The Prague Spring Archive project — a collaboration between the University of Texas at Austin, the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies (CREEES), and the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library — has been made live at http://scalar.usc.edu/works/prague-spring-archive. The project aims to make important primary documents on the Prague Spring openly accessible to a wide and inclusive audience, connecting the University of Texas at Austin with an international community of scholars and researchers.
The project began in 2014, when CREEES Director and Slavic Department Chair Dr. Mary Neuburger met with Assistant Director of Research and South Asian Studies Liaison Librarian Mary Rader to discuss an effort to broaden opportunities to access historical primary resources located in the LBJ Presidential Library’s archives.
In 2015, with funding from a US Department of Education Title VI National Resource Centers grant and the Texas Chair in Czech Studies, digitization work on an initial selection of archival boxes was completed by undergraduate and graduate students from CREEES and the UT Libraries. Digitization work is ongoing, with new materials being photographed, processed, and added to Texas ScholarWorks by graduate student Nicole Marino and Russian, East European, & Eurasian Studies and Digital Scholarship Librarian Ian Goodale.
The Prague Spring was one of the key events in both the Cold War and 20th Century Czech history. The LBJ’s collections chronicle the United States’ perspective of events leading up to, during, and following the USSR’s invasion of Czechoslovakia, including declassified cables, intelligence reports, letters, and memoranda exchanged by ambassadors, diplomats, intelligence officers, and politicians. Eight archival boxes are currently available digitally through Texas ScholarWorks, with more being worked on and prepared for addition to the repository. Many additional materials that have not yet been digitized are available to researchers in the reading room of the LBJ Presidential Library, as well.
The Prague Spring Archive portal has been designed to replicate the original archival structure of the physical materials in the LBJ Library within a digital framework, allowing the user to “read” and explore the archive on their computer. The portal was designed to appeal to both academic researchers and to patrons conducting personal or non-academic research, with additional features planned that will extend the breadth of the site’s audience. A primer on the Prague Spring in the form of an interactive timeline is one of the site’s features aimed at users not already thoroughly familiar with the events surrounding the incident. A module that will include materials aimed at high school teachers and students, including sample lesson plans and educational activities, will also be added in the future. For researchers who would like to explore what is available in the physical collections of the LBJ, the finding aid for the entire archival collection is also available on the site.
To help maintain the archival integrity of the materials in their digitized format, extensive metadata was created to accompany the materials within the Texas ScholarWorks repository. The metadata allows the materials to be easily searched by researchers working with the materials within ScholarWorks, and can be downloaded by anyone through the repository. Full-text of the documents will soon be added in XML format to accompany the archival PDFs, increasing searchability and providing an additional resource for working with the documents—making digital humanities practices such as text mining or sentiment analysis easier to accomplish, for example.
The Prague Spring site has been an important aspect of embedded librarianship at the UT Libraries. Ian Goodale worked with graduate students in Mary Neuburger’s graduate seminar, REE 301: Introduction to Russian and East European Civilizations, to have the students contribute text for incorporation into the online portal. The students also selected key documents from archival folders to be highlighted on the portal and provided input on the site’s design and features throughout its development. Professors Mary Neuburger and Vlad Beronja contributed their input on design and content, helping to write descriptions of archival materials and select key documents to profile. The finished portal was then presented to the class for additional feedback, and more of their content will be added shortly.
The Prague Spring Archive portal is an attractive, easy to navigate resource that will continue to grow over time. New content and features, in development, will expand its scope and elevate its impact. Utilizing digital humanities tools and collaborative approaches to leveraging local expertise, the project creates context for important, unique primary source materials and shares them in an open access environment for use by local, national and international scholarly communities.
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.”
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.
The FAL began collecting ‘zines in 2010 with some guidance from Russell Etchen, the manager/curator of the much-beloved and gone-too-soon Domy Books, which provided Austin (and Houston before) with an opportunity for browsing (and occasionally purchasing) niche publications and other media in art, design, literature and photography. Domy closed and Etchen moved on, but he’s maintained his ties to Austin, and he recently generously donated his personal collection of ‘zines to FAL — four large boxes of rare and sometimes unique works that represent a breadth of formats and genres, and superlative examples of the form.
Russell is returning to Austin for a visit and a show at Co-Lab Projects’ Demo Gallery (721 Congress Avenue), and kindly accepted an invitation to moderate the panel at FAL. He also took some time out to answer a few questions from us about his own experiences with self-publishing.
Tex Libris: Since they are such a very outsider form, what was your entrée into the world of ‘zines?
Russell Etchen: I started reading Mad Magazine and superhero comics first. Had a subscription box at my local strip mall comic and game shop and went weekly.
RE: I was always both. I collected to create. I created to collect.
How many ‘zines have you produced, and are you still making them today?
RE: I’ve produced two dozen, maybe three dozen ‘zines to date. I still self publish now and then for myself and others. Two last fall. Nothing currently in the works.
My personal memory of you is from Domy Books, and I know that (former head librarian) Laura Schwartz connected with you during that time to get your help in developing what became the ‘zine archive at FAL. Can you tell me a little bit about how you met Laura and what you did to help guide her in choosing materials?
RE: Unless I’m mistaken, I met Beth and Tim Kerr first. They both work/worked in the UT library system for decades. Beth introduced me to Laura, and Laura let me know that she was working with a budget to start purchasing interesting small press and self-published publications.
Selfishly, I guided Laura to works I was particularly fond of and publications I felt wouldn’t get archived anywhere else.
Did you use the same criteria for developing your own collection, or was that more organic?
RE: A mix. Mostly organic, but sometimes strategic. I was seeking the underground and was trying to go as deep as I could. I was looking for fellow outliers and I found them. So many of them.
How would you describe the purpose(s) of a ‘zine? Or does that question even have an answer?
RE: A ‘zine is self published self-expression. An extension of a perceived community and was/is cultural currency. You want to trade? I make one, too.
How would you characterize the relevancy or currency of ‘zines today? What’s their relationship to technology? This is a recurring question that we have to consider at the libraries regarding physical/digital.
RE: To me, these days, they seem to be primarily an extension of the business card or portfolio. Or one-upmanship within a scene (echo chamber). Too precious. A digital generation discovering the analog and turning it into a fetish. Exceptions abound, but it feels like an inversion of itself. I don’t trust them anymore. The intentions have been blurred.
What made you decide to donate your collection to FAL? It’s pretty amazing, and based on the small segment I’ve seen, encompasses a broad variety of types and formats.
RE: After spending twenty years collecting and editing the collection, moving it everywhere I went and hardly ever looking at them anymore, I finally decided that someone else will get much more out of them. That, and I need the space while still wanting to know my “stash” is relatively safe and accessible. Plus, someone else is going to catalog it all for me!
What do you hope people get out of having access to your collection?
RE: Should one person rifle through them and find inspiration, my job is done. Should another person find that obscure publication that helps their research, my job will be done. Beyond that, I just know they’ll just sit in boxes in my closet and continue to decay and that would be a waste. I care too much about analog history to do that to them. And I’m done with them.
Are you still collecting?
RE: I’m actively un-collecting at this point, but I will still pick up cheap paperback literature for the same reason I picked up comics or ‘zines. To feel like I’m saving a small slice of history from absolute oblivion, and ’cause there are just too many books I want to read before I’m dust.
Gallery of covers from Etchen’s ‘zine donation:
Thursday’s panel features photographer/publisher Kelly Dugan of Peachfuzz, visual artist James Huizar of Puro Chingon Collective, editor/curator Amarie Gipson of MUD Magazine, designer/curator Phillip Niemeyer of Northern-Southern, and mail artist/musician Josh Ronsen of Monk Mink Pink Punk.Click for more info.
Most recently, though, staff from LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections and the Libraries have been building upon a project — initially funded from a 2014 Mellon grant award — that takes a more comprehensive approach to preserving the culture and history of Latin America.
The Latin American Digital Initiatives (LADI) repository, currently represents the collaborative efforts of LLILAS Benson with three Central American organizations on four distinctive projects:
Theresa Polk, post-custodial archivist at the Benson and one of the project’s leads, is gratified by the success of the project, and looks forward to its future potential.
“It was tremendously exciting to see how the metadata facilitated these disparate collections talking to one another and to other Benson digital collections,” says Polk. “As the site continues to evolve, new collections are added, and researchers begin to actively engage it, we hope it will facilitate new insights into human rights scholarship in the region.”
A facsimile reproduction made in the Florentine workshop of Alejandro Ruffoni of an original early 17th Century drawing of the Port of Acapulco by Dutch engineer Adrian Boot. The reproduction was commissioned by Mexican historian Francisco del Paso y Troncoso.
The panoramic shows the port and fortification at Acapulco, with depictions of the natural flora and geography of the region.
A contemporary of O’Neil Ford, San Antonio landscape architect Stewart King was an avid historic preservationist and advocate of indigenous plants whose involvement with the San Antonio Conservation Society as advisor and consultant led to his involvement in the preservation and restoration of the Old Spanish Missions. The example above is from the Mission San Francisco de la Espada, located in southeast San Antonio on the banks of the San Antonio River.
King is considered a pioneer in designing sustainable landscapes. His collection at the Alexander Architectural Archive contains documentation from 19 years of his professional career, featuring plant files, photographs and landscape plans, including 2,500 landscape architecture drawings.
While we’re apt to sound out the world-class general and distinctive materials maintained by the Libraries, these resources are just a single galaxy in a greater universe of extraordinary collections across UT campus.
In the first of its kind accounting, the University of Texas Press has just released a massive assemblage of the rare, unique and exceptional collections that reside on the Forty Acres in the form of The Collections, a necessarily significant tome documenting the various holdings — recognizable and not so — from around UT.
Represented in the book are Libraries mainstays such as the Benson Latin American Collection, the Alexander Architectural Archive, the PCL and Walter Geological Map Collections and the Historical Music Recordings Collection, as well as highlights from discrete collections across the branches.
The book features hundreds of items from more than 80 collections campus-wide, covering a range of subject areas: archaeology, ethnography, fine and performing arts, rare books and manuscripts, decorative arts, photography, film, music, popular and material culture, regional and political history, natural history, science and technology.
Edited by Andrée Bober with the support of more than 350 staff from across the university, The Collections features a foreword by UT Austin President Gregory L. Fenves and a historical introduction by Lewis Gould, professor emeritus of American history, whose essay traces the formation of the collections and acknowledges many people whose visions are manifest in these material resources.