cbdb_figures-filter

The China Biographical Database(CBDB) 中國歷代人物資料庫 

Read, hot & digitized: Librarians and the digital scholarship they love — In this series, librarians from UTL’s Arts, Humanities and Global Studies Engagement Team briefly present, explore and critique existing examples of digital scholarship. 



The China Biographical Database is a freely accessible relational database with biographical information of approximately 427,000 individuals as of April 2019, primarily from the 7th through early 20th   centuries. Users can query the system in terms of place, time, office, social associations and kinship, and export the results for further analysis with GIS, social networks, and statistical software.

The China Biographical Database (CBDB) originates with the work of Chinese social historian Robert Hartwell. Hartwell’s research employed data as evidence to form and support his arguments. He built a relational database in dBase for MS DOS format to capture biographical data as it relates to five elements: (1) people, (2) places, (3) a bureaucratic system, (4) kinship structures and (5) contemporary modes of social association. He created an advisory committee for the database and made copies of his datasets and applications available to the committee members. When Hartwell died in 1996, the project included a large number of multi-variant biographical and genealogical data for over 25,000 individuals. He bequeathed his database to the Harvard Yenching Institute. Later, the Harvard Yenching Institute transferred its rights to the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies and changed its name to the China Biographical Database (CBDB).

Hartwell’s database has since gone through many redesigns to make it work with modern computer technology. The FoxPro application has been used to make easier searches and queries. An online application for public access querying and reporting has been added. Python is used to write procedures for names entity recognition for text-mining and text-modeling. Other facilities that have been built into CBDB includes an XML export ability,  a save/load ability, and a handy list of pre-made regular expression examples. The long-term goal of CBDB is to systematically include all significant biographical material from China’s historical record and to make the contents available free of charge, without restriction, for academic use. Users can query CBDB through an online database in both a Chinese and an English interface. Users can also download the entire database, together with query forms and utilities for exporting data for network and spatial analysis, from the CBDB website and explore the database on any computer with Microsoft Access. 2

The data in CBDB is taken from multiple biographical reference sources, including modern syntheses of biographical data, traditional biographical records, evidence for social associations from literary collections, evidence for office holding from modern and traditional sources, and other biographical databases. 3  Data is regularly being added and updated and is categorized and coded for various aspects of the life histories of Chinese people. The CBDB project also accepts volunteered data as it is thought that the more biographical data the project accumulates, the greater the service to research and learning that explore the lives of individuals.

Research methodologies supported by CBDB:

  • Prosopography
    An investigation of the common characteristics of a historical group by means of a collective study of their lives.
  • GIS: Mapping and Analyzing
    Statistical and geographic information system (GIS) software can be used to work with CBDB data. For example, ArcGIS, MapInfo or even Google Earth can be used to combine freely available China Historical GIS (CHGIS) with CBDB output
  • Social NetworksSocial network analysts find that people need and seek emotional and economic support of different kinds. All social network queries in the stand-alone version of CBDB export data for visualization and some analysis to Pajek, freeware for social network analysis for Windows in UTF-8, GBK or pinyin romanization.

CBDB has grown to be a massive internationally corroboration with three major supporting research institutes.
Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies. Harvard University (US)
Institute of History and Philology. Academia Sinica (Taiwan)
Center for Research on Ancient Chinese History. Peking University (China)

Peter Bol, who was the chair of Hartwell’s advisory committee and a professor of Chinese history at Harvard, is now the chair of the CBDB Project’s executive committee. There are many committees overseeing CBDB: a steering committee (composed of scholars of pre-modern Chinese studies and computer scientists), editorial committees from the participating research institutes, working groups on each of the four historical periods, and functional committees who work on  text mining and web maintenance. All committees are composed of scholars from around the world and CBDB has been promoted widely, for example a recent special program at the 2019 Association for Asian Studies Conference on “Digital Technologies Expo.

References

  1. The Late Robert M. Hartwell “Chinese Historical Studies, Ltd.” Software Project “ / Peter Bol, http://pnclink.org/annual/annual1999/1999pdf/bol.pdf
  2. Chinese biographical data: text-mining, databases and system interoperability / Bol, Peter Kees, Harvard University, http://www.dh2012.uni-hamburg.de/conference/programme/abstracts/prosopographical-databases-text-mining-gis-and-system-interoperability-for-chinese-history-and-literature.1.html
  3. CBDB Sources, https://projects.iq.harvard.edu/cbdb/cbdb-sources
  4. Digital Technologies Expo Schedule (2019 AAS Special Program, https://www.eventscribe.com/2019/AAS/agenda.asp?pfp=dteS

Examples of search and data analysis using CBDB

1.

Search results for Sima Guang

Sima Guang social associates (464 listed, of various types: Patron of, Friend of, Friend in the same graduating class, Impeached, Impeached by, Recommended, Recommended by, Opposed or attacked, Opposed by or attacked by, Praised or admired by, Coalition associate of, Supported by, Purged by, Prefaced book by, Preface of book by, Epitaph written by, Epitaph written for, etc. )

Sima Guang social associates (464 listed, of various types: Patron of, Friend of, Friend in the same graduating class, Impeached, Impeached by, Recommended, Recommended by, Opposed or attacked, Opposed by or attacked by, Praised or admired by, Coalition associate of, Supported by, Purged by, Prefaced book by, Preface of book by, Epitaph written by, Epitaph written for, etc. )

2.

Spatial extent of the marriage networks of the Northern Song statesman Sima Guang and the Southern Song statesman Shi Hao.
Spatial extent of the marriage networks of the Northern Song statesman Sima Guang and the Southern Song statesman Shi Hao. Source: CBDB – https://projects.iq.harvard.edu/cbdb/gis-mapping-and-analyzing

 

3.

 

An example of network visualization. The tie can reflect the number of letter between individuals, centered on Neo-Confucians of Zhu Xi
An example of network visualization. The tie can reflect the number of letter between individuals, centered on Neo-Confucians of Zhu Xi. Source: Source: CBDB – https://projects.iq.harvard.edu/cbdb/social-networks

 

Some examples of biographical indexes included in CBDB  and held in the University of Texas Libraries.

宋元方志傳記索引 / 朱士嘉編 ; 中華書局上海編輯所編輯.
北京 : 中華書局 : 新華書店上海发行所发行, 1963.
DS 735 C5266 1963

遼金元人傳記索引 / 梅原郁, 衣川強編.
京都 : 京都大学人文科学研究所, 昭和47
DS 734 U46

二十四史紀傳人名索引 
北京 : 中華書局 : 新華書店北京發行所發行, 1980.
Z 3106 C387

 

Vacation in a book poster

Vacation in a Book

There’s still time left in the summer to take in a few books and an exhibit currently on view at the Perry-Castañeda Library has some suggestions to offer.

Vacation in a Book” features staff-selected volumes with a broad travel theme for your summer leisure reading pleasure. Staff offer recommendations for everything from a 16th century travelogue to fantasy stories in which the characters travel to another land.

Graduate research assistants in Teaching and Learning Services Ginny Barnes and Natalia Kapacinskas supplemented recommended items with other adventurous materials from the Libraries’ collections (including an oddity about cats in Istanbul available through our Kanopy streaming service).

As with all of our displays, “Vacation in a Book” highlights our deep circulating collections, this time in a fun and summery way to highlight the varied interests of our staff.

On view on the third floor of PCL through August 3.

Here are some of the offerings:

 

 

Photo courtesy Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional, Guatemala.

Guatemalan Human Rights Archive in Imminent Peril

In recent weeks, actions taken by the government of Guatemala have put in jeopardy the future of the Historical Archive of the National Police of Guatemala (AHPN), a human rights archive with which LLILAS Benson and other units at the University of Texas at Austin have partnered since 2011.

In a keynote speech to the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials (SALALM), delivered on June 27 at the University of Texas at Austin,  Guatemalan human rights activist Gustavo Meoño, former director of the AHPN, revealed some of the most recent events undermining the archive, including a drastic reduction of staff and an imminent takeover by the country’s Ministry of Culture, both of which have serious implications for the AHPN’s operation and integrity.

Gustavo Meoño presents the keynote address at the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials, held at The University of Texas at Austin in June 2019; photo: Daniel Hublein
Gustavo Meoño presents the keynote address at the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials, held at The University of Texas at Austin in June 2019. Photo: Daniel Hublein.

The significance of this news cannot be overstated. The AHPN contains records of Guatemala’s former National Police dating back more than a century. Its contents relating to the country’s 36-year armed conflict have been crucial in uncovering the fate of tens of thousands of Guatemalans during the most violent years of civil strife. “Since its discovery in 2005, the AHPN has played a central role in Guatemala’s attempts to reckon with its bloody past,” according to the National Security Archive, an NGO in Washington DC that advocates against government secrecy. The records “have been relied upon by families of the disappeared, scholars, and prosecutors. The institution has become a model across Latin America and around the world for the rescue and preservation of vital historical records,” an article dated May 30, 2019, states.

AHPN has become a model for the rescue and preservation of vital historical and human rights records.

Meoño served as director of the AHPN from 2005 until his abrupt removal in August 2018 at the hands of the Guatemalan government and the United Nations Development Office; he subsequently fled with his family to Argentina amid death threats and intimidation. In the weeks since his announcement in Austin, the fate of the AHPN has become even more uncertain. On July 10, the Ministry of Culture and Sports, which now oversees the archive, dismissed Anna Carla Ericastilla, longtime director of Guatemala’s national archive, the Archivo General de Centro América (AGCA, AHPN’s parent archive), amid accusations that she had illegally allowed access to the archive to entities outside the country, such as the University of Texas at Austin, and that she had collected donor contributions to pay archive personnel unbeknown to the Ministry of Culture and Sports.

A scanned document appears on the screen as part of the digitization process. Photo courtesy Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional, Guatemala.
A scanned document appears on the screen as part of the digitization process. Photo courtesy Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional, Guatemala.

According to the AHPN website hosted by the University of Texas Libraries, “The AHPN Digital Archive is a collaborative project of the University of Texas’ Lozano Long Institute for Latin American Studies, Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice, and Benson Latin American Collection, with the Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional de Guatemala.” As faculty directors of the aforementioned institutions made clear in a recent letter to Guatemala’s minister and vice-minister of Culture and Sports, the collaboration with the AHPN and its parent archive, the AGCA, “has always been open, public, and fully in compliance with the laws of Guatemala and the United States.”

Daniel Brinks (l), co-director of the Rapoport Center; Virginia Garrard, director of LLILAS Benson; and Gustavo Meoño, former director of AHPN, at a July 2018 meeting in Guatemala. Photo: Hannah Alpert-Abrams.
Daniel Brinks (l), co-director of the Rapoport Center; Virginia Garrard, director of LLILAS Benson; and Gustavo Meoño, former director of AHPN, at a July 2018 meeting in Guatemala. Photo: Hannah Alpert-Abrams.

Documents from the AHPN have been used in 14 trials prosecuting human rights abuses, said Meoño. These include the 1980 burning by police of the Spanish Embassy in Guatemala City with 37 Indigenous protestors shut inside; and the 1981 abduction, rape, and torture of Emma Molina Theissen along with the subsequent forced disappearance of her 14-year-old brother Marco Antonio. Preservation efforts have prioritized documents from the worst years of government-sponsored terror, 1975–1985, according to Meoño. All told, there were almost 200,000 victims of the armed conflict, including the disappeared. “Indeed, it may be the Police Archive’s crucial contributions to human rights trials that caused the government of President Jimmy Morales to seek to control the repository and fire its director,” wrote the NSA last August.

Photo courtesy Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional, Guatemala.
Photo courtesy Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional, Guatemala.

The fate of the AHPN has particular resonance for The University of Texas at Austin, and in particular, for LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections and the UT Libraries, who, through their partnership with the AHPN, have successfully secured and posted online digital copies of one-third of the more than 60 million documents in the archive—an estimated 8 linear kilometers of material. Preservation of the archive’s contents has been paramount since the documents were discovered, haphazardly stored, by the Guatemalan Office of the Human Rights Prosecutor (Procuraduría de los Derechos Humanos, or PDH) in filthy, rat-infested buildings that were part of a sprawling police base located in a Guatemala City neighborhood.

Guatemala will elect a new government in August. The AHPN’s Texas partners will be among the international community of human rights advocates watching closely to see what that bodes for the AHPN and the future of truth and restorative justice in Guatemala.


See related posts: 21 Years of Peace;, 21 Million Documents21 años de paz, 21 millones de documentos; Seminar Commemorates Collaboration with Guatemala on Archives and Human Rights

 

Lydia Fletcher. Liaison Librarian for Physical and Mathematical Sciences

Meet the Talents: Lydia Fletcher

Liaison Librarian for Physical and Mathematical Sciences Lydia Fletcher is currently co-chairing the STEM Librarians South conference, which brings together information professionals and academics from across the Southern U.S. and beyond to share their ideas, current research, best practices, and unique insights that help librarians advance the cause of STEM education and research. 

When not organizing conferences, Lydia provides research, teaching and publishing support for all students, faculty and staff in the departments of Physics, Mathematics, Astronomy, Statistics & Data Science, Computer Science and Electrical & Computer Engineering.

She graciously agreed to answer a few questions about her work and experience for us. 


 

Tex Libris: First love — librarianship or science?

Librarian at NASA.
Lydia Fletcher.

Lydia Fletcher: Definitely science! Especially space science – I wanted to be an astronaut for a really long time, and I went to Space Camp when I was 10. Some of my favorite memories as a kid involved going to Johnson Space Center in Houston. I couldn’t get enough of the place! But at some point I got more interested in history and literature, and even though I was always excited by whatever NASA was doing, for a while I focused on other things.

 

Lego minifigs on a bookshelf.
Science Legos on a shelf in Lydia’s office.

 

Where did you study?

LF: I did my BA at the University of Texas at San Antonio and did a Master of Studies degree at the University of Oxford in the UK. Both of those were in English, and it wasn’t until I started working in libraries and got my MSIS here at UT that I realized that I could work with scientists as a librarian. And that I love it!

 

When did you join the UT Libraries, and what drew you to Texas?

LF: My three year anniversary with the UT Libraries will be on August 15! Some days it feels like I just got here, and other days it feels like I’ve been here forever. Texas is home for me – I’m from San Antonio – and UT is an exciting place to work. I love getting to interact with the researchers here, especially the folks at McDonald Observatory.

Library at the McDonald Observatory.
Library at the McDonald Observatory.

 

Speaking of, you undertook a reorganization project for observatory a few years back. What did that entail, and what was the experience like?

LF: The folks out at McDonald Observatory wanted to make some improvements in the Otto Struve 82” Telescope (the original 1939 telescope) building ahead of their 80th anniversary this summer. The library collection had spilled out of the library into the hallways and they wanted me to help them clear those hallways. I got to spend a week at McDonald Observatory – which was amazing! – and at the end we identified materials to be brought back to Austin. I also helped them get former director Harlan Smith’s collection displayed more prominently and created a display collection of works by and about McDonald Observatory. It was a great collaboration and I’m very proud of how the library looks now.

Library at the McDonald Observatory.
Library at the McDonald Observatory.

 

What are your responsibilities?

LF: As a liaison librarian, I support students, faculty, and staff with their research needs in the departments I liaise with: Astronomy, Computer Science, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Mathematics, Physics, and Statistics & Data Science. At the moment that looks like working with faculty to make sure they understand some new National Science Foundation Open Access mandates, but it also includes a range of reference and scholarly communications support.

 

What aspect of your job is the most fulfilling?

LF: Solving puzzles for people. Sometimes I get reference questions where someone has an incomplete or incorrect citation, and I really love figuring those out. Or looking for a translation – recently someone wanted a translation of an article written in the Soviet Union in the 40s. I tracked a translation of it down to a microfilm held by the British Library and was able to scan a copy for the researcher. That was fun!

 

Your studies were in the humanities, but you’re immersed in science now. What are the differences you see in the discipline-specific approaches to research and general library use by STEM and humanities folks, and do you recognize any differences in styles within the departments you liaise with?

LF: Scientists are so different from people who do research in the humanities. Scientists use different materials from those in the humanities – most scientists rely on journals instead of books, but they also need things like datasets and specialty software. So, most of the students from those areas look to the libraries for computers where they can access all those things. I love that the Libraries IT staff do such a great job making sure we provide software like Mathematica and LaTeX. Of course, there are outliers even among scientists – Math researchers tend to be different from other scientists, and actually more like humanities researchers in that they love books!

  

What do you think the prospects are for wider adoption of open access practices by STEM faculty and researchers?

LF: It’s a little funny for me to talk about Open Access adoption because the departments I work most closely with – Physics, Math and Astronomy – are already committed to not just Open Access publishing but Open Science principles like data sharing. It’s almost universal to see Physicists and Astronomers making versions of their articles available as preprints, and most Astronomical data is publicly available. But they’ve been doing it for a long time already – the Arxiv preprint server was developed by Physicists in the early 1990s. I definitely think other disciplines will adopt open practices, but it will take some time. It doesn’t happen overnight. We just have to keep working on sustainable models and promoting them.

 

What are you reading this summer?

LF: I just finished “American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race,” since I’m so excited about the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Lydia Fletcher sitting at her desk.
Lydia Fletcher.

 

Still want to travel to space? Mars mission perhaps? Or the Space Force?

LF: If anyone at NASA or SpaceX is reading this and looking for a librarian to go to Mars, they can definitely call me.

 

Map with color-identified blocks.

Announcing the Texas GeoData Portal

In the same way that the internet and digitization have created new ways to make books more discoverable and facilitated new ways of exploring text, so, too, have they opened avenues for a greater exploration of maps and their underlying data.

As what has been a deliberative process, the UT Libraries have tended toward later adoption of new currents in libraries and librarianship in order to take advantage of the trial and error mechanics that so often are part of embracing untested technologies and frameworks. Geographic information systems (GIS) technology has been in the ascendant for several years now as a burgeoning area of expertise in libraries, and with the expansive cartographic resources we have at UT and the evolution in the growth of local datasets, it was time for the Libraries to embrace GIS as part of its overall strategic expertise.

Geospatial data identifies data that has a geographic component to it…any data that includes locational information – such as coordinates (latitudes and longitudes), addresses, cities, zip codes, etc. – and can be applied to some position on the Earth. We rely on geospatial data to track weather, find the best route to a destination, manage air traffic, make decisions about where to invest in infrastructure projects and to determine how best to deploy marketing resources. And all of these data forms can be mapped. GIS helps to organize and visualize that data in ways that make it eminently more useful.

The Libraries finally entered the landscape of GIS last year with the hiring of Geospatial Data Coordinator Michael Shensky, and a major undertaking in his short tenure has been to spearhead the development of an interface that will facilitate discovery of the cartographic resources and geospatial datasets in our collections by researchers, faculty and other university constituents.

Texas GeoData Portal.
Texas GeoData Portal.

The Texas GeoData Portal uses an open source geospatial discovery application – GeoBlacklight – to power a web portal that gives users the ability to search, browse, preview, and download geospatial datasets. Visitors to the website will be able to search through a variety of geospatial datasets, including georeferenced scanned map images from the PCL Maps Collection and vector datasets developed from items in other special collections like the Benson Latin American Collection and Alexander Architectural Archives.

The portal will allow users to download data in several different standard geospatial formats so that they can easily be loaded into GIS software for advanced visualization and analysis.

Coordinated use of GeoBlacklight software and collaboration through the OpenGeoMetadata project has created a community among partner institutions for the sharing and standardization of data and metadata, expanding the opportunities for discovery and creating a robust search functionality among a large corpus of resources. Users can filter search results based on various dataset characteristics including geographic extent, subject matter, institution, data type, and format.

“I’m really excited to be a part of this project because I know this portal has the potential to benefit everyone in the campus community regardless of their role and area of specialization,” says Shensky. “Faculty can use the portal to find data for developing instructional materials, students can find data to use in research projects, and visitors will have access to a variety of unique maps and datasets that they can explore.”

The Texas GeoData Portal is in the closing stages of development with a full launch expected later in the fall, at which point users will be able to access the new resource through the Libraries’ website. Already discussions are underway regarding future functionality, which could include UT single sign on authentication for viewing license-restricted data, integration with the unified search on the Libraries’ website and integration with the Texas Data Repository and the Collections portal (more information to come on this project).

 

 

Album cover of The Band.

WHIT’S PICKS: TAKE 5 – GEMS FROM THE HMRC

Resident poet and rock and roll star Harold Whit Williams is in the midst of a project to catalog the KUT Collection, obtained a few years ago and inhabiting a sizable portion of the Historical Music Recordings Collection (HMRC).

Being that he has a refined sense of both words and music, Whit seems like a good candidate for exploring and discovering some overlooked gems in the trove, and so in this occasional series, he’ll be presenting some of his noteworthy finds.

Earlier installments: Take 1Take 2Take 3, Take 4

Emily Jane White / Victorian America

 Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

Haunted chamber pop-infused indie folk from Oakland’s Emily Jane White. Stark, autumnal, minor-key story songs stack up before the listener like sepia-toned family photos. White’s plucked guitar and sparse piano are formally backdropped by somber strings, cymbal swells, and pedal steel, but it’s in the bleak lyrics her eerie disembodied vocals deliver where each track’s true power lies.

 

Eulogies / Eulogies

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage 

On their self-titled debut, L.A.’s Eulogies mixes thematically heavy lyrics with reverb-drenched back alley indie pop. Coolly restrained with an economy of motion, not a single guitar lick, bass thump, or snare hit is wasted. The band beautifully broods with noir-inspired post-punk, allowing singer/songwriter Peter Walker’s world weary vocals plenty of room to stagger about in his serious moonlight.

William Parker / Long hidden: the Olmec series

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage 

NYC bassist/composer William Parker pushes the boundaries of free jazz and world music alike with this heady and cross-pollinated collection. Parker (solo artist, poet, painter, onetime sideman for Cecil Taylor) displays the deep cultural connections between West Africa and the New World by blending traditional instruments from both areas with gritty downtown avant-garde sax and upright bass. Ancient, modern, and astounding.

  

Palms / It’s Midnight in Honolulu

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

Berliner Nadja Korinth and New Yorker Ryan Schaefer meet somewhere in the jet-lagged middle on this mash-up of proto-punk fuzz, darkwave ambience, and krautrock minimalism. Drawing upon such art rock touchstones as VU, JMC, and Neu!, Palms defiantly never settles into a coherent sequence, preferring to bounce back and forth between styles in such a no-wave bliss that it keeps the unsuspecting listener peeking around the next corner for what’s next.

 

Linzay Young & Joel Savoy / Linzay Young & Joel Savoy

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

Old time Acadian music from Eunice, Louisiana’s Linzay Young and Joel Savoy. Like an update on Alan Lomax’s field recordings, Young (Red Stick Ramblers) and Savoy (founder of Valcour Records) captured these pre-accordion Cajun standards in just one afternoon with no frills and with no overdubs. Their vocal/fiddle/guitar dynamic rings true with front porch authenticity, and the twin fiddle tunes are simply enchanting. 

  

[Harold Whit Williams is a Library Specialist in Music & Multimedia Resources Cataloging for Content Management. He writes poetry, is guitarist for the critically acclaimed rock band Cotton Mather, and releases lo-fi guitar-heavy indie pop as DAILY WORKER.]

Tratado breve de medicina, y de todas las enfermedades. Farfán, Agustín, 1532-1604. 1592. Benson Latin American Collection.

A 16th Century Digital Library

Read, hot & digitized: Librarians and the digital scholarship they love — In this series, librarians from UTL’s Arts, Humanities and Global Studies Engagement Team briefly present, explore and critique existing examples of digital scholarship. 

“It is astonishing how common this illness is, how it afflicts and torments so many with such grave accidents, that when a man or a woman barely turns 20-years-old they start complaining of melancholy and heartache. Some go about full of fears and shocks, and it is fixated in their imagination that they are about to perish. Others say that a who-knows-what climbs up from their spleen and their belly to their heart, shredding it to pieces.”

Such are the symptoms of depression as described in the first Spanish-language medicine book ever printed in the Americas (Mexico City, 1592), written by Agustín de Farfán. Even though the ailment has not changed, the way we access Farfán’s book has come a long way, from the extremely rare copy of an early American imprint, available in a handful of specialized libraries around the world, to the digital images easily discoverable through Primeros Libros.

What started in 2010 as a joint endeavor by two Texas university libraries and three libraries in the Mexican state of Puebla, is now a collaborative project in which 25 institutions, from California to Massachusetts, from Chile to Spain, have joined forces to digitize the books produced during the first century of the printing press in the Americas, up to 1601.

Primeros Libros is now an outstanding example of international library collaboration.

The goal is to provide digital access to a corpus of 136 titles published in the Viceroyalty of the New Spain (Mexico), where the printing press was established in the year 1539, and 20 titles published in the Viceroyalty of Peru, where the first master printer arrived in 1580.

Users of Primeros Libros might renew their appetite for browsing leisurely in a digital library of very rare books. They could look for the word agua in various indigenous languages, or visit the last pages of the naval engineering book by Diego García de Palacio in search of zingladura (spoiler: it means a day’s travel by ship). Aristotelian logics might be too intricate, at least compared with the modest joy of finding an acrostic poem at the end of Alonso de la Vera Cruz’s Dialectica Resolutio cum Textu Aristotelis.

A page of Alonso de Molina’s Spanish-Nahuatl dictionary. Printed in 1555, this is the first work of lexicography published in the Americas. It contains marginal annotations in Otomí, another language common in Central Mexico. This copy is part of the Joaquín García Icazbalceta Collection, held at the Benson Latin American Collection.
A page of Alonso de Molina’s Spanish-Nahuatl dictionary. Printed in 1555, this is the first work of lexicography published in the Americas. It contains marginal annotations in Otomí, another language common in Central Mexico. This copy is part of the Joaquín García Icazbalceta Collection, held at the Benson Latin American Collection.

When two or more member libraries own the same title, all copies are digitized and shared on-line, so that researchers can trace ownership, find missing pages, study pen facsimiles, and compare marginal annotations.

Although many a curious thing awaits the casual visitor to Primeros Libros, serious scholarship can be undertaken through this site.

The cross and the sword—religious zeal and military subjugation—were the tools of colonization of the Spanish empire. Primeros Libros is an invaluable resource for understanding the dissemination of the Catholic faith during a period of tremendously violent cultural clashes. To convert the native population, friars became linguists who learned and codified the most widely spoken indigenous languages.

Many titles in Primeros Libros, alongside catechism books that offer the basics of Catholicism, are grammars and dictionaries intended to help missionaries learn the native tongues so that they could preach and pray in the language of the natives.

This formidable linguistic enterprise was undertaken by friars with the aid of natives, not only as speakers of their languages, but also as interpreters and teachers—among the indigenous nobility, some youth were taught Latin and Spanish, and later participated in the elaboration of grammars and dictionaries. Linguistics, anthropology, history of the book, religious studies, philosophy, and history of science—these are some of the disciplinary perspectives enhanced by the Primeros Libros project.

Primeros Libros is a work in progress in which some institutions, already on board with the partnership, are in the process of digitizing their copies. Therefore, not all of the known titles in this corpus are already accessible online. The site will be greatly enriched when the first books printed in Peru become available. Even though the site is not always user-friendly, the inconveniences are minimal compared to the potential for research and education contained in this digital library.

 

Page from Instrucción Náutica, by Diego García de Palacio, printed in the New Spain in 1587. This copy belongs to the Universidad of Salamanca, in Spain.
Page from Instrucción Náutica, by Diego García de Palacio, printed in the New Spain in 1587. This copy belongs to the Universidad of Salamanca, in Spain.

 

fixDubai Road

Book Finding in the Arab World

UT Libraries’ Global Studies liaisons regularly travel internationally in order to maintain their expertise as librarians, establish and nurture international networks and productive collaborations, and acquire unique materials that distinguish UT Libraries’ collections and make them a destination for researchers from around the world. In March of last year, I traveled to the United Arab Emirates and Oman for materials acquisitions and networking on behalf of the UT Libraries. Dubai, UAE, served as my home base as I made trips to Abu Dhabi and Ajman, UAE, and to Salalah, Oman.

Dale with David Hirsch, formerly the Middle Eastern Studies Librarian at UCLA and now the Chief Adviser for the Muhammad bin Rashid National Library in Dubai
Dale with David Hirsch, formerly the Middle Eastern Studies Librarian at UCLA and now the Chief Adviser for the Muhammad bin Rashid National Library in Dubai.
Science fiction panel at the Emirates Airlines Literature Festival in Dubai.
Science fiction panel at the Emirates Airlines Literature Festival in Dubai.

In Dubai, I attended the Emirates Airlines Literature Festival where I was able to acquire a number of children and young adult books, as well as special editions on Shaykh Zayed, a leader in the UAE who was being celebrated in 2018. David Hirsch, formerly the Middle Eastern Studies Librarian at UCLA and now the Chief Adviser for the Muhammad bin Rashid National Library in Dubai, joined me at the festival and introduced me to local presses and booksellers. I also had the pleasure of attending a panel on Arabic Science Fiction featuring Ahmed Saadawi, the author of Frankenstein in Baghdad, winner of the International Prize in Arabic Fiction 2014 and short-listed for the Man Booker international prize this year; and Nora al Noman, a young adult science fiction author.

Entry at the Zayed University Library.
Entry at the Zayed University Library.
Dale with Riham al-Khafagi and Ahmed Salem of Zayed University.
Dale with Riham al-Khafagi and Ahmed Salem of Zayed University.

In addition, I was able to meet with new colleagues at Zayed University, one of the UAE’s top institutions of higher education. Riham al-Khafagi and Ahmed Salem were kind enough to give me a tour of the university, including its library, and sit down with me to discuss the unique challenges facing a top research university in the Middle East. In particular, we spoke about electronic resources, open access, print collection consortia in the Middle East and Middle Eastern Studies contexts, and censorship, all of which are current and pressing concerns shared by universities across the Middle East.

Dale with Ginny Danielson, Director of the NYU Abu Dhabi Library.
Dale with Ginny Danielson, Director of the NYU Abu Dhabi Library.
Dale with Brad Bauer, Special Collections librarian at the NYU Abu Dhabi library.
Dale with Brad Bauer, Special Collections librarian at the NYU Abu Dhabi library.
The Abu Dhabi Library at New York University.
The Abu Dhabi Library at New York University.

Following my visit to Zayed University, I took a day to drive down to Abu Dhabi and visit with colleagues at NYU Abu Dhabi. Justin Parrott, Middle East Studies Librarian for the NYU Abu Dhabi Library, kindly gave me a tour of the library and introduced me to his colleagues. I met with Ginny Danielson, Director of the NYU Abu Dhabi library, with whom I discussed the challenges of keeping up with local publishing and literature. I also met with Brad Bauer, Special Collections librarian, who told me a bit about the history of their young but growing Special Collections. I was particularly interested in their local photography and maps collections. The current exhibitions were of Shakespeare in translation, which was fascinating to see. Much of my conversation with Justin, however, had to do with being a Middle East subject specialist at, essentially, a small liberal arts college in the Middle East. I had time as well to meet with faculty members Masha Kirasirova and Maurice Pomerantz in Middle Eastern Studies, and to learn more about the programs on offer at NYU Abu Dhabi that may be of interest to UT Austin students and researchers.

Dale Correa with Dr. Al Awaid
Dale Correa with Dr. Al Awaid

I was also fortunate enough to visit Salalah, Oman, during my trip. There, I met with Ali Bakhit Salim Al Awaid, the library director at Dhofar University Library. Dhofar University aims to be the leading science and technology university in Oman, although they also have strengths in English language education and law. Mr. Al Awaid and I spoke about the library’s collections, services, and areas of development, as well as the possibilities for an Interlibrary Loan cooperation. I also met with Khalid Mashikhi, the dean of the Arts and Humanities college, who was eager to discuss potential collaborations of benefit to both UT and Dhofar University student bodies. Dhofar University is a promising location for UT Arabic students to study Arabic and subjects relevant to their majors in the Arabic language. The U.S government Critical Language Scholarship program already relies on Salalah as one of their primary Arabic program sites.

Arabic children's books.

Arabic fantasy literature.

I spent my last days in Dubai visiting local booksellers to collect young adult and science fiction. I found works in this genre from all over the Middle East, but I was particularly pleased to invest in titles from local authors. Gulf publishing is still developing, and it is difficult to track, but more and more I am finding materials more than worthy of adding to UT Libraries’ distinctive collections. This focus on youth literature and science fiction introduced me to a number of local authors and artists who might otherwise not normally make it onto the shelves of a research library in the U.S. I am sincerely grateful to the UT Libraries and CMES for supporting my travel to the UAE and Oman to purchase these materials, learn more about publishing, research, teaching, and technology in the area, and establish contacts on behalf of UT.

 

 

 

Perry-Castaneda Library with water graphic overlay.

After the Flood, PCL Edition

The Perry-Castañeda Library got a bit damp from the recent wet weather. A little too damp, actually.

On Friday, May 3, the Austin area experienced a series of thunderstorms beginning late in the afternoon that dumped a little over 4 inches of rain in the span of a few hours; not a remarkable amount in normal circumstances, but enough to create problems when you have a hole in the side of your building due to a ground-level construction project.

Exterior of the Welcome Center worksite.
Exterior of the Welcome Center worksite.

As a result, the unfinished drainage system being incorporated for the construction of the university’s Admissions Welcome Center wasn’t able to handle the volume of water and allowed a significant amount of water entered through the site and into the operational areas of the basement (1st) level at PCL.

“This is not unusual or considered a failure of the system; it’s simply an in-progress state,” said Jill Stewart, associate director of Project Management and Construction Services. “Due to the nature of incomplete work, the site had not been graded in such a way to purposefully direct water away from the Welcome Center site.”

Standing water viewed from the PCL's central stairway.
Standing water viewed from the PCL’s central stairway.

By that evening a student who noticed pooling water on the ground floor reported it to Libraries staff, and when facilities and preservation personnel were notified of the emergency they activated protocols to protect materials and enlisted the contractors to tackle the larger problem. Staff stayed into the early morning hours to assist the contractors in sandbagging the vulnerable construction area and coordinating with a water damage vendor to begin remediation of the affected spaces and prevent further spreading of moisture into other areas of the building.

Roughly half the floor was affected by flooding, including the InterLibrary Services, several offices for Libraries technology staff and the Texas Digital Library, and the area behind the service desk in the Map Room.

Standing water in the Map Room.
Standing water in the Map Room.

Given the dramatic nature of the incident, the Libraries collections and building fared quite well. The only library materials damaged were ten maps which were triaged and treated for water damage on the night of the flood — all of which have been salvaged for future use— and other items that were at nominal risk were nonetheless relocated for protection. The building level itself was inspected and treated to ensure the containment of moisture with a battalion of dehumidifiers and fans deployed throughout the floor, which ran nonstop for the days required to fully dry out the space.

Director Lorraine Haricombe was laudatory of the staff’s quick response to the emergency.

“We all, of course, wish this had not happened, but I am thankful that our library – and our University – can count on such dedicated and resourceful staff to respond when these things do happen,” said Haricombe.

“A number of staff members at PCL on Friday stayed long past their scheduled shifts and others came in from home or other locations, despite the downpour that evening, to help deal with flooding in ILS and the Map Room. Their efforts made it possible to move hundreds of collection items out of harm’s way and minimize damage to the collection.”

Aside from some temporary inconveniences to relocated staff and the chagrin of principals on the construction project, we consider ourselves pretty lucky. The concerted response by all involved has resulted in a speedy return to normal just in time for summer break.

 

 

Oplontis, atrium 5, east wall. Photo Paul Bardagjy. ©The Oplontis Project

Oplontis: A Digital Humanities Success Story from the University of Texas

Read, hot & digitized: Librarians and the digital scholarship they love — In this series, librarians from UTL’s Arts, Humanities and Global Studies Engagement Team briefly present, explore and critique existing examples of digital scholarship. 


 


 

When speaking of digital humanities and the field of art history, cautioners of “digital art history” argue that using digital tools is useful only if those tools facilitate an actual rethinking about an object as to its identity and purpose.[1] Certainly, applying quantitative digital methods to an art history project sometime fails to hit the mark for one reason or another. For example, network diagramming, first used with text-based DH projects, does not always successfully transfer to the study of the visual. See the map created in 2013 for the entry to MOMA’s “Inventing Abstraction 1910-1925”, which has been criticized for not providing much insight into the events surrounding the rise of Abstraction (https://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2012/inventingabstraction/?page=connections). Or in another case, the wonderfully ambitious 2012 project “Mapping Gothic France” (http://mappinggothic.org/) that was originally financially supported by the Mellon Foundation, now languishes because of lack of funding and the untimely death of one of the project’s two creators.

Website of The Oplontis Project.
Website of The Oplontis Project.

However, successful digital humanities/art history efforts are happening; one being “The Oplontis Project” (www.oplontisproject.org) impressively initiated 14 years ago, in 2005, here at UT Austin by faculty members, Dr. John Clarke and Dr. Michael Thomas.

This is a mind-bogglingly large project involving numerous specialists’ studies of a villa (Villa A) and a commercial complex at Oplontis, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Torre Annunziata, near Pompeii.

Aerial view of Oplontis site with superimposed plan of actual and hypothetical remains. Drawing Timothy Liddell. © The Oplontis Project
Aerial view of Oplontis site with superimposed plan of actual and hypothetical remains. Drawing Timothy Liddell. © The Oplontis Project

Still going strong, this project involves a growing database for sharing; a website, promoted through Facebook to reach a wider audience (https://www.facebook.com/pg/TheOplontisProject/photos/?tab=album&album_id=335748659810305);  and eventually, 4 volumes of born digital, open access, e-books devoted to the Oplontis Villa A. The 1st volume of this e-book series, on the ancient setting and modern rediscovery of the villa, was published in 2014 (See https://catalog.lib.utexas.edu/record=b8986409~S29). The 2nd volume, which traces the decorations, stucco, pavements and sculpture, will appear this spring 2019. This second volume, alone, contains 2700 high resolution images, a feat that could never be realized in print format. In addition, the e-book format allows for quick links to other material like excavation notebooks.

With the help, among others, of UT’s own Texas Advanced Computer Systems (TAC) (https://www.tacc.utexas.edu/special-report/corral/archeology), members use digital photography and 3-D laser scanning and modeling of wall paintings, mosaics, and sculpture to layer what exists today with digital visualizations that allow the modern viewer to navigate through the rooms as if they were guests in the original villa.  In addition, the site’s gardens were replanted based on pollen and seed analyses; and marble fragments have yielded information about ancient trade routes.

3D model of Oplontis.
3D model of Oplontis.

I think the success of this digital humanities project can be attributed to several factors. Notably, questions about chronology, function, social structure and landscape that have guided the research at this site, were posited from the very beginning. The huge team of involved specialists firmly grasp how to use digital and scientific tools in the service of research questions for the purpose of yielding new ways of looking at this site and it material culture. Ongoing funding has also been crucial.  And finally, there is the way in which this DH project’s findings have been and will continue to be disseminated.  As John Clarke says, “The 3D model, linked with the database will allow us, and future generations, to find material easily by clicking on find-spots; scholars will be able to share in our work and even add to the information in our database. The model complements the e-book and because the ACLS[2] has graciously offered to make the Oplontis Project publications open access, scholars and laypersons worldwide can benefit from the work of our 42 contributors, coming from a wide range of scientific and humanistic disciplines.”[3]

For more information about Oplontis and other surrounding sites see:

Leisure and luxury in the age of Nero : the villas of Oplontis near Pompeii, 2016, https://catalog.lib.utexas.edu/record=b9138737~S29

“The Villa of Oplontis”, in Preserving complex digital objects, 2014, https://catalog.lib.utexas.edu/record=b8960178~S29

Tales from an eruption : Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplontis : guide to the exhibition, 2003, https://catalog.lib.utexas.edu/record=b5889687~S29

The natural history of Pompeii, 2002, https://catalog.lib.utexas.edu/record=b5389520~S29


[1] See Johanna Drucker, Is There a “Digital” Art History , Visual Resources, v. 2

[2] The American Council of Learned Societies Humanities E-book series is the publisher of The Oplontis E-book volumes

[3] See the John Clark interview https://notevenpast.org/new-digital-technologies-bring-ancient-roman-villa-to-life/