Category Archives: In the News

Women spinning wool, Juncal, Cañar, Ecuador; photo: Niels Fock/Eva Krener, 1973

AILLA Awarded Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded a Documenting Endangered Languages Preservation Grant of $227,365 to Patience Epps and Susan Smythe Kung of the Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America (AILLA) for support of their upcoming project entitled “Archiving Significant Collections of Endangered Languages: Two Multilingual Regions of Northwestern South America.”

The AILLA grant is one among 199 grants, totaling $18.6 million, announced by the NEH on April 9, 2018.

This is a three-year project that will gather together, curate, and digitize a set of eight significant collections of South American indigenous languages, the results of decades of research by senior scholars. The collections will be archived at AILLA, a digital repository dedicated to the long-term preservation of multimedia in indigenous languages. These materials constitute an important resource for further linguistic, ethnographic, and ethnomusicological research, and are of high value to community members and scholars. They include six legacy collections from the Upper Rio Negro region of the northwest Amazon (Brazil and Colombia), and two collections focused on Ecuadorian Kichwa, most notably the Cañar variety.

Women spinning wool, Juncal, Cañar, Ecuador; photo: Niels Fock/Eva Krener, 1973
Women spinning wool, Juncal, Cañar, Ecuador; photo: Niels Fock/Eva Krener, 1973

All of the languages concerned are endangered or vulnerable to varying degrees, and the collections are heavily focused on threatened forms of discourse, such as ritual speech and song. Of the Upper Rio Negro set, the collections of Elsa Gomez-Imbert, Stephen Hugh-Jones, and Arthur P. Sorensen, Jr., include the East Tukanoan languages Bará, Barasana, Eduria, Karapana, Tatuyo, Makuna, and Tukano. The collections of Howard Reid and Renato Athias are focused on Hup, while Reid’s collection also contains a few materials from two languages of the wider region, Nukak and Hotï (yua, isolate). Robin Wright’s collection involves Baniwa. Of the Ecuadorian Kichwa set, Judy Blankenship’s and Allison Adrian’s collections are both focused on Cañar Highland Kichwa, while Adrian’s also includes some material from Loja Highland Kichwa (qvj, Quechua).

The two regions targeted by these collections are highly significant for our understanding of language contact and diversity in indigenous South America. The multilingual Upper Rio Negro region, famous for the linguistic exogamy practiced by some of its peoples, has much to tell us about language contact and maintenance, while Ecuadorian Kichwa varieties can shed light on the dynamics of pre-Colombian language shift. These collections will be made accessible in AILLA in standard formats, and will provide a foundation for further study of these fascinating regions and multilingual dynamics.

NEH Logo MASTER_082010

The National Endowment for the Humanities, created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at www.neh.gov.

On the Google Books Decision

Judge claims Google Books “transformative.”

Georgia Harper is a legal specialist in copyright law and the Libraries Scholarly Communications Advisor. She has been closely involved in the Libraries partnership in the Google Book project since it began.

A district court in New York made a determination last Thursday about which there has been enormous speculation for nearly a decade now: Is it fair use for Google to scan tens of millions of books, many of which are still protected by copyright, and provide snippets of the text of those works to users of its search engine in response to their queries? Judge Denny Chin says it is. There it will stand for the moment. The Authors Guild says it will appeal to the 2nd Circuit in hopes of a reversal.

UT Libraries is a partner in the Google Books project, so we are elated by the decision. We have long argued that scanning for the reasons Google scanned our books, among many other libraries’ books, is fair use, but it is the nature of fair use that reasonable minds can disagree about its scope. So you usually hold lightly to your opinions. You never know when you’ll be shown to be wrong. But, there has been a rather nice string of court decisions since the mid-1990’s, beginning with the “Pretty Woman” case (Campbell v. Acuff-Rose), strengthening the fair use doctrine when the use is transformative — that is, when it adds something new, provides new context, or brings the work to new audiences for a different purpose. So, the question becomes, most importantly, “Is the use transformative?” If it is, courts are much more likely to declare it a fair use, assuming it meets the other criteria for a fair use. Judge Chin’s decision explores these criteria, and the weights of public benefit and harm to economic incentives in his decision, which I recommend you read.

It usually comes down to this: does the benefit to the public (usually a speech-related, First Amendment benefit) outweigh the harm to the copyright owner’s reasonable expectation of commercial exploitation of her work? I’m happy that for now, we are confirmed in our opinion that here, it does.

Sticks and Stones

Catholic school students burn thousands of comic books in Binghamton, New York (1948).

One would think that we’ve evolved enough as a society to move beyond the sort of censorship that has marked the darker periods of our history.

One would be wrong.

Last Tuesday, the Randolph County Board of Education in North Carolina voted 5-2 to remove Ralph Ellison’s masterwork The Invisible Man from the shelves of its school libraries.

The book is one among a much larger list of works that with depressing reliability have been prohibited from consumption by readers.

Next week is Banned Books Week. Sigh.

Well, because the First Amendment still sees regular challenges, the Libraries and the Department of English have teamed up to have a public discussion about the state of censorship in the Lone Star State.

Texas Banned Books: Questions and Answers” (TXBBQ&A) will be an interactive roundtable discussion about the real, relevant state of censorship in Texas. The conversation will center on Texas schools and values, books in prison, freedom of the press and the right to read.

Maley Thompson of the Department of English will moderate the discussion among five distinguished panelists:

The event is free and open to the public, and all voices are welcome.

More info here.

Up Close and Persona

Instruction Services GRA Anna Fidgeon is featured in a video interview by the Daily Texan examining online personas and privacy on the Internet.

The takeaway? The web isn’t private, so be smart when you’re online.

The Texan interview, however, is just another feather in her onscreen cap. Anna will also be seen starring as a research scientist in an upcoming video ad campaign in support of academics at the university to air on the Longhorn Network.

Ransom Center Nabs Laureate

J. M. Coetzee signs the authors' door of the Ransom Center during a visit in May 2010. Photo by Pete Smith. Image courtesy of Harry Ransom Center.

One has to wonder how they do it.

The Harry Ransom Center has just announced a major addition to their stellar collection of contemporary writers, and yet another Nobel laureate, no less.

The archive of UT alumnus J.M. Coetzee is now part of the Ransom Center’s vast holdings of original manuscripts and source materials from major modern works of literature. The archive includes materials from all of Coetzee’s works, including his two Man Booker award-winning novels, Life & Times of Michael K (1983) and Disgrace (1999).

The South African Coetzee has a fifty-year history with the university, earning his Ph.D. in English, linguistics and Germanic languages in 1969. He’s kept close ties with UT, teaching at the Michener Center for Writers in 1995, and most recently, visiting campus last year to give a lecture as part of the Graduate School’s 1910 Society Lecture Series, which celebrated the 100th anniversary of the school.

“The Past is Never Dead.”

Here’s some great news from our colleagues across campus.

The History Department has just launched an informative, interactive history web site. Not Even Past provides current historical writing for a popular audience. For history buffs who want reading recommendations and short, interesting, digestible stories every day, the website offers text, audio, and video histories on subjects that span the globe. The site is designed for anyone who is interested in history, from an avid reader of history to a history film aficionado.

The content and “picks” are written by the department’s 60-person faculty with additional input from the graduate students. Notevenpast.org is rich with book and film recommendations, video interviews, podcasts, online commentary, and even virtual classes (free) every semester.

The History Department’s new site is one-of-a-kind – no other university or institution offers a similar resource. Not Even Past will be identified with the individuals in the History Department at UT, giving readers a personalized experience of great history writing as well as promoting the strengths of the department and the University of Texas. Not Even Past also differs from other History department sites in its stylish visual design and its cutting-edge user-friendly functionality.

And just in case you want to follow up on the current reading recommendations from Not Even Past, they’re all part of the collections at PCL (and currently available).

American slavery, American freedom : the ordeal of colonial Virginia / Edmund S. Morgan.

Disowning slavery : gradual emancipation and “race” in New England, 1780-1860 / Joanne Pope Melish.

Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American slave / written by himself with related documents ; edited with an introduction by David W. Blight.

Benson Featured in ¡Ahora Sí!

The Benson Latin American Collection has received a feature profile in the latest edition of the Austin American Statesman’s Spanish language weekly, ¡Ahora Sí!

Timing is everything: the Benson opens its exhibition Frente a Frente: The Mexican People in Independence and Revolution, 1810 & 1910, this evening.

Benson a la Mexicana

When I first walked into the Benson Latin American Collection to do research during my graduate studies, I did not imagine that four years later my boss would ask me to travel to Mexico City to represent the Benson and University of Texas Libraries at an awards ceremony with the mayor of Mexico City and a luncheon hosted by the Libraries for Texas Exes in Mexico. And now, it has been a week since arriving back from Mexico City and I still cannot believe I did it. And I have not really recuperated from the journey. Oh, believe me, it was a wonderful trip, just way too fast and cut way too short.

David Block receives the Medalla 1808 from Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard.

When Dr. David Block received electronic word (in an e-mail) of the Benson being awarded the Medalla 1808, I don’t know if we all realized immediately what an honor it was. Then after an exhaustive search online to make sure David had not just received an e-mail from Ed McMahon suggesting “you may be a millionaire”, we began to see the reality of and the potential in receiving such an honor. Historically, the medal is presented on behalf of Mexico City to persons for significant contributions to the study and development of Mexican history and culture. And now, the Benson has become the first foreign institutional recipient of the medal.  Wow… Of course we all knew the importance of the Benson, but now Mexico City Mayor, Marcelo Ebrard would present us with an international honor to reinforce what we all know to be true.

Our Vice Provost Dr. Fred Heath and Director for Development Gregory Perrin knew this would be a wonderful opportunity to invite our alumni from Mexico City, and the surrounding cities, to attend the ceremony. They decided it would also be quite advantageous to host a luncheon following. And this is where I came in. Part of the role I play in working for the Libraries is as an event coordinator. I love it because of the opportunities of excitement that abound, meeting new people and creating a delightful atmosphere for the libraries’ constituent; although, a first trip to the interior of Mexico and hosting a lunch would definitely be something extraordinary. Continue reading

Plonsky Scores Trailblazer Award

plonsky_chris_2009_mugUT Women’s Athletic Director and incoming Libraries Advisory Council President Chris Plonsky is the recipient of the College Sports Information Directors of America’s (CoSIDA) 2010 Trailblazer Award.

According to the CoSIDA website, the Trailblazer Award is given “to an individual who is a pioneer in the field of sports information who has mentored and helped improve the level of ethnic and gender diversity within CoSIDA.”

Plonsky will receive her award at the CoSIDA convention in San Francisco on July 6.

Chris has served on the Libraries Advisory Council since 2006, assuming the role of Vice-President in 2007. She will take up the role of President in fall 2010 and will continue to advise the Libraries in their marketing, outreach and fundraising efforts.

You can read more about Plonsky’s award here, where you’ll find a great profile of her by former Longhorn Assistant Athletics Director and current sports broadcaster Bill Little.

Our congratulations to Chris on this much deserved honor.