Inside Senthil Lending Library.

Vibrant but Vanishing Lending Libraries of South Asia

Inside Eashwari Lending Library.
Inside Eashwari Lending Library.

Throughout the fall of 2018, I was honored to be able to convene UT South Asia Institute’s Seminar Series, “Popular | Public | Pulp: form and genre in South Asian cultural production.”  Throughout the series, speakers explored printed examples of South Asian popular culture—mysteries, romances, comics—as they underscore and grapple with historical and contemporary concerns such as identity, power, & representation.  In addition to interrogating literary approaches, speakers in the series further addressed questions of gender, of sexuality, of caste & religion, and of authority, helping readers and scholars alike challenge what qualifies as “worthy” both in terms of style and substance.

One goal of the series was to draw attention to UT Libraries growing collection of popular and pulp fiction in South Asian languages, a collection that is nationally and internationally unique in gathering and preserving popular materials and subsequently making them available for users.  Beyond publicity, however, the series was also intended to uncover reading and distribution networks for these materials so that I might continue to creatively and productively acquire them while on acquisitions and networking trips to South Asia.  In November and December, and with the generous funding of both UTL and the South Asia Institute, I was privileged to travel to India and more deeply explore a venue repeatedly invoked in the fall speaker series: small lending libraries.

Small lending libraries are a cultural phenomenon throughout South Asia which support themselves through highly localized, neighborhood-based memberships.  Unlike UT Libraries which has a long-term and “long-tail” research agenda, the mission of these lending libraries is to support current and highly popular reading practices, not unlike many small public libraries in the U.S.

Senthil Lending Library.
Senthil Lending Library.

While in Chennai, I was able to visit two lively lending libraries—Easwari and Senthil—to observe their operations, to ask questions about the popularity of particular authors, and to acquire second-hand materials.  Both libraries carry all the bestsellers—in English [Mills and Boon, Harry Potter, James Patterson] and in Tamil [Rajesh Kumar, Indira Soundarajan, Raminichandran]—and experience high circulation of their books.  Because preservation is not part of their mission, the libraries are willing to sell the most ephemeral of their materials, namely monthly periodicals which include crime, detective and “women’s” fiction (romances as well as family dramas).

Eashwari Lending Library.
Easwari Lending Library.
Inside Eashwari Lending Library.
Inside Easwari Lending Library.

Despite the vibrant activity I observed at both these libraries, I am told that lending libraries are slowly vanishing from the South Asian landscape, ceding space to other entertainments and ways of “time pass.”  I was happy to have had the chance to visit these libraries and I do hope they will still be open and serving their readers on my next visit.  If not, though, I am comforted knowing that UT Libraries is participating in documenting and preserving some of this literary and cultural history for researchers long into the future.

 

 

 

 

Fragment of Aztec manuscript, 1520, written in Spanish on native paper, is an illustrated account of the conquest of Mexico by Hernán Cortés. (G8 Ms.)

Pastorelas: Past and Present

“Illuminating Explorations” – This series of digital exhibits is designed to promote and celebrate UT Libraries collections in small-scale form. The exhibits will highlight unique materials to elevate awareness of a broad range of content. “Illuminating Explorations” will be created and released over time, with the intent of encouraging use of featured and related items, both digital and analog, in support of new inquiries, discoveries, enjoyment and further exploration.

Zayas, Manuel Antonio, El triunfo de Jesús contra la lengua del diablo : pastorela en cuatro actos. 1853.
Zayas, Manuel Antonio, El triunfo de Jesús contra la lengua del diablo : pastorela en cuatro actos. 1853.

As the holiday season quickly approaches, many in the Latinx community are gearing up to celebrate both Christmas as well as Las Posadas. A lesser known celebratory act performed during the holiday season are the plays known as pastorelas. Pastorelas can be traced back to the 16th Century when Franciscan monks leveraged the strong artistic culture of the Mexica people in Tenochtitlan to evangelize them by incorporating Christian ideals into their performance tradition.

Historically, pastorelas have told the story of how Satan attempted to thwart the travels of the shepherds following the Star of Bethlehem in search of the baby Jesus. While pastorelas have maintained the general premise of good vs. evil, the roles of what constitutes both the good and the evil have changed to encompass contemporary issues that have faced the Latinx communities. Immigration, racism, politics, and a plethora of other topics have been incorporated into pastorelas to transmit opinions and ideas to audiences, both religious and secular.

Fragment of Aztec manuscript, 1520, written in Spanish on native paper, is an illustrated account of the conquest of Mexico by Hernán Cortés. (G8 Ms.)
Fragment of Aztec manuscript, 1520, written in Spanish on native paper, is an illustrated account of the conquest of Mexico by Hernán Cortés. (G8 Ms.)

While pastorelas have typically been an oral tradition, some have been transcribed to paper. A beautiful example of this is Manuel Antono Zayas’ “El triunfo de Jesús contra la lengua del diablo: pastorela en cuatro actoswritten in 1853. This illustrated play, held in the Benson Rare Books and Manuscript Collection, includes multiple hand drawn illustrations of the costumes to be worn during performances, including those of the angel, San Miguel, and even Satan himself.

Please visit the digital exhibit to see the beautiful illustrations in “el Triunfo” as well as some of the other spectacular rare books available to view from the Benson Collection. Also, peruse Zayas’ entire book, which has been digitized and can be viewed at Texas ScholarWorks.

Gilbert Borrego is the Digital Repository Specialist for Texas ScholarWorks, UT’s institutional repository (IR).

781 - Main frame

Collection Highlight: Recent World War Map Gifts

Lt. Roy J. Beery in France.
Lt. Roy J. Beery in France.

The notoriety of the online Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection has afforded us many amazing gifts. Two recent gifts are particularly notable. The family of UT alumni Roy J. Beery graciously gifted us with the maps he used when he served in the World War II Invasion of Normandy. And the Army Heritage Center gifted maps and other materials that Colonel Roland T. Fenton, who served in machine gun battalions in World War I and World War II, used during his service. The fact that these maps survived the treacheries of war is amazing. We are lucky to be able to preserve and share them with generations to come.

Generally we hope for maps in pristine condition, but in this case the wear and writing are an important part of the story. This is the map used by U.S. Navy, Lieutenant Commander Roy Beery while on sea duty in the Atlantic amphibious force during the assault on the Coast of Normandy, France.

Map used by U.S. Navy, Lieutenant Commander Ron Beery while on sea duty in the Atlantic amphibious force during the assault on the Coast of Normandy, France.
Map used by U.S. Navy, Lieutenant Commander Roy Beery while on sea duty in the Atlantic amphibious force during the assault on the Coast of Normandy, France.
(Detail) This detail not only shows the strategic overprint it has handwritten notes, presumably Lt. Commander Beery’s. Notice all of the overprint information specific to the invasion and ground combat.
(Detail) This detail not only shows the strategic overprint it has handwritten notes, presumably Lt. Commander Beery’s. Notice all of the overprint information specific to the invasion and ground combat.
(Detail) It was made by the British War Office’s Geographical Section, General Staff (G.S.G.S.). Note the parts of the legend that are specific to combat.
(Detail) It was made by the British War Office’s Geographical Section, General Staff (G.S.G.S.). Note the parts of the legend that are specific to combat.

As part of the 103rd Machine Gun Battalion, (then) Lt. Fenton was on the front lines of WWI. The gift materials that belonged to him consist of trench maps, front line maps, and the following long distance firing range calculator for Hotchkiss machine gun.

Long distance firing range calculator for Hotchkiss machine gun.
Long distance firing range calculator for Hotchkiss machine gun.

 

This Sketch Map shows the trenches in the Meuse region of France. The red represents the Allied Forces and the blue German.

This Sketch Map shows the trenches in the Meuse region of France. The red represents the Allied Forces and the blue German.
Sketch Map of the trenches in the Meuse region of France.
(Detail) There’s just one paragraph explaining what the lines mean.
(Detail) There’s just one paragraph explaining what the lines mean.

 

In WWI the strategic overprint was often printed on an existing topographic map, rather than a map created specifically for combat.  This “Meuse-Argonne Offensive map showing daily position of front line” is one such map.

The terrain of this area was important to combat and affected the outcome of battles, knowing the topography was vital.

Meuse-Argonne Offensive map showing daily position of front line.
Meuse-Argonne Offensive map showing daily position of front line.
(Detail) Many of Col. Fenton’s maps were printing at the U.S. Army, Base Printing Plant in Langres, France, just 125 miles from the front.
(Detail) Many of Col. Fenton’s maps were printing at the U.S. Army, Base Printing Plant in Langres, France, just 125 miles from the front.
(Detail) Meuse-Argonne Offensive map showing daily position of front line.
(Detail) Meuse-Argonne Offensive map showing daily position of front line.

 

During the month of November we as a nation honor our military veterans. We can’t think of a better way for The University of Texas Libraries to honor their legacy than by telling their stories and making these materials that clearly meant something to them available to researchers for generations to come. Keep an eye on our website for more in depth profiles of these men and the maps they used. Thank you all for your service.

 

 

Petition for Naturalization, PR

Read, Hot, and Digitized: Puerto Rican Citizenship Archives Project

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.  Our hope is that these monthly reviews will inspire critical reflection of and future creative contributions to the growing fields of digital scholarship.

The Puerto Rican Citizenship Archives Project (henceforth PRCAP) is a multi-institutional collaboration focused on the often-shifting legal relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico that began with the annexation of Puerto Rico in 1898. The project’s objective is to show this relationship through the lens of U.S. citizenship.

“Ind Naturalization,” PRCAP (PR Citizenship Archives Project), accessed November 27, 2018, https://scholarscollaborative.org/PuertoRico/items/show/108.

The timing for this project is apt on multiple levels. More Puerto Ricans are migrating to the mainland than ever before and the United States’ poor handling of the fallout from Hurricane María further exacerbated that fact. Puerto Rico’s status as a free associated state, which many view as a mere extension of an outdated colonial model, continues to be a hot topic for scholars and citizens alike. Moreover, 2017 marked a century since passing the Jones Act, a legislative act that provided the collective extension of citizenship to a U.S. territory that was not a state. With that being said, the path to U.S. citizenship for Puerto Ricans has been far from easily defined. Since 1898, changing laws have provided Puerto Ricans with “non-citizen nationality,” a naturalized citizenship (both individual and collective), and “birthright citizenship.” PRCAP does an excellent job in documenting and detailing these legal changes through government documents.

In some ways, this digital project, principally hosted by the University of Connecticut, is a foil to a lot of the digital scholarship permeating the internet these days. Whereas many of the digital humanities projects I find seem to be driven by visuals (i.e. mapping, timelines), PRCAP is a text-heavy site. This is not a slight on the work; rather, as their recent garnering of awards shows, this project is a welcome return to traditional research approaches and suggests the potential for less technologically inclined scholars to follow suit with their own worthwhile projects. Indeed, many of the site’s offerings include yearly governmental bills and acts to follow the trajectory of citizenship for Puerto Ricans. While more visual content could be beneficial, the webpage will be of great use to scholars working on Puerto Rican cultural studies at large, migration studies, political science, and law.

“Glory Flag,” PRCAP (PR Citizenship Archives Project), accessed November 27, 2018, https://scholarscollaborative.org/PuertoRico/items/show/117.

Each bill comes with a plethora of metadata using Dublin Core standards to contextualize the text. Users can readily access the date of the proposal, the citizenship and legislation type, and even the sponsoring political party. One bill that interests me is the “2017 Bill to Recognize Puerto Rico’s Sovereign Nationhood Under Either Independence of Free Association and to Provide for a Transition Process, and for Other Purposes.” This bill gave congress the obligation to resolve Puerto Rico’s status as an associated free state, suggesting that it is “unsustainable” and to empower Puerto Ricans to determine their political destiny going forward. The bill remains in the introductory phase over one year later, but could be instrumental to Puerto Rico’s future as a state or sovereign nation.

Scholars inspired by PRCAP and interested in learning more about the Spanish-American War and its aftermath might consider swinging by the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection to view the Chocolates E. Juncosa Trade Cards, or check out the recent acquisition, Borderline Citizens: The United States, Puerto Rico, and the Politics of Colonial Migration (2018) by Robert McGreevey.

 

 

 

Javier y María José, estudiantes universitarios, organizan documentos del PCN en la preparción para digitalizarlos (foto: Anthony Dest)

¡Afro-Colombianos Presentes! Launching a Post-Custodial Project with the Proceso de Comunidades Negras in Colombia

BY ITZA A. CARBAJAL

Véase abajo para versión en español.

Along the Pacific coast of Colombia lies the vibrant and growing seaport city of Buenaventura. The city also serves as home to a large portion of Colombia’s Afro-descendant communities. Colombia, with one of the largest populations of Afro-descendant peoples in Latin America, serves as home to countless Afro-Colombians, a large number of whom live in coastal regions or rural areas, and more recently in urban spaces—a result of ongoing displacement.

This past October, the LLILAS Benson Digital Initiatives unit at The University of Texas at Austin launched the second of three post-custodial projects with new partners, the Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN), specifically focused on the records held at the Buenaventura office serving the Palenque Regional El Kongal. These materials, held for over two decades by PCN, represent a crucial addition not only to human rights documentation of Colombia’s ongoing war and drug-trafficking related conflicts, but also as testament of resilient efforts by Afro-descendant Colombian communities to define and secure recognition and ethno-racial rights in Colombia. Preliminary selection of potential records to be digitized included photographs of cultural events and community mapping gatherings, notable agendas from previous national asambleas (assemblies), and collaborative environmental and humanitarian reports related to Afro-Colombian community issues.

PCN digitization project coordinator Marta works with University student Javier and Maria Jose to identify documents
PCN digitization project coordinator Marta works with University student Javier and Maria Jose to identify documents (photo: Anthony Dest)

As part of the recently awarded Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant titled “Cultivating a Latin American Post-Custodial Archival Praxis,” LLILAS Benson’s post-custodial team coordinated a weeklong training in Colombia. As part of the project’s structural support, LLILAS Benson representatives delivered digitization equipment, facilitated financial resources to pay digitization technicians, and developed custom step-by-step guides on how to successfully complete the PCN digitization project. The trainings, held at the offices of PCN and led by Latin American Metadata Librarian Itza Carbajal and LLILAS PhD candidate Anthony Dest, covered multiple topics, including how to scan historic materials using professional equipment, identifying and documenting metadata about collection materials such as photographs, and brainstorming future visions for PCN’s historic archival collections.

Metadata Librarian Itza demonstrates digitization and description instructions to project team members Marisol and Luz Stella (photo: Anthony Dest)
Metadata Librarian Itza demonstrates digitization and description instructions to project team members Marisol and Luz Stella (photo: Anthony Dest)

Throughout the training, LLILAS Benson and PCN team members reviewed and conducted preliminary scans and developed descriptions for a variety of records, including photographs of early PCN community events, reports on living conditions of Afro-Colombians in the region, and organizational planning documents for mobilization. After the weeklong training ended, the LLILAS Benson project team returned to the United States, leaving the PCN digitization team to begin their critical work.

In the LLILAS Benson post-custodial model, archivists work alongside partners from other sectors to preserve and manage their archival materials, often including the digitization of physical archives in order for the materials to remain in their original home. The digital copies then take on the role of scholarly resources made available to researchers, students, faculty, and the general public.

Marisol and Luz Stella practice their metadata creation skills (photo: Anthony Dest)
Marisol and Luz Stella practice their metadata creation skills (photo: Anthony Dest)

While LLILAS Benson has been implementing post-custodial methods for over a decade, this grant project focuses on formalizing approaches to working with Latin American partners. In 2014, LLILAS Benson received a planning grant from the Mellon Foundation that introduced our first three archival partners, all concentrated in Central America, for the Latin American Digital Initiatives (LADI). This recent grant continues the work of the planning grant with the inclusion of new partners from Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil. Digitization projects are already under way in Mexico and Colombia, and the LLILAS Benson post-custodial team looks forward to beginning work with the Brazilian partner in early 2019 and finalizing the first phase of the overall grant project.

LEER EN ESPAÑOL

A lo largo de la costa pacífica de Colombia se encuentra la creciente ciudad de Buenaventura. Esta ciudad también es hogar a una de las mayores poblaciones de afrodescendientes en toda América Latina. Los afrocolombianos viven mayormente en las regiones costeras y las zonas rurales, pero recientemente han venido a vivir más en espacios urbanos—un resultado del desplazamiento.

Marta, coordinadora del proyecto digital de PCN, trabaja en la identificación de documentos con dos estudiantes universitarios, Javier y María José (foto: Anthony Dest)
Marta, coordinadora del proyecto digital de PCN, trabaja en la identificación de documentos con dos estudiantes universitarios, Javier y María José (foto: Anthony Dest)

Este pasado octubre la unidad de iniciativas digitales de LLILAS Benson, Universidad de Texas en Austin, lanzó el segundo de tres proyectos pos-custodiales con nuestros nuevos compañeros, el Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN). Este proyecto se enfoca en los materiales históricos sobre el trabajo del Palenque Regional El Kongal de PCN, que se encuentran almacenados en la oficina de Buenaventura. Estos materiales, guardados por más de dos décadas, representan una adición esencial al cuerpo de documentos reunidos por LLILAS Benson sobre los derechos humanos. Éstos incluyen no sólo documentos de la guerra civil y los conflictos relacionados con el tráfico de drogas en Colombia, sino también testimonios del esfuerzo de las comunidades afrocolombianas para definir y asegurar el reconocimiento y los derechos etno-raciales en Colombia. La selección preliminar de materiales para digitalizar incluye fotografías de eventos culturales y reuniones para crear mapas comunitarios, agendas de asambleas nacionales anteriores, así como informes ambientales y humanitarios sobre las comunidades afrocolombianas.

Como parte de una subvención de la Fundación Andrew W. Mellon para el proyecto “Cultivating a Latin American Post-Custodial Archival Praxis” (Cultivando una praxis archivística pos-custodial en la América Latina), el equipo de LLILAS Benson coordinó un entrenamiento de duración de una semana para garantizar el éxito del proyecto. El entrenamiento incluyó la entrega de equipos de digitalización, la facilitación de recursos financieros para pagar a los técnicos, así como un repaso de los guías para completar el proyecto de digitalización de PCN. Se llevó a cabo en las oficinas de PCN en Buenaventura y fue dirigido por Itza Carbajal, bibliotecaria de metadatos de América Latina, y Anthony Dest, candidato al doctorado del Instituto de Estudios Latinoamericanos Teresa Lozano Long (LLILAS).

Javier y María José, estudiantes universitarios, organizan documentos del PCN en la preparción para digitalizarlos (foto: Anthony Dest)
Javier y María José, estudiantes universitarios, organizan documentos del PCN en la preparción para digitalizarlos (foto: Anthony Dest)

 

El entrenamiento abarcó varios temas: instrucciones para escanear materiales frágiles, cómo identificar y evaluar metadatos de materiales visuales como fotografías, y cómo planear el futuro del archivo histórico de PCN. Juntos, los representantes de LLILAS Benson y PCN revisaron y crearon metadatos para una serie de materiales que incluyeron fotografías de eventos de PCN, informes sobre las condiciones de vida de los afrocolombianos de la región, y documentos administrativos sobre varios esfuerzos de movilización comunitaria. Al completar el entrenamiento, los representantes de LLILAS Benson volvieron a los Estados Unidos dejando el equipo de digitalización de PCN para comenzar su trabajo importante.

En el modelo pos-custodial de LLILAS Benson, los archiveros trabajan junto a sus socios en otros sectores para conservar y administrar sus materiales históricos. Esto muchas veces incluye la digitalización de los materiales físicos para que éstos permanezcan en su lugar de origen. Las copias digitales entonces asumen el papel de recursos académicos que están disponibles a investigadores, estudiantes, profesoras y el público.

El equipo PCN de digitalización y procesamiento archivos festeja el fin del entrenamiento (foto: Anthony Dest)
El equipo PCN de digitalización y procesamiento archivos festeja el fin del entrenamiento (foto: Anthony Dest)

Si bien LLILAS Benson ha implementado los principios pos-custodiales por más de una década, este proyecto se concentra en formalizar el modelo de trabajo con organizaciones en la América Latina. En el año 2014, LLILAS Benson recibió una concesión de planificación (planning grant) de la Fundación Mellon que introdujo nuestros tres primeros archivos socios, todos basados en Centroamérica; el resultado fue Iniciativas Digitales Latinoamericanas (LADI). La concesión reciente nos permitirá continuar el trabajo de la concesión anterior, ya incluyendo nuevos socios no sólo en Colombia sino también en México y Brasil. Con los proyectos ya lanzados en México y Colombia, esperamos con mucho interés lanzar el trabajo en Brasil al comenzar el año 2019.


Itza A. Carbajal is the Latin American Metadata Librarian at LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections.

 

Screen capture of http://dhrees.yale.edu/

Read, Hot, and Digitized: Avant-Gardes and Émigrés

Read, hot & digitized: Librarians and the digital scholarship they love — In this new series, librarians from UTL’s Arts, Humanities and Global Studies Engagement Team briefly present, explore and critique existing examples of digital scholarship.  Our hope is that these monthly reviews will inspire critical reflection of and future creative contributions to the growing fields of digital scholarship.

Avant-Gardes and Émigrés is a teaching, learning, and research initiative dedicated to the study of Russian and East European avant-gardists and émigrés in the twentieth century.
Avant-Gardes and Émigrés is a teaching, learning, and research initiative dedicated to the study of Russian and East European avant-gardists and émigrés in the twentieth century.

Avant-Gardes and Émigrés: Digital Humanities and Slavic Studies, based at Yale University, is a project that aims to develop a research initiative and prototype online environment dedicated to the study of Russian and East European avant-gardists and émigrés in the twentieth century. The project takes a number of different approaches, including topic modeling and network mapping, to explore the networks of avant-garde artists from the former Soviet Union.

One of the project’s goals is to reveal how North American academic departments in Slavic Studies have been shaped by emigration patterns of artists and intellectuals from Eastern Europe. The project uses varied approaches to explore how avant-gardists and émigrés shaped the reading practices, archival and library collections, and institutional formations of Slavic Studies as a field, and the intellectual landscape of American academia more broadly. The project also looks at how ideas from the Soviet Union influenced the dynamics of American culture during the Cold War through institutions, academic practices, theoretical approaches and methodologies, and cultural forums.

Visualization of ongoing research into the network of persons, academic institutions, publications, and archives in the Russian immigration to the United States.
Visualization of ongoing research into the network of persons, academic institutions, publications, and archives in the Russian immigration to the United States.

One of the project’s features is an interactive network map connecting émigré writers with publications and places they influenced. You can zoom in on specific regions of the map, click and drag individual elements, and click on particular nodes to see the network that the writer was connected with. The network map features universities’ departments, individual figures, and various publications, and provides an easy-to-use, visual overview of networks that would otherwise be difficult to describe.

Topic modeling algorithmically and iteratively examines the corpus of the journal Slavic Review.
Topic modeling algorithmically and iteratively examines the corpus of the journal Slavic Review.

A section of the project based around topic modeling is currently still in development, with the beta version available for viewing online. A topic model is a type of statistical model for discovering the abstract topics that occur in a collection of document, and draws from the fields of machine learning and natural language processing. The main section of this project is focused on topic modelling the Slavic Review, a major journal devoted to the study of Eastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus, and Central Asia, but the site also features preliminary topic modeling of the Slavic & East European Journal and the Russian Review. The topic models allow users to navigate words from the publications that have been analyzed, and clicking on individual words brings up additional information about where the words show up in individual documents within their respective corpus.

The project serves as an important contribution to digital scholarship in the Slavic Studies field. Its varied approaches to visualizing and analyzing the networks it seeks to foreground provides a valuable and accessible window into these networks, making them visible in a way that is only possible through digital methodologies. I highly recommend looking through the other aspects of the project I didn’t cover, including the student contributions from the Brodsky Lab and Avant-Gardes and Emigres Digital Humanities Lab, to explore the subject matter more in-depth. I would also recommend looking through related materials in the UT Austin Libraries’ collections, including our holdings of the Slavic Review both online and in print.

 

Howard Reid's collection of research materials from his ethnographic field work with the Hup in Brazil. London, England; photo: S. Kung

A Fruitful Trip to Europe Kicks Off Work on Indigenous Languages Grant

Featured photo: Howard Reid’s collection of research materials from his ethnographic field work with the Hup in Brazil; photo: S. Kung

Susan Kung, manager of the Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America (AILLA), kicked off work on the new National Endowment for the Humanities grant, Archiving Significant Collections of Endangered Languages: Two Multilingual Regions of Northwest South America (PD-260978-18, Co-PIs Patience Epps and Susan Kung) with a seven-week trip to the UK and France to acquire and begin the work of digitizing three of the eight collections included in the grant.

Susan Kung scand slides from the collection of Elsa Gomez-Imbert; Linguistics Resource Room, SOAS; photo by Bernard Howard
Susan Kung scans slides from the collection of Elsa Gomez-Imbert; Linguistics Resource Room, SOAS; photo by Bernard Howard

Kung’s work in the UK relied heavily on collaboration with the Endangered Language Archive (ELAR) at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. ELAR, like AILLA, is a digital repository that specializes in providing online access to, and long-term preservation of, multimedia materials in and about endangered indigenous languages. Kung’s trip started in London with a series of meetings at SOAS, where she helped to provide training to researchers in language documentation, archiving, and preservation methodologies, and helped ELAR’s staff plan for its imminent data migration.

Open reel tape machine, Linguistics Resource Center, SOAS
Open reel tape machine, Linguistics Resource Center, SOAS; photo: S. Kung

From there, Kung headed to Cajarc in the southwest of France to work with Dr. Elsa Gomez-Imbert, a retired researcher from the French National Research Center who conducted linguistic fieldwork in the Colombian Vaupés from 1973 to 2010 on several different languages of the region, including Tatuyo, Barasana, Karapana, Eduria, Bará, and Makuna, all of which are members of the Eastern Tukanoan language family.

Susan Kung & Elsa Gomez-Imbert in Cajarc, France
Susan Kung & Elsa Gomez-Imbert in Cajarc, France; photo: S. Kung

Kung and Gomez-Imbert spent four days compiling metadata and creating an inventory of Gomez-Imbert’s audio tapes and slides, all of which Kung then transported to London for digitization at SOAS.

Cajarc, France; photo: S. Kung
Cajarc, France; photo: S. Kung

Back in London, Kung spent a day doing similar work with Dr. Howard Reid, an anthropologist, documentary filmmaker for the BBC, and chair of the Royal Anthropological Institute’s Film Committee, who lived with the hunter-gatherer Hup people in the Amazon basin in 1974–76.

Susan Kung and Howard Reid in London
Susan Kung and Howard Reid in London
 Howard Reid's collection of research materials from his ethnographic field work with the Hup in Brazil; photo: S. Kung
Howard Reid’s collection of research materials from his ethnographic field work with the Hup in Brazil; photo: S. Kung

Kung finished up the acquisition part of her trip with four days of inventory and metadata work with Dr. Stephen Hugh-Jones, Emeritus Research Associate at the Cambridge University Department of Social Anthropology, at his office in King’s College, Cambridge. Hugh-Jones and his wife, Christine Hugh-Jones, lived with the Barasana people in the Colombian Vaupés in 1968–1971 and again in 1978–1979, along with their two young children on the second occasion. Over the course of 50 years, Hugh-Jones has worked with Barasana, as well as the Bará, Eduria, Makuna, and Tatuyo people in the Colombian Amazon. His research has included ritual, symbolism and mythology, shamanism, kinship, architecture, barter and gift exchange, food and drugs, and ethno-education.

Stephen Hugh-Jones and Susan Kung, courtyard of King's College, Cambridge
Stephen Hugh-Jones and Susan Kung, courtyard of King’s College, Cambridge; photo: S. Kung

The Hugh-Jones collection consists of born-digital and analog (cassette and open reel) audio recordings, 45 field notebooks, manuscript transcriptions of recordings, photographs and negatives, and an unprecedented accumulation of indigenous artworks. Kung, along with Bernard Howard, the sound technician for the SOAS Linguistics Department, spent three weeks digitizing these collections at SOAS, where Howard concentrated on digitizing the 137 audio tapes (cassettes and open reels) and Kung focused on scanning slides and paper documents.

Bernard Howard, sound technician, SOAS, working with cassette tapes from the collection of Elsa Gomez-Imbert
Bernard Howard, sound technician, SOAS, working with cassette tapes from the collection of Elsa Gomez-Imbert

When it was time for Kung to return to Austin in mid-October, she and Howard had completely finished digitizing two of the three collections—those of Elsa Gomez-Imbert and Howard Reid—and Kung had finished digitizing the indigenous art compiled by the Hugh-Joneses.

50 years' worth of ethnographic research in a wooden cart (Hughs-Jones collection), courtyard of King's College, Cambridge
50 years’ worth of ethnographic research in a wooden cart (Hughs-Jones collection), courtyard of King’s College, Cambridge

Before returning home, Kung returned Reid’s and Gomez-Imbert’s collections to them, and shipped the remainder of the Hugh-Jones collection to AILLA, where it will be digitized during this academic year and then returned to the Hugh-Joneses. Once all the digital files from all three collections have been curated in collaboration with the Gomez-Imbert, Reid, and Hugh-Jones, they will be ingested into AILLA and available for public viewing.

"Mecatla," by Jesús Nazario. This prize-winning photo was taken in The Land of Fresh Water, Guerrero, Mexico.

“Field Notes” Student Photography Exhibit on View at Benson Collection

The Benson Latin American Collection is proud to host Field Notes: The 9th Annual LLILAS Benson Student Photography Exhibition. Thirty prints that comprise the show will adorn the Benson’s first-floor gallery through January.

"Niebla de Verano," by Gerónimo Barrera, LLILAS PhD student. Photo taken in San Juan Lachao communal forest, Oaxaca.
“Niebla de Verano,” by Gerónimo Barrera, LLILAS PhD student. Photo taken in San Juan Lachao communal forest, Oaxaca.

Each fall, LLILAS Benson invites graduate and undergraduate students from all departments and disciplines to submit photographs to the exhibition. Through these images, student photographers document moments from their summer research on Latin America or US Latina/o communities.

"Lágrimas de la Virgen." This prize-winning photo by Monika Husodo was taken in Antigua, Guatemala.
“Lágrimas de la Virgen.” This prize-winning photo by Monika Husodo was taken in Antigua, Guatemala.

A panel of faculty and staff judges chooses two outstanding images from the collection. This year, the prize-winning photographers are Jesús Nazario (MA student, LLILAS) and Monika Husodo (BA student, Architectural Interior Design).

"Walking Ahead Toward Justice," by Alvaro Céspedes, was taken in Ayacucho, Peru, at a mass grave known as La Hoyada.
“Walking Ahead Toward Justice,” by Alvaro Céspedes, was taken in Ayacucho, Peru, at a mass grave known as La Hoyada.

The exhibition is free and open to the public during library hours. View the entire photo album on Facebook.


Featured: “Mecatla,” by Jesús Nazario. This prize-winning photo was taken in The Land of Fresh Water, Guerrero, Mexico.

 

Reading Holy Kur'an

Read, Hot, and Digitized: KITAB Project Brings Distant Reading to Middle Eastern Studies  

Read, hot & digitized: Librarians and the digital scholarship they love — In this new series, librarians from UTL’s Arts, Humanities and Global Studies Engagement Team briefly present, explore and critique existing examples of digital scholarship.  Our hope is that these monthly reviews will inspire critical reflection of and future creative contributions to the growing fields of digital scholarship.

The KITAB Project, headed by Sarah Bowen Savant of the Aga Khan University, seeks to develop tools and techniques for producing scholarship on text reuse and intellectual networks in the premodern Arabic textual tradition. The project is based on a digital corpus of published texts that represent all genres of writing in Arabic from the earliest works to the beginning of the 20th century CE. Although the corpus draws in part from digital databases of texts, it also relies heavily on digital surrogates of printed volumes which require Optical Character Recognition (OCR) for computational analysis. The KITAB project has partnered with the Open Islamicate Text Initiative to develop an OCR software that has proven more successful than commercially-available products. The collaboration’s published results of this OCR development—called Kraken—can be found here.

A snapshot of initial results using the Kraken OCR software
A snapshot of initial results using the Kraken OCR software

The KITAB project is noteworthy not only for bringing the concepts of text reuse and distant reading to Middle Eastern Studies from a digital humanities perspective, but also for its development of tools designed for Arabic script languages. The needs of right-to-left and non-Roman script languages such as Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish, and Hebrew—namely bidirectionality and non-Roman script recognition capabilities—unfortunately have been neglected to date in key tools utilized by highly successful digital humanities projects. The KITAB project brings the necessity of right-to-left and non-Roman capabilities to the fore by centering the Arabic textual tradition and committing to the development of tools that best meet the needs of the questions asked.

In addition to Dr. Savant, the team behind the KITAB project includes scholars from the U.S. and Europe, notably David Smith (Northeastern University) who developed the passim software upon which the text reuse project is based, and Maxim Romanov (University of Vienna) who heads the Open Islamicate Text Initiative. The team supports the continuing evolution of algorithms that seek to determine which Arabic texts were most quoted, most used by historians, and most commented on over several centuries (roughly 700-1500 CE). These questions might be answered simply enough within one text with a full-text search engine. However, to answer these questions across the Arabic textual tradition requires not only a massive corpus (currently over 4200 items), but also incredible computing power.

The latest KITAB visualization of text reuse across two works attributed to Ibn Qutayba (d. 889 CE).
The latest KITAB visualization of text reuse across two works attributed to Ibn Qutayba (d. 889 CE).

I encourage readers to take a look at the latest text reuse visualization from the corpus, which is based on two works by Ibn Qutayba (d. 889 CE). I also suggest reading Dr. Savant’s critically reflective post on running the passim software across the entirety of the corpus, and the questions raised by the results about intertextuality and what text reuse means in the Arabic context. Lastly, I recommend that those interested and/or involved in the field review information on the KITAB Project’s corpus, including the FAQ links to the Open Islamicate Text Initiative for suggesting new digital titles and new titles requiring OCR. UT Libraries’ collection of historic Arabic texts is one of the largest in the United States and ripe with suggestions for the KITAB corpus (check out this Islamic Empire — History subject heading search to see a sample of UT’s rich Arabic collections).

 

Harold W. Billings

The Tomorrow Librarian: Harold Billings’s Legacy, 1978-2003

The cover of Billings' book Magic & Hypersystems: Constructing the Information Sharing Library.
The cover of Billings’ book Magic & Hypersystems: Constructing the Information Sharing Library.

Few can claim a career as long or legacy as lasting as Harold Billings. He began working for the University of Texas Libraries as a cataloger in 1954 while still pursuing his Master’s in Library Science and by 1978 was the director of the general libraries. He remained in that position until his retirement in 2003. Throughout his career Billings was able to navigate the immense changes in technology and constant challenge of keeping faith in value of libraries. Billings achieved this by inviting innovations that others of his time resisted. As a result of his leadership, UT Libraries thrived, growing its collections, introducing new digital services, and building its reputation as one if the highest ranking research libraries in the nation.

Today, technology and UT Libraries seem inextricably intertwined as students conduct research using their access to hundreds of online databases, use software in the computer labs, and create 3-D printed projects in the Foundry makerspace. When Billings first entered the field, libraries looked and functioned very differently. Throughout his career, Billings pushed UT libraries toward incorporating innovative technology from early searchable databases and the online card catalog to resource sharing and partnership with other libraries through TexShare.

Library staff member gestures to a poster titled "Searching the Database" that lists database queries.
Library staff member gestures to a poster titled “Searching the Database” that lists database queries.

While leading the general libraries forward in incorporating new technologies, Billings simultaneously continued to build the print and research collections at UT Libraries. A literary scholar himself, Billings’ love of research and books carried over into his many roles over his career at UTL. He maintained a close relationship with Harry Ransom, acquiring collections for the Center, and corresponded with several authors both regarding his own scholarship and to help bring literary collections to UT. The general libraries also saw tremendous growth of their collections over his career, from acquiring their 1 millionth volume while Billings was still a cataloger to holding over 7 million volumes by the end of his tenure as director.

A hand-colored drawing of an owl by Barbara Holman on the linen cover of Billing's book Texas Beast Fables.
A hand-colored drawing of an owl by Barbara Holman on the linen cover of Billing’s book Texas Beast Fables.

Billings’ love of books, research, and collecting extended beyond his role at UT. Inspired by his admiration for and friendships with writers and artists, Billings published literary works and criticism throughout his career and well after. Some of these publications include a biography of one of his favorite poets, Edward Dalhberg, and Texas Beast Fables, a bestiary of Texas folklore. Billings also built a personal collection of art favoring local artists as well as Newcomb pottery and Elvis memorabilia. From his early education through his retirement, two facts are undeniable: Harold Billings loved libraries and he loved Texas.

Harold Billings looking over a large manuscript of sheet music.
Harold Billings looking over a large manuscript of sheet music.

An exhibit highlighting these aspects of Billings’ career and life will be on display in the Scholars Commons beginning November 1st, and an online component can be viewed on Scalar. Borrowing the title of his 1995 essay on the future of libraries, we’ve given the exhibit a name that we think embodies Billings’ role as an innovative leader in the field: The Tomorrow Librarian.

Virginia Barnes and Rachael Zipperer are graduate research assistants from the university’s School of Information.

In Memoriam: Harold W. Billings