Category Archives: Libraries

Alicia Gaspar de Alba Donates Archive to the Benson Collection

Alicia Gaspar de Alba
Alicia Gaspar de Alba

BY DANIEL ARBINO

The Benson Latin American Collection is pleased to announce the acquisition of the Alicia Gaspar de Alba Papers. Contents include drafts of creative works such as Calligraphy of the Witch (2007), La Llorona on the Longfellow Bridge (2003), and Sor Juana’s Second Dream (1999) as well as notable academic publications like [Un]framing the “Bad Woman” (UT Press, 2014), Our Lady of Controversy (UT Press, 2011), and Making a Killing (UT Press, 2010). Moreover, researchers will have access to Gaspar de Alba’s conference ephemera and early teaching files. In total, the scholar generously donated 40 bankers’ boxes that span her academic and literary career through 2017.

A native of El Paso/Juárez, Gaspar de Alba is no stranger to academia. As professor in the departments of Chicana/o Studies, English, and Gender Studies and Chair of LGBTQ Studies at UCLA, she has been a monumental figure on the California campus since 1994. During that time, she has published five academic books, three novels, and three collections of poetry and short story, establishing herself as one of the leading scholars and writers on Chicana feminism and lesbian literature.

As seamless as Gaspar de Alba’s relationship with academia might seem, tension marked its beginning. After graduating with a bachelor’s and then a master’s from the University of Texas–El Paso, Gaspar de Alba had a brief stop at the University of Iowa in the 1980s that ended with her leaving the PhD program in American Studies. She also taught English composition and ESL courses part-time at UMass Boston. Her career took off in 1986, however, with a purchase and a decision: the purchase was a used IBM Selectric typewriter for $600; the decision, to write every morning for four years.

1994 Correspondence between Alicia Gaspar de Alba and Avon Books
1994 Correspondence between Alicia Gaspar de Alba and Avon Books

Gaspar de Alba returned to her doctoral studies in 1990 at the University of New Mexico, receiving her PhD in 1994. She has lived in California ever since, now with her wife, artist Alma López. Yet the author keeps strong ties to the borderlands of her early years. In fact, Desert Blood (2005), winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Best Lesbian Mystery Novel, demonstrates how her home and her career as both researcher and writer all inform one another. The novel, which came about after years of research, is a fictional account of the femicides in Ciudad Juárez told through the eyes of a lesbian graduate student.

Those unfamiliar with Gaspar de Alba’s writing will find a focus on putting forth a Chicana lesbian identity through popular culture while questioning traditional Mexican and Chicana/o discourse. Her prolific and varied writing career has led her peers to refer to her as “the quintessential bilingual/bicultural writer” and “one of the most eloquent exponents of a lesbian esthetic and promoters of the empowerment of women.” The fact that this “do-it-all” writer has donated the collection speaks to her charitable desire to make her materials accessible to students and scholars around the world. It will certainly be the purpose of many visits to the Rare Books Reading Room and pairs nicely with the Benson’s current holdings, namely the papers of other Chicana writers from Texas, such as Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Carmen Tafolla, and Estela Portillo Trambley.

Excerpt from Gaspar de Alba’s manuscript Sor Juana’s Second Dream
Excerpt from Gaspar de Alba’s manuscript Sor Juana’s Second Dream

The Gaspar de Alba acquisition is a noteworthy addition to the U.S. Latina/o Collection at the Benson, which began in 1974 as the Mexican American Library Program. The collection has since evolved as one of the most inclusive and most comprehensive in the world, with a special attention given to distinctive voices that document the cultural, political, and economic impact of Latina/o and Hispanic populations in Texas and the United States. Its mission is to support the educational needs of students as well as to facilitate the scholarly activity of the faculty of the Center for Mexican American Studies and the Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies.

Please stay tuned for future information and events to celebrate this exceptional collection.

________________________________________________________

Daniel Arbino is Librarian for U.S. Latina/o Studies at the Benson Latin American Collection.

Working with documents at the AHPN. Photo courtesy Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional, Guatemala.

21 Years of Peace, 21 Million Documents: Revisiting the Digital Portal to the Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional

Working with documents at the AHPN. Photo courtesy Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional, Guatemala.
Working with documents at the AHPN. Photo courtesy Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional, Guatemala.

BY HANNAH ALPERT-ABRAMS

How can we process 80 million pages of historical documents?

The question is a philosophical one, about the ability of our minds to conceive of such a large number of documents. The Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional (Guatemalan National Police Historical Archive, AHPN) in Guatemala City contains about eighty million documents, or about 135 years of records from the National Police of Guatemala.

According to one estimate, that means the collection requires about three-quarters of a mile worth of shelf space. In comparison, the Gabriel García Márquez collection at the Harry Ransom Center takes up about 33.18 feet of shelf space. The Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa Papers at the Benson Latin American Collection take up about 125 feet.

The question is also a technical one, about the difficulty of gathering, organizing, and providing access to an inconceivably large collection. For over a decade, archivists at the AHPN have been racing to clean, organize, and catalogue these historical records. In 2010, the University of Texas at Austin partnered with the AHPN to build an online portal to a digital version of the archive.

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

As the CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow in data curation and Latin American studies at LLILAS Benson, I have been tasked with the challenge of figuring out how best to support this ongoing partnership.

I visited the AHPN last November, just before Guatemala celebrated the twenty-first anniversary of the signing of the peace accords that ended the country’s decades-long armed conflict (1960–1996). Together with Theresa Polk, the post-custodial archivist at LLILAS Benson, I went to Guatemala to learn about the digitization efforts at the AHPN, and to celebrate a major milestone: when we arrived, the archive had just finished digitizing 21 million documents.

Many of the documents in the archive are in fragile condition. Photo courtesy Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional, Guatemala.
Many of the documents in the archive are in fragile condition. Photo courtesy Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional, Guatemala.

Digital Access to Historical Memory

The AHPN hard drives may fit in a carry-on, but hosting and providing access to the 21 million digital documents they contain is not a trivial task. When the University of Texas launched the digital portal to the archive in 2011, it was a bare-bones service with minimal browsing or search capabilities. Since then, the collection has doubled in size and grown exponentially in complexity. Our challenge—and the reason we were in Guatemala City—is to figure out how to represent that complexity online.

According to the web analytics, the majority of visitors to the website are based in Guatemala. These users are largely looking for two kinds of information. Some are members of human rights organizations conducting research related to police violence spanning over three decades of internal conflict in Guatemala. The rest are people trying to find out what happened to their loved ones, victims of violence during that same period. That’s why the anniversary of the peace accords matters to the collection. Organizing these records and making them available to the public has been one of the many ways that Guatemalans are reckoning with their country’s past.

There is an urgency to serving these research communities, and our top priority is to provide easy access to information. Easy searching of the archive, however, remains elusive. The archival documents are organized according to the baroque structure of the police bureaucracy. To find documents requires an intimate knowledge of that organizational structure.

Searching would be easier with richer descriptive metadata. If we could extract names, locations, and dates from the archival materials, it would make it easier for a person to search for their loved one, or a researcher to learn about specific neighborhoods or historical events. But extracting information from 21 million documents is a resource-intensive task, and the technologies for automating those processes remain imperfect.

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

Search is not our only priority, however. As I learned firsthand, to visit the AHPN is to be immersed in the context of its construction and its size. The dark, narrow corridors, concrete walls, and grated windows are a testament to the building’s history as a police prison. The violence of the archive is always close at hand, despite the hope it represents. One of our challenges is to recreate that experience for users of the digital archive.

Furthermore, as I learned from talking to the head of the Access to Information unit, the process of searching for information at the AHPN has been designed in a way that allows the archivists to bear witness to the memories of the researchers. Each visit begins with a question: Tell us what happened to your loved one.

The question has a practical purpose. It allows the archivists to glean the information that will make it possible to locate the necessary records from among the millions of files. But in answering this question, families are also sharing an intimate story with an archivist, an act of strength and also, often, of courage. Can a digital archive create similar opportunities for those who are unable to make the visit in person?

Imagining Digital Futures

The partnership between the University of Texas and the AHPN is an extraordinary opportunity for our institution to create new paths to historical research, and to support the international preservation of historical records. It allows us to honor and support the vital work of the archivists at the AHPN, while working at the forefront of digital collecting.

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.

This partnership has also encouraged us to rethink our assumptions about digital archives. We often imagine a digital archive as a simple reflection of a material collection. But 21 million digital pages have very different infrastructure and support requirements than their material counterparts. The needs and expectations of online users are different, too.

In many ways, in imagining the future of the AHPN portal, we are imagining the future for digital collections at the University of Texas more broadly. The size and complexity of collections like the AHPN push the limits of our understanding of the role of libraries, and librarianship, in the digital age. They draw us into a future where scholarship, community-building, and access to information are inextricably linked.

_____________________________________________________________

Hannah Alpert-Abrams is a CLIR postdoctoral fellow in data curation at LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections at The University of Texas at Austin.

McKinney Engineering Library

Welcome Back to Campus

Director Lorraine J. HaricombeWelcome back!  I hope the spring semester will be productive and successful for you.

While you were away we have worked quickly to launch UT Libraries’ new website. Check it out at https://www.lib.utexas.edu/  It is our hope that you will find the new website easy to navigate and to learn more about UTL’s News and Featured events. There is a helpful 404 error page in place to redirect users who might be trying to reach legacy content. All of the content on the legacy site will remain intact for the foreseeable future as we continue to migrate to the new site.  Please use the new feature on the site to send us your feedback.

We are also excited to announce the opening of the McKinney Engineering Library in the brand new Engineering Education and Research Center on January 16. The engineering library exemplifies our continuing efforts to rethink what libraries need offer to meet user expectations in a digital environment. We have moved a highly curated collection from the engineering collection on PCL’s 6th floor to the new library.  Beyond books you will find enhanced space and technology — 3000 square feet of new space, including consultation and seminar rooms, 24 new workstations and power outlets aplenty, as well as new printers, scanners and self-checkout.

We also made a change at the end of the fall semester that may have gone unnoticed, but will be of great interest for our undergraduate patrons. Beginning December 1, the Libraries extended loan duration for materials from 28 days to a semester-long period, allowing students greater time to focus on learning and less on managing access to resources.

Our core mission is to support the university’s core mission of research and teaching and to help our students to be successful graduates.  We are here to serve you please let us know how we can help you!

Best wishes for a successful semester.

Virginia Phillips

Colleagues Honor Phillips’ Legacy

On November 3, friends and family gathered in the Main Building to honor a storied figure in the Libraries recent history.

Marking her 95th birthday, the Libraries recognized the contributions of retired librarian and administrator Virginia Phillips, who served the General Libraries from 1975 -1998 in various capacities throughout the organization, most notably as assistant director for Branch Services.

During the event Phillips’s impact was cataloged by a series of former colleagues, all of whom noted her direct influence within their own professional experiences.

Dennis Trombatore with Virginia Phillips.
Dennis Trombatore with Virginia Phillips.

To honor her legacy with the Libraries, associates recognized Phillips with a permanent naming in her honor of a bookcase in the Hall of Noble Words in the Life Science Library, housed within one of the university’s most distinguishing landmarks and symbols of academic excellence.

The indelible mark Phillips left on the University of Texas Libraries is extraordinary. Her oversight of branch libraries, recruitment of talent and philanthropic support through endowments forged a path for building strong and meaningful relationships that extend far into the future.

Contributors to the naming:

Susan and Thomas Ardis
Larayne Dallas and Timothy DeFries
Liz DeHart
Elizabeth Dupuis
Nancy Elder
Eloise Ellis
Jenifer and David Flaxbart
Robin Fradenburgh
Laura Gutierrez-Witt
Catherine Hamer
Janine Henri
Dr. Barbara Immroth
Carol Kay Johnson
Gary Lay
Karen and Esther Lemunyon
Peggy Mueller
Susan Phillips
Mary Lynn Rice-Lively
Winona Schroeder
Mary Seng
Lorie Kay Sewell
John Tongate
Dennis Trombatore
Molly White
Shiela Winchester

 

Austin Central Library

Why Austin’s new Central Library is a vision for the future

This commentary originally appeared in the Austin American-Statesman, Wednesday, December 06, 2017.

The Austin Public Library recently opened its spectacular facility with much fanfare to respond to a diversity of needs in the Austin community. Transformed from a traditional library filled with books and other sources of information including media, the new open design sets itself apart as a new standard to address user needs in the 21st century. The timing of the opening of the new Austin Pubic Library is a perfect opportunity to highlight the resurgence of the central role of libraries in their respective communities, whether public, academic or school libraries, as they rethink their relevance amidst fast-paced changes.

Opening of the Austin Central Library

In an information society like ours, libraries are critical to fill equity gaps in society by democratizing access to information, education, skills training and job placement. Simply put, the Austin Public Library epitomizes how libraries elsewhere can be improved to better serve their populations.

The strength of libraries is, after all, their relationship to their communities, whether public or academic. They are centers of learning, social gathering and creativity usually in central spaces, a premium in most communities and on university campuses. The Austin Public Library has not disappointed. In some respects, it is the library of the future and will meet a multitude of needs including shared learning spaces, the technology petting zoo, the innovation lounge, the children’s creative commons and the reading porches.

In a nutshell, libraries must rebrand themselves as technology-rich learning centers. The rapid rate of technological changes, coupled with new user expectations, have accelerated libraries’ transition from mediated services to unmediated services. From online catalogs, to self-checkout machines, to room reservations and laptop checkouts, users can now independently use and reserve library resources that extend well beyond books. And, the old rules don’t work in the new environment. For instance, food and drink, cafes and gift shops have become normal features in libraries.

Makerspace at the Austin Central Library.

Notwithstanding the difference in the primary communities they serve, different types of libraries have implemented changes that are consistent with new needs and expectations. At its opening, Austin Mayor Steve Adler described the Austin Public Library as the “cathedral of Austin.”

A national conference called “Re-think it: Libraries for a New Age” will soon bring together academic, public and K-12 librarians, administrators, technologists, architects, designers, furniture manufacturers and educators to the University of Texas. Together, they will collectively rethink the increasingly important role libraries play in the communities they serve.

Austin Central Library.

In some ways, rethinking libraries will mean collapsing old paradigms and sacrificing some of the nostalgia that we may have for paper and silence. If libraries are to realize a future potential, they’ll need to play a significantly more active role in creativity and productivity processes. The library is no longer a place to worship books; rather, a library, to modify the famous metaphor of Socrates, is the delivery room for the birth of ideas.

Austin isn’t the first city in recent years to invest in new library construction. Structures in Seattle and Minneapolis are notable recent examples of significant public reinvestment in libraries as an integral part of the community. The 21st century offers a renaissance period for libraries and library professionals to imagine the possibilities for the future. The Austin Public Library exemplifies a pioneering model in Texas for other municipalities to position their libraries as instruments of social empowerment. The time is now.

 

 

 

Yuliya Lanina works in the Foundry.

Lanina Uses Foundry Time to Tell Herstory

Early in November, the Foundry makerspace at the Fine Arts Library welcomed its second artist-in-residence, Russian-born American multimedia artist Yuliya Lanina.

Lanina’s deeply personal work spans the universe of media — painting, sculpture, video, animatronics, performance — and resides in a space where whimsical imagery dances in a veil of melancholic undercurrents like children’s tales if viewed a lens of Heironymous Bosch.

Components of Lanina's "Herstory".
Components of Lanina’s “Herstory”.

Lanina spent the better part of her time at the Foundry working on a collection of animatronic projects, from doll to human-size in stature, that are intended to interact with the viewer, with sensors that activate motion and audio when a viewer is in proximity.

Lanina focused most of her time in the Foundry on one project — “Herstory” — a human-sized animatronic doll with a face cast (3D printed) from the artist’s own, which intends to explore gender and cultural identity through the sharing of awkward anecdotes and stories that challenge the way that gender is perceived. Lanina presented a public talk focused on the project, but covering her other works, as well, as part of the residency.

Yuliya Lanina presents a public talk at the Fine Arts Library.
Yuliya Lanina presents a public talk at the Fine Arts Library.

Lanina’s art has been exhibited in such museums and institutions as the Seoul Art Museum, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Ludwig Museum (Cologne), the Cleveland Institute of Art, and Galapagos Art Center in Brooklyn. She’s received honors that include fellowships and scholarships from Headlands Art Center (California), Yadoo (New York), CORE Cultural Funding Program (Austin, TX), BluePrint/COJECO (New York City), TEMPO (TX) and an honorable citation from New York State Assembly.

She holds MFA in Combined Media from Hunter College, CUNY, New York and a BFA in Painting and Drawing from Purchase College, SUNY.

Another of Lanina's animatronic projects in the Foundry.
Another of Lanina’s animatronic projects in the Foundry.

Funded by donor Kirby Attwell and COFA, the artist-in-resident series brings notable multi-media artists to Austin for a week at a time for workshops with students, lectures for the public and a chance to pursue their own art on the advanced equipment in the Foundry. The previous artist-in-residence at the Foundry was Israeli American contemporary media artist Yael Kanarek.

Read more about Yuliya Lanina at the fantastic new Austin arts magazine Sightlines recently launched by veteran area arts writer Jeanne Claire van Ryzin.

 

 

 

Opening of the FAL 4th Floor

New Design Program Space Opens at FAL

On Thursday, October 12, representatives of the Libraries joined College of Fine Arts Dean Doug Dempster and Provost Maurie McInnis to fete the opening of space on the fourth floor of the Fine Arts Library redeveloped to serve as a home for the newly announced School of Design and Creative Technologies.

Provost Maurie McInnis with Vice Provost Lorraine Haricombe.
Provost Maurie McInnis with Vice Provost Lorraine Haricombe.

The renovation project, which took place over the summer, resulted in the creation of state-of-the-art classrooms with adaptable technologies, a high-tech teaching lab, dedicated design studios, an audio studio, seminar rooms and faculty offices to serve a program geared to preparing students for careers in professions that require working knowledge of design technologies.

The new school will be led by design industry thought leader Doreen Lorenzo, who is the founding and current director of the Center for Integrated Design, and will focus on educating students for creative professions in heavy demand across a wide range of industries. Students will study designing for health, designing for artificial intelligence, creative technologies in theater and music, entrepreneurial ventures and cross-disciplinary design thinking methodologies.

New space for the School of Design and Creative Technologies

The space is complementary to the Foundry — the maker space launched on the entry level of the library in 2016 — creating a new opportunity for libraries to serve as a multipurpose platform for the interaction of information resources, classroom learning and creative realization.

“Co-locating a vibrant teaching space in the library with the tools for creativity mere footsteps away collapses the distance between resources and classroom and provides the opportunity for the library to be an even more active partner in the learning ecosystem,” says Vice Provost and Libraries Director Lorraine Haricombe.

Hurricane Harvey from satellite imagery. NOAA/NASA GOES Project.

Recovering from Harvey

The recent succession of weather events provided a rather inauspicious beginning to the new semester, though the main campus and our local branches have been spared all but an abundance of rain. Our family and friends along the coast, however, weren’t so lucky.

For those who attempt to recall the list of branch locations overseen by the UT Libraries, it’s not uncommon to overlook the one library that doesn’t reside in Austin, but rather on a usually pastoral stretch of sand a few blocks from the Gulf of Mexico. The Marine Science Library serves the faculty and researchers at UT’s Marine Science Institute (MSI) in Port Aransas, which is just across the bay from Rockport, Texas — a city that was the focal point for much of the news coverage surrounding the arrival of Hurricane Harvey on Friday, August 25. Port Aransas actually took a direct hit from Harvey and suffered catastrophic damage, which was also visited upon the MSI, including the building where the library is located.

Hurricane Harvey landfall.

As a matter of course, the Libraries have a Collections Emergency Team composed of relevant administrators, dedicated facility staffers and outstanding preservation experts, who jump to action in the event of a threat to the resources or infrastructure of the libraries.  With any storm of Harvey’s magnitude and destructive impact, staff are paying close attention and preparing for potential issues, but in the case of this hurricane and the position of its landfall, most proactive considerations gave way to planning how to react to whatever damage would inevitably be wrought upon the library and its collections.

Immediately in the wake of the storm, the island and the surrounding areas lost power and, subsequently, most communications were sporadic at best. It wasn’t until Sunday that the Libraries became aware of the extent of damage to MSI, but without specific information about the library, so staff began to prepare for the worst possibilities. Liz DeHart, the Libraries’ liaison at MSL, was contending with the personal effects of Harvey and unable to get to the library, and administrators at MSL were prioritizing assessment of the impact on research assets and infrastructure at the campus, which had suffered severe damage. Representatives from the College of Natural Sciences (CNS) in Austin became the conduits for information about the situation on the ground, and eventually an initial assessment was returned suggesting that the damage to the library was hopeful, with wet floors, but dry books — almost miraculous, since the same building that contained the library had extensive roof damage, flooding and blown out windows. But there was also no air conditioning or power, and as one might imagine, paper doesn’t fare well to exposure to the balmy coastal climate of late summer. As much as the team wanted to rush to the coast on a rescue mission, widespread destruction, impassable roads and a moratorium on travel to the island by non-residents made that seem like an impossibility.

Roof of MSI where the library lives.
Roof of MSI where the library lives.

By Wednesday, August 30 — the first full day of the fall semester — staff had worked with CNS to obtain permission for a response team to travel to Port Aransas to assess damage and hopefully, recover the most valuable of the  close to $9,000,000 worth of collections, but there was a caveat: they had one day to do it.

A team of Geoff Bahre (Manager), Matt McGuire and Bill Gannon from the Facilities & AV unit along with Joey Marez, a library specialist from the Preservation department, immediately began preparations for all contingencies that could be imagined on a first trip into a storm disaster zone: food, water, tools and equipment, supplies for any mechanical trouble. And gas.

Geoff Bahre, Joey Marez and Bill Gannon grab a much-deserved break.
Geoff Bahre, Joey Marez and Bill Gannon grab a much-deserved break.

The window was tight, so the team left Austin at 3:30 a.m. on Friday, September 1, agreeing to make sure they refilled fuel on the south side of San Antonio, but discovered that the rush on gas stations had already drained supplies when they stopped to refuel. A fortunate encounter with a kind soul at a local pancake house directed the team to a station with adequate fuel supplies, and the team continued its journey to the coast.

Because the ferry wasn’t yet operational, the team had to travel through Corpus Christi and up the length of Mustang Island to reach Port Aransas in the mid-morning hours of Friday.

Upon arrival, an initial assessment verified earlier information about the state of the library — some wet flooring, but the books were dry, and no apparent mold — and even some welcome evidence that local administrators at MSI had taken measures to mitigate environmental threats with the arrival of fans and dehumidifiers that were powered by portable generators.

The environment in the library, nonetheless, wasn’t at an optimum stability, so the team began to identify items that they would return to Austin for temporary safekeeping and care. Thanks to earlier efforts to identify salvage priorities, the team was charged with bringing back 900 special collection items, and due to conservative estimation, were able to also rescue additional theses, dissertations and maps.

By 8 p.m. that evening, the team had returned to Austin with the most valuable resources from the MSL in tow. The following week, MSL staffer Marg Larsen relocated to Austin temporarily due to the storm, and so was available to process and assist in storing the rescued materials in the Collections Deposit Library at UT to await their inevitable return to their home in Port Aransas.

There are currently no firm timelines for recovery and reopening of the Institute or the Library, but as with a Gulf hurricane or other natural and unnatural disasters, we’ll be prepared when the time comes.

It’s easy to imagine that a library is a simple machine where books fall onto a shelf and then into hands before returning to the shelf again, uncomplicated by the affairs and events beyond its doors and walls. But out of sight and mind, there are an army of loyal people working to build, protect, rescue and share our body of collective knowledge, both in the face of an average day or during extraordinary times.

Looking forward to rebuilding.
Looking forward to rebuilding.
"I want to spend the rest of my life everywhere, with everyone, one to one, always, forever, now" by Damien Hirst.

Experiencing Artists’ Books

Look closely and you will find the rare and unique collections at the UT Libraries.

One of the special collections at the Fine Arts Library is the FAL Artists’ Publications Collection which includes artists’ books — books created with the intention of being a work of art. Some artists use books to explore narrative or the relationship between images and text, while others challenge our understanding of what books are and how we read them through the manipulation of form.

"Fishbubbles" by Jill Timm.
“Fishbubbles” by Jill Timm.

The Fine Arts Library contains over 200 artists’ books. Serving primarily as a teaching collection, the artists’ books show different binding techniques, materials, sculptural forms and conceptual approaches, with the FAL holding titles by such recognizable artists as Damien Hirst, Richard Prince and Ed Ruscha. Some of the books in the collection push the boundaries of reading by engaging with other senses such as smell, touch and taste.

"Schengen's kit : rules and advices for survival of refugees at sea : content: instructions on a funeral body bag in a plastic envelope" by Christine Kermaire.
“Schengen’s kit : rules and advices for survival of refugees at sea : content: instructions on a funeral body bag in a plastic envelope” by Christine Kermaire.

The opportunity to smell, touch, taste and hear the artists’ books will be available on November 7th from 5:30-7:30 pm as part of the Experiencing Artists’ Books event. This event is associated programming for the new Visual Arts Center (VAC) exhibition Fool’s Romance / Books from Aeromoto curated by Allison Myers, Art History PhD candidate and 2016-2017 VAC Curatorial Fellow. Myers will lead a dialogue between local artists and bookmakers including Jason Urban, Artist and Studio Art Faculty, and Lindsay Starr from Cattywampus Press. After our dialogue, audience members will have the opportunity to engage with the unusual books in our collection.

"Scent" by Stephen Gan.
“Scent” by Stephen Gan.

The Fool’s Romance / Books from Aeromoto exhibition opens on September 22nd from 6-8pm. Come and explore over 300 artists’ books from Aeromoto, a non-profit art library and community space based in Mexico City.

We hope to see you at the exhibition opening and the Experiencing Aritsts’ Books event later this fall.

Ervin Perry.

On Ervin Perry’s Legacy by Gene Locke

Dr. Ervin Sewell Perry.
Dr. Ervin Sewell Perry.

The following statement was presented by Gene Locke — Dr. Ervin Perry’s nephew — to the University of Texas Black Alumni Network at their Legacy Dinner on September 8, 2017, in recognition of the 40th anniversary of the Perry-Castañeda Library.

On behalf of the family of Dr. Ervin Perry, we express our appreciation to the Black Alumni Network for recognizing Dr. Perry at your Legacy Dinner.

The Perry-Castañeda Library now has forty years of service to the UT community. During these years, many of you have been in and around the library that bears his name without knowing the story of Ervin Perry. Yes, you may have known that he was the first African American professor at a predominately white university in the South. Perhaps, you even knew that he was a civil engineer of recognized distinction. Maybe, you also knew that Dr. Perry was one of several trailblazers as students at the University of Texas-all who played an integral role in opening the university to people of color.  However, our beloved “Ervin” was so much more.

Ervin Perry was born in Coldspring, Texas, in rural East Texas in 1935 during the height of the depression and in the midst of brutal Jim Crow segregation.  Ervin started out with two great assets: a mom, Edna Perry, and a dad, Willie Perry, who appreciated hard work, family and faith.  They were dirt farmers who valued education and who dreamed for better lives for their children. Willie and Edna Perry worked miracles with their income from a small cotton crop.  Ervin and his twin brother, Mervin, were the last of six children; all of whom somehow got thru college and graduate school despite money limitations and the inequities of racial segregation.

The Perry Family.
The Perry Family.

There was a “specialness” about Ervin Perry that might be instructive to all of us today. Despite all of the successes he enjoyed as an engineer and a university professor, he was at all times humble and down to earth. He was a man of high character who gave an excellence of effort in everything he did. He was a devoted family man (husband, father, brother and uncle). Ervin grieved at the inequities that others suffered, while fully appreciating the burden of the spotlight on him for being the first of us on the faculty at the university.  In truth, Dr. Perry was smart-SUPER SMART-but he never felt the need to demonstrate this at the expense of others. His first love was his family.  He drew strength from his unsung heroine, Jean Perry, his wife and he got enduring satisfaction from his daughters, Patricia, Edna and Arvis.

When Ervin joined the UT academic faculty in 1964, American society was so different from-yet so similar to-today’s society.  HOPE-HATRED-HESITATION. These three characterized the times in 1964. HOPE that the civil rights movement would change America’s social order. HATRED as manifested in the strong resistance to social change and the accompanying violence.  HESITATION by political and civic leaders who were afraid to take a bold stand for true equal opportunity for all.

Dr. Ervin S. Perry.
Dr. Ervin S. Perry.

Against this backdrop, the University of Texas did not hesitate.  UT made Dr. Perry a faculty member in 1964. This was truly a bold step by the university that had a history of segregation and exclusion–but it was made so much easier by the character and academic accomplishments of Ervin Perry.  In 1977, the university took another equally bold step in naming the new library in his honor.

Our family is immensely proud that the library bears his name. As we think of the historic significance of naming the library for him and for Dr. Castañeda, we hope that having Ervin’s name on the library has been a small inspiration or source of pride for African American students and all students at UT thru the years. We hope that it continues to serve a small nail in the coffin of racial stereotypes that impair our ability as a nation to love and respect  all  humanity.

As alumni of the University of Texas, we ask that you keep working to make sure this, our state’s flagship university, embraces diversity and demonstrates itself to be an institution for all.

Thank your again for your recognition of Dr. Perry.

Attorney Gene Locke
Nephew of Dr. Ervin Perry

Gene Locke (second from left) with members of the Perry Family during the PCL 40 weekend of celebrations.
Gene Locke (second from left) with members of the Perry Family during the PCL 40 weekend of celebrations.