist. The position is still one of few of its kind in the world, representing heightened attention in academia on diversity area studies, and a desire to collect the cultural history of an underserved population.
As African & African American Studies has joined the predominant fields at the university, the need for bibliographer support from the Libraries became increasingly clear. Winston’s work will involve enhancing existing resources at the Benson related to the African Diaspora in Latin America and the Caribbean, but will also push her to work with campus faculty and researchers to develop new collections in support of scholarly currents.
“I think in our present moment, black scholarship and the term ‘Black Diaspora’ has gained a lot of prominence mainly because we’ve reached a point where it can’t be ignored anymore,” says Winston. “So, the presence of black people, the contributions of black people, the impact of black people and black labor in societies worldwide has been there, has happened, but has been erased, has been ignored, has been forgotten and has been left out — intentionally and unintentionally — and so I think we’ve reached a point where the silence has become loud. People see the gaps and see the voids and there’s been more of a concerted effort to address that and to fill it.”
Winston’s initial focus has been on the work of processing a large set of materials given to the university by Dr. Edmund W. Gordon and Dr. Susan Gordon, which arrived at the university around the same time she joined the Libraries. “Black intellectuals are underrepresented in archives. This project says that we value the contributions of Black intellectuals, professionals, and artists, and that we will promote their use. I can’t think of a better fit for our first Black diaspora collection.”
Through almost a century of collecting in Latin American, the Benson naturally amassed materials related to the Black Diaspora, but Winston’s presence will allow for the development of a more cohesive approach to building upon those existing resources and the research that has already sprung from them.
“I think as time goes on, we’ll begin to see Black Studies integrated much more throughout different disciplines. Black Studies itself will continue to be necessary. There’s such important work that’s being done. But I do think that the black presence throughout different disciplines will become more recognized and more commonplace. We’ll be able to really take the conversation further in a lot of places. It will be accepted, and we can go from there.”
Winston isn’t taking the work for granted. Taking on a nascent area of study that has been historically marginalized presents challenges in a variety of areas, including the development of a collections strategy, targeting and locating relevant materials and finding the financial support to build an archive.
The Black Diaspora archive recently received a boost in the form of an endowment provided by civic-minded Austinites Darrick and Chiquita Eugene. Their support will aid Winston at a time when budgets might not favor new initiatives, but she feels the significance of the task ahead of her.
“It’s hard work. It’s important work. But I foresee that the impact of black people and the contributions of black people will be much better known.”
Contemporary application of technologies demands reimagination of libraries as creative academic spaces instead of just learning hubs. For the campus community, the Libraries are committed to delivering essential services in the most efficient way possible; a recently-launched cloud printing system is another step in this direction by the Libraries’ IT department, and we take pride in it.
In only two months, this service has redefined a significant part of user experience both online and onsite. The print stations are already experiencing periods of capacity use, and future expansion of the service is a likely reality. With the new and smarter cloud printing system, the requirement of printing more efficiently has been addressed. All printers within the UT Libraries system are now connected to a cloud printing portal — MyPrintCenter. It can be accessed by UT students, faculty and staff to upload documents that they need printed without having to be physically present near a computer within the Libraries. Users may select an uploaded document at any Library printer and collect the printouts at their convenience within a 24-hour period. As an alternative to the cloud printing portal, print jobs can be sent to the system via a simple email. The system also integrates a smartphone application — Pharos Print — into the printing service to augment its usability and mobile access for users.
Through better aligning our technological initiatives and muscle with our patrons’ behavior patterns and needs, IT at UT Libraries is dedicated to achieve a user-centric vision. We are exploring a number of exciting projects, aiming to hone and implement agile and innovative technologies to expand the UT Libraries systems with an eye toward the next advancement to benefit Libraries’ users.
Sarah Fahim is a graduate research assistant working in the UT Libraries’ IT department – Online Experience Team. She is working toward her graduate degree in Advertising at the Moody College of Communication.
Choreographer, dancer, artist and teacher Yacov Sharir recently donated his archive to the Fine Arts Library. Sharir moved to Austin in 1978 where he founded the American Deaf Dance Company and was hired on as faculty at UT shortly thereafter. He developed a dance program that has become a model for universities across the country, founding the university’s professional company-in-residence, the Sharir Dance Company, in 1982, which became Sharir+Bustamante Danceworks (SBDW) in 1998.
The lengthy project of processing the collection of materials from Sharir’s professional career required the persistence of graduate researcher Katie Van Winkle, an advanced degree candidate in the College of Fine Arts.
Van Winkle took time to answer some questions about the project and her impressions of the experience.
Tex Libris: How did you get involved in processing the Sharir archive?
Katie Van Winkle: I’m a Ph.D. candidate in Performance as Public Practice (PPP), a program in the Department of Theatre & Dance. When I began my studies in the fall 2013, a fellow PPP student named Cassidy Browning was working with Dr. Sharir as a research assistant. Cassidy moved on to dissertation work, and recommended me as a replacement, just as Beth Kerr (Theatre & Dance Librarian in the Fine Arts Library) and Dr. Sharir established the archive project.
I have found always physical and digital archives invaluable in my work both as a scholar and as an artist–but I have almost zero training in archival work. At UT, I participated in a one-day workshop with the American Theatre Archive Project (ATAP), and a theory-based course on “Archive and Ephemera.” Instead, I have some experience in inventing and implementing technological solutions for arts management: for example, as a Dramaturgy Fellow at Center Stage in Baltimore I developed an early prototype of the National New Play Network’s New Play Exchange (http://nnpn.org/programs/new-play-exchange) through a Dramaturgy-Driven Grant from the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas.
What did the process consist of? What was the scope, and how much in terms of materials and types of materials were there?
KVW:The Sharir/Sharir+Bustamante Dance Collection is a gift archive from Dr. Sharir to UT’s Fine Arts Library. It consists of video documentation of many hundreds of dances between 1977 and 2015, as well as paper documentation (programs, photographs, press clippings, etc.) of the work of the American Deaf Dance Company, the Sharir Dance Company, and Sharir+Bustamante Danceworks. A large selection of this archive has been digitized by Anna Lamphear and Katie Thornton and other staff members of UT Libraries’ Preservation and Digitization Services. The digitized collection is hosted on Texas ScholarWorks.
This symposium celebrates the public launch of the first phase of the digitization process: the videos! The paper archive will be digitized in 2017 as phase two of the project.
Dr. Sharir’s office contained 671 individual video objects. Since the earliest was dated 1977, and the latest 2015, these objects embody four decades of video technology: U-matic (3/4″), VHS, Hi8, Betacam, Digital Video Cassette and Mini DV, DVD, and born-digital files stored only on hard drives: .mov and .mp4.
Some of these 671 objects were labeled with titles and dates and choreographers and other pertinent information; some were not labeled at all. Some of the objects documented multiple dances, some from multiple events with multiple choreographers or dance companies participating; others documented a single dance.
The major challenge we faced was how to balance efficiency and depth of coverage. We wanted to ensure that the digital collection represented as many unique dance works as possible, without wasting time digitizing duplicate tapes, but the inconsistency of visible information made this difficult. Also challenging: there was no way to tell if the physical object had degraded beyond use without playing/digitizing it at the PCL.
Here’s the sequence of my work:
In the fall of 2013, I created an inventory of most of the video items (we discovered more later on). I ordered the items chronologically (as far as possible), gave each a unique number (0001-0671), and made a spreadsheet detailing all “metadata” available at that point. Depending on the item, this could include: unique number, date, item format and brand, event title, individual dance titles, event type (rehearsal or performance), run time, dance companies, choreographers, venues and sites, videographers and their notes, performers, designers, musicians, composers, other collaborators, and notes.
Sharir and I then began selecting “batches” of video items to send to the PCL, 20 at a time. We prioritized based on questions like “how old is this tape?” (older objects got priority); “how significant is this event/dance?” (Dr. Sharir, of course, was the expert of this); and “have we digitized any version of this event/dance before?” (new/unique pieces got priority).
In January 2014, I delivered the first batch of 20 tapes to Anna and Katie in the PCL, where they worked their magic using lots of devices that I do not recognize or understand! I continued to deliver and pick up batches of tapes through the summer of 2016.
Anna and Katie digitized 398 video objects between January 2014 and September 2016. WOW.
After they uploaded each batch to the libraries server as .mp4 files, Dr. Sharir and I watched each digitized video. While he watched the dances closely, reminiscing about his fellow artists and considering the quality of the videography and lighting, I filled in the blanks of my spreadsheet, based sometimes on in-video credits and sometimes on Dr. Sharir’s recollections.
Once he watched the video through, Dr. Sharir decided whether or not to accession it into the digital collection. He based this decision on the significance of the dances represented, the quality of the video (for instance, some videos lacked audio, and some had degraded over time), and whether we had coverage of the event in the collection already. We generally chose to accession subsequent nights of the same dance program, a collection-level acknowledgement that live performance changes in every reiteration.
About halfway through the watching process, Dr. Sharir’s co-artistic director José Luis Bustamante delivered three crates filled with beautifully organized files of programs, press clippings, and season announcements. I am so grateful for this gift! Matched with Dr. Sharir’s files, it has allowed me to create a four-decade production history, and provide extensive credits and notes for almost every item in the digital collection.
Once an item is chosen for the digital collection, I upload its .mp4 file to TexasScholarWorks, and add in all its metadata. On TexasScholarWorks, UT folk and the general public alike can search and browse the collection, view streaming video, and download the videos to their own drives. Each video is protected by a Creative Commons license (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States).
I take the digitized tapes to Beth Kerr at FAL, and she adds them to the physical Sharir collection located in off-site storage. This physical collection contains all digitized video objects, whether accessioned or not into the digital collection. It also contains all the video objects we decided not to digitize (usually because they were clearly duplicates of something we already had accepted).
You worked closely with Dr. Sharir on this project; did he provide any impressions about the digitization/digital preservation of his work?
KVW: I don’t want to speak for Yacov, but I know he is tremendously grateful for the opportunity to share his work with the global public and with future generations. (He is also grateful to regain all that shelf space in his office!)
He has found great joy in “re-view”ing his choreography and dancing over the decades, and in responding again to the work of the many extraordinary artists he worked with and presented/produced here in Austin and elsewhere.
He shared many jokes and memories with me. Certainly the most poignant and somber touched on the lives of his artist colleagues who had died between the filming of the dance in the 1980s or 1990s, and the day we watched it again in 2015 or 2016. The Sharir Dance Company, like so many arts organizations, lost beloved members to the AIDS epidemic. We felt sometimes that we were watching ghosts dance.
How long did the project take?
KVW: 3 years and 2 months since I began my work as (part-time) archivist. (But the project isn’t done yet—we have phase 2 still to complete). Add in more time before that (I don’t know how much) for Beth and Yacov’s work getting the project up and running and funded.
Did you discover anything in the process that was either unexpected (either in the materials or cataloging), and can you reflect on the accomplishment and its value to the broader world?
KVW: My favorite moment in the inventory process was discovering a VHS tape with no labels except two sticky notes reading: “This is the one you’ve been waiting for. UNCUT UNRULY UNHOLY.”
Having never participated in a archival process of this scope, I had no idea just how much time this work takes. It’s a major undertaking.
Yacov is a treasure: of the dance world, of Austin and the UT faculty, of the Department of Theatre & Dance. His career has been hugely significant and influential, from his pioneering, inclusive work with Deaf and hearing dancers; to his artistic and production collaborations with artists like Merce Cunningham, Bill T. Jones, Deborah Hay, David Dorfman, Doug Varone, Margaret Jenkins, Tina Marsh, Allison Orr…the list goes on.
Documenting and preserving dance has always been difficult. Yacov’s work is perhaps particularly suited to a digital life because he was a pioneer of the integration of digital media and live performance, beginning in the early 1990s and continuing in his collaborations with dancers, musicians, computer programmers, and biomedical and wearable-tech engineers today. (Check out [3D Embodied] and AdMortuos for the most recent examples in the collection):
It has been a privilege—and a real pleasure—to help make this important piece of dance history available to the public. I grew up and discovered theatre and dance here in Austin, and I’m proud to contribute to the preservation of the city’s cultural history.
The Benson Latin American Collection recently announced the acquisition of the archive of poet, politician, priest and revolutionary Ernesto Cardenal, and in celebration of the partnership, hosted an event to honor the man and his legacy.
LLILAS Benson director Virginia Garrard-Burnett led a discussion of Cardenal’s impact with novelist and former Nicaraguan vice president Sergio Ramírez, scholar Luis Cárcamo-Huechante, historian Douglass Sullivan-González and political scientist Eric Selbin, and Cardenal followed with readings from several of his poems for an overflow crowd.
The archive features rare editions of Cardenal’s writings, translations of his poetry, interviews, photographs, videos, newspaper clippings, documentaries about his life and work, and hundreds of letters to and from key protagonists of Nicaraguan culture and politics.