Tag Archives: Preservation

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.

Cataloging Dance: The Sharir Archive

Sharir dancers. Photographer: Jonathan Leatherwood.
Sharir dancers. Photographer: Jonathan Leatherwood.

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.

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):

https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/handle/2152/43743

https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/handle/2152/28814

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.

Partnering to Preserve and Persevere: The Genocide Archive of Rwanda

Photos of victims of the Rwandan Genocide.

On June 9 — International Archives Day — the Libraries’ Human Rights Documentation Initiative (HRDI) partners Aegis Trust and the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre launched a new, greatly updated and expanded online Genocide Archive of Rwanda (http://www.genocidearchiverwanda.org.rw).

One of the most important resources online documenting the causes, processes, and consequences of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, GAR demonstrates the generative impact that the Libraries’ programming can have. The HRDI project, begun in Rwanda in 2008, engaged staff and volunteers at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre, a museum and documentation center for education and memory in Rwanda, to combine their personal experiences, deep knowledge, and historical resources with the technical expertise at UT Libraries in order to preserve and provide access to the fragile record of the Genocide that was daily being lost.

T-Kay Sangwand and Christian Kelleher meet with Rwandan officials.The first version of GAR, developed by the Libraries’ Technology Integration Services, Information Technology Architecture and Strategy, and Digitization Services departments using Glifos media software, was installed on a laptop and hand-carried by me and human rights archivist T-Kay Sangwand to Rwanda, where it spent the next year demoing the project to build local community, government, and international support.

Launched online in 2010, GAR enabled people in Rwanda and around the world to hear testimonies from Genocide survivors as well as perpetrators and elders in Rwanda about their experiences of Genocide, its root causes, and the lives and society that it destroyed. Photographs and historical documents were collected and digitized by Aegis Trust’s Rwandan staff to be added to the Archives at the Kigali Memorial Centre.Archive and preserved digitally by UT Libraries, and soon UTL was consulting on construction of a climate-controlled physical archive in Kigali in addition to the online digital archive.

The new Genocide Archive of Rwanda moves the archive to the cloud and integrates new mapping features, improved access to documents and photographs, and interactive tours of memorial sites around the country. The new site also includes features to engage youth in peace-building, and highlights important community renewal and reconciliation programs.

When recently retired Vice Provost Dr. Fred Heath and I attended the Kwibuka 20 commemoration ceremonies marking 20 years since the Genocide, Rwandan president Paul Kagame stated that, “Historical clarity is a duty of memory that we cannot escape. Behind the words ‘Never Again’, there is a story whose truth must be told in full, no matter how uncomfortable.” Born in the basement at Perry-Castañeda Library, and now managed in the cloud by a team of new information professionals in Rwanda, the Genocide Archive of Rwanda is a resource that preserves and gives clarity to the 1994 Genocide in support of memory, reconciliation, education, and scholarship in Rwanda, Texas, and around the globe.

The global impact of the University of Texas Libraries is made possible in large part to the financial support of individual, corporate and foundation donors. To contribute to projects like the Human Rights Digitization Project, please contact Natalie Moore or visit our online giving page today.

The Libraries’ Closet

Library Storage Facility, Pickle Campus. Photo by Stephen Littrell.
Library Storage Facility, Pickle Campus. Photo by Stephen Littrell.

Like so many leather skirts, go-go boots and seersucker jackets that need to be carefully stowed in the interim between their respective periods in vogue, these great buildings of books, too, need to occasionally clear space for more useful, timely purposes.

To that end, the Libraries have thus far accommodated a need for additional “closet space” through the construction of off-site warehouses much reminiscent of the one imagined in the closing scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, seemingly endless rows of shelving stretched from concrete floor to stories-tall rafter, where once-prized tomes and formerly-current periodicals can reside until such time as they are once again called upon to provide the critical information needed to complete some important research or solve some lingering question.

These library storage facilities (LSFs) house those low-circulation items and fragile materials that might be considered complementary resources for collections from across the campus of The University of Texas at Austin and beyond.  Both the Harry Ransom Center and the Briscoe Center for American History are reliant upon this remote storage in order to free up room for the more high-value, high-use items in their ever-growing collections of cultural artifacts. Likewise, as parts of the Libraries’ valuable print collection are accessed less frequently than in the past, it’s logical to move those volumes into a high-quality storage environment and establish systems for retrieving books as scholars request them from storage. The migration creates space that can be repurposed for student use and newer technologies to facilitate a more productive, modern learning environment.

The Libraries also enjoined sibling rivals at College Station in two of the ventures thus far — the second of two facilities at the Pickle Research campus in North Austin, and a joint library facility (JLF) at Texas A&M’s Riverside campus outside of Bryan, Texas. In a collaboration that seeks to minimize the physical presence of materials while still availing the needs of institutions across the state, UT and A&M have pared some of their collections to a single-copy that is then shared cross-organizationally through a delivery system coordinated by the principals. The Austin unit constructed in 2010 is already at capacity, and the Riverside unit, which opened in 2013, has incorporated nearly half a million volumes to date. Given the successful outcomes of the partnership, there are already considerations for the development of further partnerships.

Beyond the space-saving functionality of the LSFs, there is a compelling financial reason for moving low-use items off-site.  A 2010 study showed the cost of storing a single volume in an open library stacks facility is $4.26 per year, taking into account personnel, lighting, maintenance and heating and cooling costs. The cost is pegged at 86 cents per volume for storage at a facility such as the Riverside unit jointly operated by the Texas A&M and University of Texas Systems — representing a savings of $3.40 per volume.

The Libraries learned recently that it had received approval from the Board of Regents to begin construction on a third unit at the Pickle campus, which is necessitated by the Dell Medical School’s future plans to build where the Collections Deposit Library currently stands. CDL has long served as a storage facility on campus for permanent collections, as well as a holding space for unprocessed materials, but due to its age and lack of available space, the building has just about outlived its utility. The new construction at the north Austin campus will allow significant additional materials from other campus locations, as well.

The coming facility will, like its predecessors, be climate controlled, and will hold roughly one million additional volumes, bringing the Libraries over halfway to completing a stated goal of removing two million books from campus locations to off-site storage. Construction on the $8 million building will begin in 2016 and is expected to open in late summer of 2017.

What Can Brown Do For You?


From "Arte de la lengua mexicana y castellana" by Alonso de Molina,Published: 1576, from the Benson Latin American Collection

In the case of original Latin American research materials, quite a lot, actually.

The John Carter Brown Library at Brown University has signed on to the Primeros Libros project – a consortia-driven effort to capture and preserve as many of the “first books” of the New World, those printed in Mexico before 1601. Brown becomes the project’s biggest contributor bringing an additional 70 volumes to the collection, joining the Benson Latin American Collection, Biblioteca Histórica José María Lafragua at the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla and the Cushing Memorial Library and Archives at Texas A&M University, among others.

The digital preservation of these historic cultural documents not only benefits Latin American study abroad, but it means that long-since scattered cultural artifacts of Mexico can return home for use the country’s own scholars and researchers.

Find more information on the project and its players here.

This Donation Sounds Great

 

William Vanden Dries of the Audio Preservation Fund and Fine Arts Music Library David Hunter. Photo by Emilia Harris, Daily Texan Staff

An unexpected gift can sometimes be the most invaluable.

Thanks to a generous donation from the Audio Preservation Fund – an Austin-based nonprofit formed by three UT alumni in 2009 – the already extensive Historic Musical Recordings Collection (HMRC) just got a little more so with the addition of 1,000 vinyl albums.

Chairman of the Audio Preservation Fund William Vanden Dries hand-delivered the eclectic mix of recordings to the Collections Deposit Library on Tuesday. After an extensive review of the HMRC’s holdings, the group determined where their reserves might bridge gaps in the collection’s catalog, and the gift was amassed from the cache of an unnamed individual collector.

The Audio Preservation Fund acts as a facilitator for the collection and preservation of sound recordings, and for the distribution of donated items to suitable recipients including public archives, libraries, museums, universities and research centers. The Fund’s goal is to make private collections available to the public in an effort to improve access to rare, unique and historical audio.

We express our gratitude to the Audio Preservation Fund on behalf of the Libraries and the patrons who will benefit from their generous gift.

 

Google, completa

texlibris_google_blacWe can officially celebrate the completion of the Benson component of our partnership in the Google Books project.  This from our colleagues at Google recently:

Since we launched our partnership with the University of Texas at Austin in 2007, we have been working hard to make their unique Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection accessible to readers online. The collection is one of the largest Latin American collections in the world, and is renowned for the scope and breadth of its materials covering Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean island nations, South America, and the Latino presence in the United States. Continue reading