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

Lorraine Harcombe visits with a student in the media lab.

Musings from LJH…

Vice Provost and Director Lorraine J Haricombe.An exciting aspect of my role as VP and Director of UT Libraries is the opportunity to meet and discuss academic libraries’ roles in an age of networked information. The rapid rate of change in technology is a key driver but not the only one. The first generation of the twenty-first century has arrived on our campuses with very different expectations of discovering and accessing information and learning styles.

In higher education the internet has enabled new modes of research and communication, new knowledge products. And libraries are stepping up to embed librarians in that life-cycle. Simply put, libraries are at the heart of today’s digital transformation in research and scholarly communication, and  UT Libraries is no exception.

Our commitment is to embrace the core values of our profession to select and acquire, describe, make accessible and preserve valuable resources to support UT’s mission.  Our goal is to remain both relevant and strategic as we continue to assess our services, programs and expertise to leverage very limited resources efficiently.  We do so by engaging our users to understand their needs to position UT Libraries as a significant node in a rapidly changing higher education ecosystem.

The Provost’s new Task Force on “The Future of the UT Libraries is well-timed to have that conversation with our primary stakeholders.  I look forward to an opportunity to listen, understand and share the amazing stories of faculty and students who are impacted by work that happens at UT Libraries every day.

Record player and vintage typewriter on a desk.

Whit’s Picks: Take 2 – Gems from the HMRC

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

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

Earlier installments: Take 1


 

Black Tambourine / Black Tambourine

This short-lived yet highly influential late 80’s D.C. area band strummed and shoegazed ahead of its time, foreshadowing the twee-pop genre. Fuzz, feedback, and post-punk drumming backfill the sugary-sweet AM radio vocals. Their complete recordings here, with six previously unreleased songs.

 

Nancy Elizabeth / Wrought Iron

Mancunian folk singer-songwriter Nancy Elizabeth Cunliffe haunts in a most wonderful way on this spare, moody, and ethereal album, released on UK’s The Leaf Label.  Ballasted by minor-key piano and acoustic guitar, her voice drifts out to sea, lilting with love and loss.

 

Avery Sharpe Trio / Live: Fraser Performance Studio at WGBH

Long-time bassist for legendary McCoy Tyner (as well as giants Art Blakey and Archie Shepp), Sharpe stretches the trad jazz piano/bass/drums setting here into something completely unique, showcasing his virtuosic chops on sweet old standards and bold originals alike.

 

Dave McCann and the Firehearts / Dixiebluebird

Wind-driven ballads from Ontario’s Dave McCann, backed by his roots-rocking band the Firehearts and produced by Nashville’s Americana icon Will Kimbrough. This collection sets out upon that long stretch of heartworn highway, but brings the listener closer to home with each bittersweet song.

 

William Hooker ; Christian Marclay ; Lee Ranaldo / Bouquet.

Avant-garde jazz drummer Hooker, artist/composer/turntablist Marclay, and Sonic Youth guitarist Ranaldo anesthetize, improvise, and terrorize the more than willing crowd in this live recording from NYC’s Knitting Factory. Ambient musique concrète + furious drum flurries + dissonant guitar squawk = Exquisite Chaos.

album cover
William Hooker, Christian Marclay, Lee Ranaldo. Bouquet.

Sample audio from Bouquet at Allmusic

 

[Harold Whit Williams is a Library Specialist in Music & Multimedia Resources Cataloging for Content Management. He also writes poetry, is guitarist for Cotton Mather, and records ambient electronic music under the solo name The French Riot.]

Peering through the stacks into the renovated 5th floor of PCL.

Upgrading the Fives

“They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.”

So said Confucius.

We take that sentiment and the suggestions of our users to heart – for the sake of happiness and wisdom, among other things – especially over the summer break when there’s time and space to do so. Such was the case again this summer, and now later this fall, there will be a unveiling celebrations to mark the changes to pair of library spaces.

The less prominent of the two renovation projects occurred in the Perry-Castañeda Library (PCL), and is the extension to an earlier project that took place on the library’s most popular floor. The Collaborative Commons is the bustling hub of late hours study and community on the fifth level of the building that is designated for noise and activity that isn’t traditionally associated with the pastoral atmosphere of a library.

In 2013, a section spanning the length of the window wall on the fifth floor overlooking the heart of campus was renovated to include open-area technology access, additional power outlets, a forest of mobile whiteboards and comfortable, flexible furniture. What was formerly a dull and dank monotony became the Collaborative Commons and has remained a popular gathering area for PCL denizens. The current project connects the original renovation to an even larger area on the opposite side of the building to further expand technology and utility access, and to replace the ancient monolithic furniture of a bygone era and carpet so aged and experienced that it bears no further mention in good company.

The second space refresh came out of a renewed affection for libraries that was manifested as a student and faculty protest about the removal of books from the Fine Arts Library (FAL). Surfaced during the discussions of how best to serve the community of the College of Fine Arts and users of the FAL were critiques of the current state of the fifth floor of that library where the physical collections are housed. That input and some extensive discussions with CoFA community stakeholders resulted in a punch list of improvements that would make it a more productive and usable space. Now, visitors to the fifth floor at FAL have space for (and eventual access to) additional physical materials, enhanced Wi-Fi performance, more access to power outlets, better furniture, new carrels and the fresher feel that results from new paint and the removal of 40-year-old carpeting.

Judging from the initial reactions to the changes, we’ve met the first criterion of the Confucian aphorism. Only time will tell if we manage the second.

If you haven’t had a chance to visit the updated spaces yet, there will be a couple of opportunities to see them as part of upcoming housewarming events hosted by the Libraries with Provost Maurie McInnis, who’s office helped to fund the efforts. Join us Tuesday, October 23, to fête the Fine Arts Library refresh, and Wednesday, November 14, for a party on fifth floor of the PCL.

 

Celebrating the Benson Centennial kickoff. From left, LLILAS Benson Director Virginia Garrard, Adriana Pacheco, Fernando Macías, Vice Provost and Director of Libraries Lorraine Haricombe, and Consul of Mexico Carlos González Gutiérrez. Photo: Daniel Hublein.

The Benson Centennial Endowment: An Invitation from Adriana Pacheco

“The first time I walked into the fourth floor of the Nettie Lee Benson library, as a recently admitted PhD student, tears ran down my cheeks. I remember that moment, when I was there, alone, looking at that iconic corridor with hundreds of shelves and thousands of books. My tears were for excitement because I understood that that place was going to be a second home for me for many years to come.”

Celebrating the Benson Centennial kickoff. From left, LLILAS Benson Director Virginia Garrard, Adriana Pacheco, Fernando Macías, Vice Provost and Director of Libraries Lorraine Haricombe, and Consul of Mexico Carlos González Gutiérrez.
Celebrating the Benson Centennial kickoff. From left, LLILAS Benson Director Virginia Garrard, Adriana Pacheco, Fernando Macías, Vice Provost and Director of Libraries Lorraine Haricombe, and Consul of Mexico Carlos González Gutiérrez. Photo: Daniel Hublein.

With these heartfelt words, spoken at a September 6 dinner announcing the centennial campaign for the Benson Latin American Collection, Adriana Pacheco Roldán exhorted assembled guests to join her in a project involving both the heart and the preservation of memory. Pacheco is chair of the International Board of Advisors established by University of Texas at Austin President Greg Fenves. She and her husband, Fernando Macías Garza, both hold doctorates from Texas. The couple has donated $50,000 to establish the Benson Centennial Endowment, which officially kicks off the countdown to the collection’s 2021 Centennial.

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Pacheco was a keynote speaker at An Evening of Discovery, a gala dinner hosted by the University of Texas Libraries and the Provost’s Office to officially kick off the Benson Centennial campaign. As is fitting for a PhD in literature, she began her speech by evoking Aureliano Buendía, the patriarch of Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, who “fought against the plague of memory loss suffered by all inhabitants of Macondo” by labeling every object he could. “For almost 100 years, the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection has been a place to keep our memories and our heritage,” said Pacheco.

From left: Lorraine Haricombe, Univision news anchor Enrique Acevedo, and Benson Collection Director Melissa Guy. Photo: Daniel Hublein.
From left: Lorraine Haricombe, Univision news anchor Enrique Acevedo, and Benson Collection Director Melissa Guy. Photo: Daniel Hublein.

Yet the recent tragic loss at Brazil’s National Museum of virtually all of its contents means that we must take responsibility for protecting the treasures of the Benson, Pacheco continued. Again invoking family and generational ties, she laid out a challenge to the assembled guests:  “As we say in Spanish, you are the padrinos, the godfathers and godmothers, of the Benson Centennial Endowment launch, and I invite you to join our efforts: Give now, give today, give later, find somebody willing to give, promote, spread the word, come and visit, join the events, make the Benson Collection part of your lives.”