The Historical Music Recordings Collection is the largest repository at the university for sound recordings (and one of the largest such collections in the United States) featuring a breadth of genres in almost every type of format utilized to store sound.
Due to the variety of formats, the HMRC also maintains an equipment morgue of anachronisms — a collection of Victrolas, Edisons, wire recorders, reel-to-reels, tape recorders and other bygone audio recording and listening devices.
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.
Summer is the time for housekeeping around the Libraries, and much like undertaking the reorganization of one’s own closet, an occasional unexpected discovery occurs that either provokes nostalgia or rouses curiosity.
The latter was the case when staff at the Library Storage Facility at the Pickle Research Campus in north Austin recently came across more than 400 reels of microfilm which appeared to document the entire card catalog of the Libraries through images of each individual record.
Evidence dated the media from the late 1960s to the early 1970s, but none of current Libraries staff had a clue as to the reason that an entire catalog of just over 2 million volumes (at the time) would’ve been recorded in such a way.
Enter the institutional memory of a loyal retiree class.
Associate Director for Collections and Technical Services Robin Fradenburgh put out the call to a cadre of ex libris stalwarts to see if they could unpack the Riddle of the Reels.
“We are calling on our dearly missed retired colleagues to help us with this mystery. We have about 400+ of these reels of film of catalog cards. Stephen (Littrell) looked at three of them to see if they had dates…one didn’t, one looked like it was 1964 and the other was 1973. Did we used to make films of our catalog cards as back up and do you see any reason we need to keep them? Ben (Rodriguez) says they were added to LSF very early on.”
Thanks….none of our institutional memories go back that far.
There are no guarantees when seeking an answer to a 40-year old question, but the former librarians didn’t miss a beat.
Of course, I wasn’t there before 1980, but when at the University of Pennsylvania, it was the year 1968 of upheaval of student protests, campus takeovers, etc. that the Penn Library experienced some incursions in which trays of catalog cards were dumped on the floor helter-skelter (as well as books being swept off stack shelves).
Those attacks led several academic libraries, including Penn, to microfilm either their catalogs or shelflists.
And in further validation,
“I’m remembering a special project to microfilm the card catalog as a precautionary measure in the wake of student unrest on a number of college campuses. The project may well have gone on for some time, but card microfilming was never a routine back-up procedure that we did for years on end.
So, the mystery solved and a lost history unearthed and passed along, the summer cleaning continues, and we’re reminded that technology has made preserving the Libraries’ catalog just a little less daunting than it used to be.
Thanks to Libraries alumni Bob Stewart and Al Rogers for bringing their respective knowledge and memory to bear.
Again this year, the Libraries took measures to help our hardworking students survive the end of another (or for some, a first) academic school year by providing some de-stressors during the weeks leading up to finals.
As papers and projects came due and the looming shadow of finals all but enveloped the collective population of the campus, we were again fortunate to have a ready partner in Austin Dog Alliance who was willing to provide a much-needed visit by their four-legged staff members, and whose mere presence can be diversion enough to lighten the mood and reorient Longhorns in the throes of all-nighters and marathon cram sessions.
Along with pups, facilities project manager Frank Meaker amassed a new collection of whiteboard drawings from throughout the PCL over the spring semester, and we gathered those on our Flickr account to document this season of the spontaneous art therapy that provides yet another momentary escape from the serious rigor that occurs in service of developing the next generation of leaders at the UT campus. (More about the whiteboards at the UT Tumblr.)
Author James Galloway — also a library specialist at the Mallet Chemistry Library — was recently consulted by the PBS investigative television program “History Detectives: Special Investigations” in the production of an episode on a series of unsolved murders that occurred in Austin in the mid-nineteenth century. Galloway’s 2010 book, The Servant Girl Murders: Austin, Texas 1885, provided background for the program, having been drawn from his research utilizing the wealth of historical materials inhabiting special collections across the Austin area, including those at The University of Texas at Austin.
Galloway was took some time to talk with us about how the book came to be.
What got you interested in the murders?
James R. Galloway: I took a history class — Methods in Historical Research — when I was finishing grad school here at The University of Texas in 1996 that focused on local history resources and collections. I was trying to come up with a topic for a research paper and I remembered this local legend about a serial killer from the nineteenth century in Austin. I did some digging around and as far as I could tell no one else had done research on the topic. I thought it would make a good research paper and started looking into it.
What compelled you to write the book?
JRG: After I finished grad school, I was still interested in the story, I had barely scratched the surface of the primary sources I could find and I had no idea what had ultimately happened with the murders and I wanted to continue to investigate them in my spare time.
Where did you discover information about the events, and how long did you work to research the book?
JRG: The story of the murders was told in the newspapers from the time period; they were the primary source for the “story” and I ended up reading through a few years worth of microfilmed newspapers to find the beginning, where and when they started, and where the finally ended. But there were a lot of loose ends, Continue reading →
If you’re unfamiliar with lawyer Paul Otlet and his monument to document science, the Mundaneum, Cataloging the World appears to be a worthy introductory volume to an oddly prescient episode in human history.
Otlet carried a grand vision of interconnecting the various knowledge gateways throughout the world in order to bring about a sort of collective enlightenment and benevolent world order… decades before Turing’s rudimentary machine even hinted at future computational possibilities.
Included in the exhibit are examples of the exceptional Relaciones Geográficas, elaborate surveys from Latin America requisitioned by King Philip II of Spain in the 16th Century that provide detailed demographic, geographic and sociopolitical information on Spanish colonial life in regions and towns controlled by the crown, many featuring hand-drawn maps that range from simplistic to elaborate.
Mapping Mexican Historyis on view on the 2nd floor of the Faulk Central Library (800 Guadalupe) through October 15. Check the website for hours, or contact the Austin Public Library at 512-974-7400 for more information.
Díaz and a group of UT faculty gathered around the seminar room table where archivist Christian Kelleher had laid out some of the Benson’s treasures on display. These included some of the usual suspects, such as the Relaciones Geográficas (pintura maps from the first census of New Spain, dating back to 1577), the papers of the renowned Chicana theorist Gloria Anzaldúa, and the original manuscript of Rayuela by Argentine author Julio Cortázar.
Díaz’s visit was also a great opportunity to pull out some of the Benson’s lesser known gems, such as our collection of rare books and maps from and about the Dominican Republic, and share our Latino comics collection with a fellow comic book lover.
Even as the debate over the issue of open access v. traditional publishing continues apace, there are options on the periphery for accessing creative or original content without having to consider the mortgage of one’s financial future (or soul).
DJ and musician Moby announced earlier this week the relaunch of his website Moby Gratis which provides a license-free catalog of his music for use in independent, non-profit and generally low-budget creative enterprises.