Diversifying Global Music Curriculum with Open Course Materials: An Interview with Dr. Luisa Nardini

Dr. Luisa Nardini is an Associate Professor of Musicology and the Division Head of Musicology and Ethnomusicology at the University of Texas at Austin. In Fall 2021, she was selected as a participant in the “Fostering Inclusive Classrooms with Open, Free & Affordable Course Materials” instructor learning community hosted by the Open Educational Resources (OER) Working Group to promote the UT Libraries ideals of inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility (IDEA). Ten instructors from across disciplines came together to learn about and apply efforts to reduce the cost of required materials in their courses. Over six weeks, Dr. Nardini and her colleagues discussed a range of topics including finding and evaluating OER, enhancing the accessibility and cultural responsiveness of course materials, and integrating other open education practices into their teaching. 

Dr. Luisa Nardini, Associate Professor of Musicology and Division Head of Musicology and Ethnomusicology

Dr. Nardini shares her experience in the learning community with us. 

Q: What motivated you to apply to join the “Fostering Inclusive Classrooms with Open, Free & Affordable Course Materials” learning community?

A: My initial motivation was to do exactly what was indicated in the course title: to explore Open, Free, and Affordable Course Materials for a new class titled “Global Music Traditions ca. 700-1400.” I started teaching this class in the Spring of 2021 to move from the primarily Eurocentric focus of my previously taught course “Advanced Studies in the History of Music: Medieval” toward the global perspective of the current version. One of the main challenges for this course was to find scholarship that covered a variety of topics not generally included in college and university textbooks (or certainly not in a single book), but that could be nonetheless manageable and coherent. My main concern was to center course content and materials around notions of diversity, globality, and multilingualism, while considering affordability and OER. Not only it was difficult to find available scholarship, but it was even more complicated to locate works by authors from under-represented communities.

Q: Has affordability always been something you consider when evaluating course materials? How have you seen cost impact your students? 

A: I have always considered affordability in all my courses and generally opted for inexpensive or free publications in my classes. This led me to adopt less costly textbooks or to use library materials whenever possible. Although coming with no additional costs to students, many library resources are only available through library subscriptions, though, which means that they become unavailable to students after graduation. The model of open educational resources is very appealing to me and certainly more equitable because it allows for larger learning communities without the limitation of institutional affiliations. University students benefit from this model not only because they can have materials available to them after the completion of their degree, but also because of the amplified learning communities deriving from OER. For example, a student can discuss with individuals with no academic affiliations through social media, blogs, and so on, thanks to the unrestricted availability of resources.

Q: Your teaching often centers on medieval music, and you focused on locating materials for these classes in the learning community. What makes it so important to include a variety of resources in this course? 

A: It is absolutely crucial that students see the complexity of the medieval world, which was much more diverse and interesting than we tend to think. For instance, in my course students learn that women often held positions of power and were spiritual leaders as well as artists, intellectuals, and scientists. Depending on place and time, societies were highly diverse and some of the most advanced intellectual circles were truly ‘international,’ to use a modern term. People, but most importantly their work, travelled around the globe. Web-based resources help diversify not only the content of the course, but also the representation of authors and learners.

Q: Did you find any OER or otherwise freely available resources that you’re excited to use in your classroom? 

A: Yes, I did find many. My main goal for the class was to develop two modules on notational and theoretical systems, two topics that students find particularly challenging. These are difficult subjects because of their technicalities and because of the large variety of notations and musical theories developed over the course of several centuries throughout the world. In doing my research for the OER course I found this article on Guqin notation (a Chinese stringed instrument) by Eric Hung, that I am certainly going to use because of its clarity, but also because it belongs to a larger resource that is tackling issues of decanonization and decolonization of the music curriculum (see for instance Kunio Hara’s article on Madame Butterfly). Another resource that was not new to me, but that I am certainly going to use in class is this Youtube video that one of my students created as a final project for a previous class. In the video, Aruna Kharod compares the European model of the Eight modes with the system of Indian Ragas. The video is excellent because Kharod is an expert of Indian music and learned about the eight-mode system in my class. The video is not only accurate, however, but also very effective in terms of length, visual impact, and musical examples (she did her own singing).

Q: What topic in the learning community did you find most interesting or surprising? 

A: I found it particularly useful to learn about the different kinds of licensing, which has clarified many aspects of OER for me, and also about online textbooks resources. For the latter, unfortunately, I could not find much content that was relevant to my own course, but I am sure I will use the materials for other classes. The module on licensing has allowed me to understand what can and cannot be done with OER.

Q: What advice would you offer colleagues who are interested in integrating open and affordable materials into their courses? 

A: As academics we are generally very busy and might, therefore, refrain from undertaking tasks that seem very demanding on our own time. I would, however, encourage everyone just to start working on OER, maybe taking advantage of the extraordinary resources and staff at the university library. In addition, like with any other new directions we undertake in our pedagogy, we can do things in stages, adding something new or tweaking old resources and tools at each new iteration of a course. We don’t need to have everything in place at once, but we should certainly move away from the costly textbook model. It is not only inequitable, but often pedagogically limiting.

If you are interested in exploring open, free, or low cost course materials, get help by contacting Ashley Morrison, Tocker Open Education Librarian (ashley.morrison@austin.utexas.edu).

Benson receives Gracious Donation from Creator of “El Peso Hero”

BY DANIEL ARBINO

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s El Peso Hero!

The Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection is pleased to announce Héctor Rodríguez III’s donation of materials pertaining to his comic series, El Peso Hero.

The series was launched in 2011, when Rodríguez saw the need for more Latino representation in graphic novels. The titular superhero, whose name is Ignacio Rivera, fights to uphold justice and morality in the border region. In some issues, Rivera can be seen helping migrants safely across the border. In others, he fights corruption and drug traffickers. Now celebrating a decade of issues, El Peso Hero will debut on the silver screen in the near future. While Rivera is the protagonist of the series, perhaps it’s his creator who is the real hero.

Storyboards highlight content in the issues. Here we see El Peso Hero, who only speaks Spanish in the series, helping migrants cross the border. Benson Latin American Collection.

Héctor Rodríguez is a bilingual north Texas elementary school teacher by day and a comic book creator by night. His commitment to the genre goes beyond his own production: he’s also the creator of Texas Latino Comic Con. The mission of his independently owned Rio Bravo Comics is to give the people a “humble hero,” someone who is relatable to the audience, some of whom are his students. His inspiration comes from his family as well as his life as a Chicano in Texas. Rodríguez, who was born in Eagle Pass and grew up in College Station, uses El Peso Hero as a means to tell stories about the borderlands, from its hardships to its beauty.

Poster celebrating El Peso Hero. Benson Latin American Collection.

For the author, that beauty is found in the multiculturalism that flourishes in the region, where El Santo comics are read while watching lucha libre, and English and Spanish are often spoken in the same sentence. It is for this reason that Rodríguez intentionally has El Peso Hero only speak in Spanish, while the series itself is bilingual. For Rodríguez, it is important that El Peso Hero transcends the U.S.–Mexico border linguistically and culturally to solidify his representation of transnational communities.

First issue of El Peso Hero, signed by the creator. Benson Latin American Collection.

The donation features single issues, posters, stickers, storyboards, and a coloring book. One of the many highlights is a rare, signed first issue of the series.


Daniel Arbino is Head of Collection Development at the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection.

Into the Next Normal

Hard to believe it’s been two years since the sudden closure of these Libraries upended our work and forced us to rethink how we continue to operate in a world that has the potential to throw such wild curveballs. A lot of the work we did before will likely return much as it was before we left the Forty Acres and adjusted to the boxed in screen of video interactions that would become the workspace for much of our library work for an extended period.

But much of the change required to keep the Libraries running through the remote period and into the initial reopening of spaces and return to in-person activity will remain in place as we enter the next normal. The paradigm of normal has shifted irrevocably thanks to a health crisis that has cost over 5 million lives, upended social practices and impacted the way we behave in so many ways, positive and negative. There was a normal before we knew of COVID-19, and there is a different normal as we proceed. To address that next normal, there are changes that won’t disappear, even when the pandemic eventually does.

So, what are the sustainable, smart changes that the Libraries will continue going forward?

Accessibility to Online Resources. The primacy of digital access was clear immediately upon the arrival of COVID. Without a robust online presence, academic enterprise and research innovation would have been greatly hindered, but through quick negotiation affected by a shared interest in continuity with providers, staff were able to ensure the best possible resources were available through emergency accommodations by the publishers, and favorable decisions about access to resources in HathiTrust. That experience provides a blueprint for continued access to resources and can inform future negotiations with publishers and content partners.

IDEA and Collections. One byproduct of the crisis was our captivity to a constant stream of news, and the effect of social upheaval on our strategic practices. The racial reckoning provided an opportunity to reflect on collections strategy and recalibrate our orientation. A project to diversify the collections is already well underway and will be a permanent part of our thinking going forward. And new digital applications like Spotlight will allow for the curation and highlighting of materials that reflect the breadth and diversity of our user community’s interests.

“Our time away from campus was not limited to the suffering brought on by the pandemic,” explains Head of Information Literacy Services Elise Nacca. “The murder of George Floyd prompted vital conversations on our campus, including interrogating whose story gets told at this University and what responsibility do we have to seek out diverse viewpoints? Critical pedagogy asks us to interrogate how power shapes the creation of and access to information. I worked to address in my classroom the gaps and silences in scholarship and how students can use our resources at the Libraries to seek out perspectives missing from the conversation.”

Promoting Legacy Content. The launch of the Libraries’ Digital Asset Management System (DAMS) in 2019 couldn’t have been more fortuitous, providing a framework and processes for sharing extant digital content with a community that was abruptly cut off from physical access to primary resources. Innovative thinking aligned with open access principles to realize opportunities for leveraging the DAMS for collaborative work. One such example is work on the David Reichard Williams Collection at the Alexander Architectural Archive, where staff enlisted a larger group of formal and citizen scholars to build out metadata for the collection through a crowdsourcing effort. This novel approach can be applied with equal effect even during a period that doesn’t require distance between contributors.

“We made a big push to provide more digital access to library resources,” explains Sean O’Bryan, Assistant Director of Access. “Along with exponentially increasing identification, description and ingest of content into the DAMS, we also took advantage of HathiTrust Emergency Temporary Access Service (ETAS) making these digital surrogates easily discoverable in Primo (the Libraries’ content discovery system). This immediate benefit of providing a ‘virtual library’ during the pandemic has informed our exploration of controlled digital lending in order to advance that potential post-pandemic.”

The Dawn of the Virtual Session. Perhaps one of the most important evolutions of the pandemic was the development of collaborative meeting platforms like Zoom and Teams, allowing the adaptation of in-person services and expertise in a virtual environment. Research consultations, workshops and meetings all migrated to these platforms out of necessity during the pandemic, and now they have become a regular, and likely permanent fixture in how we interface with our constituents.

“One of the biggest changes made after the start of the pandemic was a switch from exclusively in-person workshops to completely virtual Zoom webinar-based workshops,” says Geospatial Data Coordinator Michael Shensky. “It wasn’t initially clear whether patrons would show up in the same numbers we had come to expect for in-person workshops, but we found that attendance for virtual workshops was actually significantly higher than for in-person workshops on similar topics that were organized during semesters prior to the pandemic.”

Having access to expert librarians for reference support is a core function at academic research institutions, and so the sudden impact of closures on research consultations – a service that was mostly an in-person exercise – could have been detrimental. Once again, Zoom provided a ready solution for an unexpected challenge. “It’s a great format for this type of work and allows people to meet with us from wherever they are,” says Jenifer Flaxbart, Assistant Director of Research Support and Digital Initiatives.

“Zoom was a godsend, for many reasons, and it’s now a staple in all facets of our work,” continues Flaxbart. “These virtual learning tools and platforms can be used both synchronously and asynchronously, and they permit global-level engagement, 24/7.”

Collaborating in the Digital Space. Teaching and learning online is not so easy to navigate successfully, and not every tool is equal, but what did work was using online whiteboards such as Padlet and Google Jam Boards during instruction sessions. These tools allow students to post ideas and responses quickly and teachers can see the posts in real time to facilitate discussion. Students can see what their colleagues are posting as well, and can participate anonymously. These tools will continue to find a space as in-person teaching and learning continues to ramp up with the gradual return to campus.

Where’s the Community? One of the greatest losses of the departure from campus at the arrival of the pandemic was the bustle and din of activity in Libraries’ spaces. When students returned in a limited capacity, the hesitancy created by risk factors made for a slow return to formerly beloved student congregation areas. Amplifying the challenge of providing a communal and collaborative workspace is the disparate experience of latter career students and those whose academic life began in a remote environment. Navigating the adapted needs of users in the physical space is a hard road of work ahead, but with the earnest return to campus, we’re seeing increasing traffic in spaces, and an expansion of in-person services, though not at pre-pandemic levels, yet.

“Teaching first year students, you’re always aware of the challenges someone coming to our campus for the first time might face,” says Elise Nacca. “It’s big and overwhelming and it’s easy to get lost physically and mentally. Before the pandemic sent us all home, I don’t think I appreciated how much most students really love being on campus and how much many lost staying home. I saw a lot of sad faces in Zoom classrooms and a lot of silent black boxes staring back at me. I wondered more than ever how they were feeling.”

“This led us to include more inclusive teaching practices into our work. This could be something simple like using inclusive language and examples in search demos to more intensive work, such as providing multiple formats for engagement with course materials,” explains Nacca. “I included more videos and screenshots of my content because I felt like I could not check in with students as easily as I could in person in order to check if they understood a concept. A stressed-out student on a lousy internet connection could follow images of searches or watch a video on their phone if the Zoom session wasn’t easy to engage with.”

“Overall, Covid has pushed our users to embrace the ‘Platform’ even more,” says Jenifer Flaxbart. “It’s key that our staffing and services align with that and do not overemphasize Library-as-Place and in-person work needlessly, particularly with faculty and graduate students, who’ve shown they prefer remote work and virtual collaborations with librarians and related Libraries’ experts.”

Working Differently. There’s no question that the experience of almost two years in a pandemic that has separated people from a professional structure and shared space can stymie efficiencies that have been built for existing practices and processes, so in adjusting workflows to a radically different work environment, staff chanced certain operational discoveries that might’ve otherwise not been considered.

The Digital Stewardship staff took on a lot of additional work to help units across the Libraries provide access to materials that were no longer available in physical form, including support in scanning materials for ILS (interlibrary loan) requests. That workflow could have sunsetted as ILS staff came back onsite, but the experience opened the door to the idea of scanning materials for different kinds of workflows. “Now we are scanning materials for the Controlled Digital Lending pilot,” says Assistant Director of Stewardship Wendy Martin, “and will build out those workflows as needed if that becomes a service.”

Transitional projects, which are mostly one-time affairs, gained some added benefit from the peace of campus closure. The pandemic allowed Stewardship staff to approach a project to vacate Battle Hall for a renovation project (as well as some other collection moves) in a more deliberate way than might have otherwise been possible. “The Storage and Logistics team and Architecture team and Preservation team were able to work onsite while the Architecture Library was closed for the pandemic, instead of having to fit the move into an intersession period,” says Martin. “The library was closed, but staff could work onsite preparing materials, and remain socially-distant from each other as they carried out the work. Having that time and space to move that collection out of Battle was beneficial for the move out, and also informs how we will move it all back in.”

Mindset and Headspace. There’s no question that the experiences of the past two years  have affected attitudes and orientation about work/life balance. So in addition to the outward facing changes that directly impact our users, there have been efforts to take into consideration the challenges and varying experiences of Libraries’ staff. There’s a real concern that with a slew of changes like those mentioned here, burnout and exhaustion can loom behind the satisfaction of surviving such an unexpected series of challenges. Units within the Libraries are recognizing a role in making sure that the Libraries’ are taking care of its own, as well as its users.

“While new approaches to our work have been exciting and productive, they are simultaneously overwhelming,” says Jenifer Flaxbart. “Managerially, the Research Support & Digital Initiatives Engagement Team focused on communication, reassurance and ‘grace’ in acknowledging that the many stresses and moving parts and unpredictable, ever-changing conditions regarding physical, psychological and emotional health, living arrangements, family roles and obligations, financial impacts, loss and more. We aimed for those things before the pandemic and continue to give more pronounced focus to those things now.”


As these Libraries move towards certainty, we’ll bring with us lessons learned from the challenges of the last two years. Amid the experimentation – some efforts resulting in success, others not –  there is one perspective that holds both in the last normal and in the next one, stated nicely by Head of Scholarly Communications Colleen Lyon: 

“We are a really service-minded profession and organization. I knew we would do what we had to do to be responsive to our users’ sudden and very different access needs. And we did. I think we spend a lot of time asking what we could do better in this profession of perfectionists, but we need to celebrate our work, too.”


Meet the New Diversity Residents

Established in 2018, the University of Texas Libraries’ Diversity Residency Librarian program offers entry-level librarians from diverse backgrounds the opportunity to develop skills and professional growth while gaining practical experience in an academic library setting. The program is designed to align with the professional goals and interests of the residents as well as the strategic priorities of the Libraries. The program supports the goals of the Association of College & Research Libraries Diversity Alliance program.

This term’s incoming librarians – Jeremy Thompson and Karina Sanchez – began their residencies over the summer remotely, but are now immersed with their initial rotations with significant time spent onsite at the various library locations. We sat down with the pair to get some personal insights and to learn about their expectations for the program.


Tex Libris: Tell us a little bit about your backgrounds – where you’re from, where you studied, what your interests are and what it’s like since you’ve come to the Libraries.

Jeremy Thompson: Well, I call Arizona home, but I’m originally from Indiana. But I moved to Arizona when I was nine and went to the University of Arizona where I did my undergrad. I was a history major and Information Science & eSociety major. And I got my master’s there, too, in library and information science. I have multiple backgrounds in library work. I worked for six years at the Arizona State Museum. Then during that time I also took internships. So, I worked a year and a half of the 390th Memorial Museum, which was a World War II Museum dedicated to the bomber group. Then I worked for two years for UArizona’s special collections and then I did it and I was a junior fellow at the Library of Congress. And when I was graduating I was looking for all kinds of jobs, this position popped up and I told myself digital archives has always been an interest of mine and I just thought of something I could learn on the job somewhere. The original plan was to get a traditional kind job and then just build and becoming a digital archivist. But if I could get into this program and actually focus on digital archives, then that would be great for my career and something I actually wanted to do. I got this career and I’m mainly focusing on when digital archives and digital processing. That’s my main focus and why I’m here.

Karina Sanchez: I’m from Los Angeles, California, and I was born and raised in the valley there. For my undergrad, I went to UC-Irvine, which was like an hour away, and I majored in English and education. And during my undergraduate career, I went to a special collection workshop and that’s where I became interested in working in libraries and specifically special collections. And remember before that I thought, ‘I don’t want to be a librarian – they just sit at the desk, you know?’ But then after that I realized that there’s so much to librarianship and archives and special collections, and there’s so many jobs related to that. Once I graduated from Irvine, I earned a Getty Multicultural Undergraduate internship, but it was at Olvera Street (El Pueblo Historical Monument), which is a historical Mexican monument. From there I went to the Huntington Library, and working there has really informed what I want to do for work. After the Huntington, I got my library information Masters at UCLA, and I thought I wanted to stick with reference. Working there my supervisor, allowed me to critically analyze our space and how it impacts people of color and how it impacts people who just don’t have the privilege to use these spaces. I think that’s where my specific interest is – working with students of color, researchers of color, people who come from low income areas, because their perspective is so important and how research is perceived.

TL: So what made you decide to settle on the residency instead of going directly into a professional career? Was it a learning learning opportunity or was it an experiential opportunity that you saw there?

JT: It was both. I saw this as an opportunity to actually branch out and explore – with it being a three year program, I knew I would be able to take my time. I know that both of us are younger people in the field, so we had time to explore, and I knew I would get the experience that I needed and also be able to explore what I wanted to.

KS: I think I found out about the diversity resident librarianship before I found out that UT Austin had it, and because I had a job, I was not going to stress out too much about it. I needed to focus on graduating. I was just casually looking for stuff, and in January I saw that North Carolina was advertising for a diversity resident librarian. When the UT Austin position popped up, I read the description. There were other positions and I compared it to the other ones, but this one sounded perfect. It was very focused on learning and teaching. I didn’t feel like I needed to know all this stuff before I got in, so it didn’t feel as intimidating as some of the others. And I remember talking to my supervisor at the Huntington – she’s a mentor for me – and she said, “You should apply for this, you’ll learn more than just special collections – you’ll be better, you’ll be rounded out.” And it’s an academic library so it’s really great experience. With her help I applied and I’m happy I was able to get it. 

TL: What are your expectations coming into the program?

KS: I guess my expectations coming in were very much about learning. I had to tell myself, ‘Don’t worry about going in there and feeling like you need to know everything because there’s just so much and this institution is so big.’ The first week of doing my informational interviews I realized that there are librarians for a lot of subject areas that I didn’t even consider. I realized quickly that it is okay to ask questions and learn. And I think that’s the mentality I’ve had – it’s an expectation to learn and to gain skills that I don’t have. Once I’m done with the program, hopefully it will be a bit easier to apply for the ideal librarian job.

JT: I came in wanting to be a digital archivist and that’s my expectation. I remember when I was interviewing for this position, I wanted to make sure it was worth my time because I am experienced. And while I was interviewing for here, I was also interviewing LSU for a manuscript processing possession, which I didn’t get – so (laughing) luckily I got this one. I just wanted to make sure that I that I came in expecting to come out a digital archivist, and making sure that I was going to learn something new. And so far I’ve learned a lot of things, and I’m only five months in.

TL: You both had previous experience in special archives. UT has a depth in special collections, so was there something about the special collections at the university that compelled you to apply here?

KS: Yeah, I remember when I was at UCLA, there’s a librarian there now, T-Kay Sangwand, and I remember seeing one of her presentations about a digitization process at the Benson (Latin American Collection) and the outreach the Libraries did in other countries, and I thought that was really cool. I remember seeing this position open and wondered if I might get the chance to work with the digital initiatives group or to work where T-Kay was working. And then when I reviewed our rotation options, I saw that digital initiative was part of the rotation, and it’s just perfect that it worked out somehow. I’m really excited to work with them and to understand more about the digital initiative outreach that they do. Also the Benson is Latinx-focused, so I’m really excited just to get that perspective because the Huntington was a very European-focused collection, while this collection has more diversity, even though there is still some intrinsic whiteness and colonization.


JT: Coming into it just finding the job posting, I was like, ‘Oh yeah…the University of Texas – that seems like a good place to work.’ Getting into the interview process and doing the research about the Libraries, one of the things I was impressed with is the Black Diaspora Archive (BDA), which I’ll be working on in my next rotation. Being in Arizona and working for their special collections and the Arizona State Museum, I’ve worked with Latinx collections and Native American collections, but I’ve never had the opportunity to work with a Black collection. And for my project at the Library of Congress, I was supposed to work on the African American Collection but it was right as the pandemic started, so they had to go virtual, so I worked in a different collection. Having the opportunity to actually work with a Black collection and learning in my interview from (Black Diaspora Archivist) Rachel Winston that the BDA is new and it doesn’t have a lot of digital components –  just being able to be in on the ground floor for the collection and add in my own piece and my own work to the is to the archives something that I’m excited about.

TL: What are the what are the other areas of interests for you each here? 

JT: Teaching services. One of the things that I’m impressed with again – going back to special collections – is Theresa Polk’s post-custodial, but also teaching what we’re doing. One of the things that I like about archives is the problems encountered and the solutions that come from those, but also having to not only find a solution but also adapt it so it doesn’t just stay with the institution. One of the things that we typically do when we find the solution is create a workflow so that we can inform others how we went about that process, and it can be reverse engineered. That’s one of the things that I enjoy and I plan on focusing on is teaching what we do so that outside communities can do the work, decentralizing the archival process.

TL: So if they are working on a post custodial project and you had the chance to go and do fieldwork with them where they’re teaching folks how to use technology in the field to digitally-preserve resources, would that be something you might jump at?

JT: Yeah, I’ve worked on a similar project in the past. In Tucson, there’s the Dunbar Pavilion school. The Dunbar was the first segregated school for African Americans in Tucson – they were having a reunion – and special collections were on hand with portable scanners to digitize photographs and put them on USB drives. And it wasn’t a requirement that they had to give us a copy, but we asked. It was a process to show people that you can do this yourself, you can preserve your own history. So, yeah, if there was an opportunity to go out in the field and actually do that work and produce onsite metadata, it is something that I would be interested in.

KS: Right now I’m working on an assessment with (Assessment Librarian) Maria Chiochios learning the assessment process and the survey process, and what to assess. There was a lot of assessment that we probably should’ve done at the Huntington, but we didn’t have the time or the staff.  And going back to the Huntington, as with many museums and academic institutions, there are issues with how people use space. I’ve gotten to talk to (User Experience Designer) Melody Ethley about the user experience process and how people use space, how it impacts the research – especially if you’re a person of color. I am interested in understanding how people of color use special collections, since these spaces are not built for them and many haven’t encountered these resources can be a whole new world thus being scary.  Also, at the Huntington, we didn’t have a lot of outreach. I think one of the rotations I’ll be doing is with Teaching and Learning, and I’m excited to work with undergrad students because I never had that chance before. I’ve always worked with professors and PhD students, who already knew exactly what they were doing. I’m excited to work with undergrads who are still trying to figure out what they’re doing and exploring the space. At the Huntington to I was able to develop a virtual reading room during the pandemic, which is basically a service where researchers – whether they’re local or out of the country – able to see our materials virtually through a document camera. In doing that, I realized how important the technology and the digital aspect of special collections are. I’m excited to work with (Benson Digital Scholarship Coordinator) Albert Palacios because he does the Latin American Digital Initiatives, but he also does the outreach and public facing work. I feel like it’s something I don’t know much about and something I’m really interested in and combining those two is exciting. 

TL: You mention people who have traditionally experienced barriers to accessing special collections. What can you hope to gain from your experience here that might help inform improving the situation for people who experience barriers when it comes to special collections? You’re talking about working with researchers – they come in with a very much different attitude than students. If you layer on top of that, these sorts of barriers that affect underrepresented communities, how how do you expect your time here to inform how you might address that in your future work, especially if you’re planning on going back to special collections or spaces where those barriers still exist?

JT: I was a diversity scholar with the Association of Research Libraries. During my time in library school, I was put together with a group of other people from underrepresented groups. And one of the things I enjoy about about digital archives is that it’s new. It’s everyone’s starting from the same starting place. Everyone has photographs, everyone has videos, everyone has that. So where traditional archives are behind the paywall, with digital archives, we’re all starting from the same place. While I’m building the skills, I also have to learn how to adapt them so that people who are not traditionally trained in archives – because one of my focus is while I was in library school was in community archives and the techniques that they use – will have the access and skills to use these resources. Since digital archives is still a fairly new practice, it’s a starting place for everyone and you can gear an approach towards underrepresented groups, so that they can have this new tool to tell their stories and they’re not starting at such a distinct disadvantage.

TL: That’s a really interesting perspective. I hadn’t thought about that, but thinking about the difference between trained scholars and researchers versus students who may be digital native. The new digital landscape might actually start to tip that balance a little bit toward people who haven’t had experience in archives previously. 

KS: I think for me, what I hope to gain from my time in terms of the way I approach librarianship when it comes to working with low income or underprivileged students is through my experience working with undergraduate students. That’s what I’m most excited about. I am first generation college student, I was the first one to go to a university, so it was an unfamiliar experience. Working with students and seeing how they think and how they perceive not only their library space, but their academic career, and being able to empathize – hopefully I can gain some understanding of how they use the space and use that knowledge to make the space for them. From personal experience, I went to one workshop as a first year in an archive that affected my whole career and that showed me that I could be a librarian, and then every time I meet other librarians of color who are ahead in their careers – like Rachel or like Albert – it’s like, ‘Oh, there are people of color and their doing really well in their field. I could do that, too, and hopefully I could have some type of impact.’

TL: Move ahead in time two years, what are you hoping to look back and have gained from your residency? What are some of the other intangible benefits that you want to gain from you experience here? 

KS: I went back home for Thanksgiving, and I was thinking about what I’ve learned so far in the little time I’ve been here, and I realized I’ve been able to work really closely with Maria and I’ve learned so much just working the last few weeks with her. I’ve learned so much about how she carries herself as an assessment librarian. Also as being a co-chair of the Diversity Action Committee and how strong she is. I really admire that and working with (Digital Scholarship Librarian) Allyssa Guzman, and meeting (U.S. Studies Liaison and former diversity resident) Adriana Casarez and the previous diversity residents. I have been able to speak to them about my experience and learn from their own experience working at UT. Their advice has been very helpful in learning how to navigate my role. It really makes me excited to work closely with other people throughout my rotation because I’ve learned so much already, and I’ll be able to learn more and create fruitful relationships that I’ll be able to keep. I’m really excited to create those relationships and to understand how a bigger academic place like this works. Being here, learning about the organization and understanding that will benefit me once I move to a permanent professional position. Talking to Allyssa about people’s positions and how everything is structured has been really helpful because I feel like if I came in here as a librarian, I would feel intimidated to even ask those questions because I would feel like I should know this already, but as a resident, I get the opportunity to ask question and to learn how this library works.

TL: You’ve been working in academic libraries, and you’ve had some experience there. So how is it different for you then?

JT: Well, I’m not a student anymore (laughing). One of the things that Karina hit on that I’ve also noticed is that while doing these interviews, one of the things that – for lack of a better word – has been contagious is that everyone is so energized by the work and that’s one of the things I want to take away from this is not being the student actually but actually being treated as a professional. I want to come out of this feeling like a professional and that I have this subject knowledge, and that I’m able to apply that to other places. In most of the groups that I’ve interacted with, I’ve been a student and someone who’s preparing to be in the in the career. So now when I’m networking, I can talk as a professional and I have contributions to the conversation. That’s one of the things that I want to carry with me when I’m out of this residency program. I think that this is a great incubator for that because it’s a program that’s made to made to support you and make sure that you’re getting what you need. And I think that I think that we will be successful once we’re out of this program, but we’re also given time to explore, to realize what kind of information professional we wouldn’t want to be. 

TL: Why is this program and programs like it important? Is it important at all? 

JT: Yeah. I think, I think it’s really, really important. First, you’re able to rotate different areas, which something that I really like about. I don’t know if other diversity programs do the same way, how Austin does it. And I think it specifically focuses on people of color. I feel like when you see positions like that, you feel more motivated and you feel like you have more of a chance to succeed. And also it’s for people who have just gotten their Master’s and just graduated. So that’s another thing that makes you feel like you have more of a chance to hopefully get this than another librarian job where it might require at least 2-3 years of professional setting and you’re competing with people who have like many more years than you. It’s very important in that aspect. And it’s also important, in a critical sense, to think about the way you are perceived in this type of space, the type of impact you have. As people of color coming from a low income area, it’s not our responsibility to create the change, but if you want to, you have that power, and it feels a little less intimidating being in this position. It gives you a bit more sense of having a voice.

I think it’s important that we recognize that we are the two individuals in this position, out of all the people who applied. We were privileged to be in this position and that in some way we’re flag bearers. There’s a lot of talk in this field about the need for diversity and the need to have diverse perspectives and that as the two individuals in this position and also the other individuals who are in similar programs that it’s our responsibility to no bring the change, but to be the change. The point of being the flagbearer is to make sure in the future that there’s no need for a flagbearer, is that there’s no need for programs like this. So, the point of this program is to make sure that there is no need for programs like this in the future. We kind of have the responsibility to be the best professionals that we can and advocate where we can, because we are the we are the two individuals representing this program. We have to interlink with the other individuals who are in similar programs to make sure that there’s no need for programs like this in the future, because the field will already be diversified.

KS: And to piggyback on Jeremy’s thoughts – not to seem negative – but programs like this do have a performative activism to them, which is an issue. So, I totally agree with Jeremy that hopefully in the future we don’t need these kinds of programs because libraries are diverse enough or we don’t have to have this type of performative work to show that we’re diverse. 

JT: Yeah. Speaking to the performative, I don’t really like public speaking, or, you know, talking to anyone – I would be more than happy to be in my dungeon doing my archival work, just be in this position. But I have to stand up, be counted. Like: Hey, I’m Jeremy Thompson. I’m the diversity resident and I’m in this position and I’m showing you my face. And that’s important.

Illuminating Explorations: Elsewhere and Otherwise

By Nathan Alexander Moore, doctoral candidate, Department of African and African Diaspora Studies

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

I am so very excited and deeply honored to present my spotlight exhibition, “Elsewhere & Otherwise: Imagination & Worldmaking in the Black Queer Studies Collection.” As a Black transfemme writer and scholar, these materials means the world to me. Literally, this collection of writers, thinkers, theorists, and filmmakers opened up a whole new world for me in terms of creative expression and critical inquiry. The works highlighted in this exhibit are both canonical and cutting edge, instantiating a tradition but also charting out new territories of possible exploration.

It is my hope that various users and audience members will be inspired to engage these works, while also understanding just how impressive their creators are. Sadly, more often than not, Black queer creators are asterisks in the historical record, overlooked, and sequestered in some minor corner in the archive. What the Black Queer Studies Collection demonstrates is how prolific and significant Black queer creators have been and still are. This exhibit presents how imperative it is to have Black queer cultural productions centered in the telling of our collective history and the charting of our most audacious futures. 

This exhibit is far from exhaustive in displaying all the holdings in the Black Queer Studies Collection, and purposefully so. Rather than trying to pin down one definitive master narrative of the collection, this exhibit has been constructed as a point of departure, a space of generative wonder, a line of flight. Rather than attempting to capture and document all the knowledge held within the collection, this exhibit is my endeavor to open multiple doors into viewing and appreciating Black queer art and thought. This exhibition is a suggestion, an offer, an invitation.

Won’t you come elsewhere with me, and imagine otherwise?

Nathan Alexander Moore (she/they) is a doctoral candidate in the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies, and Good Systems Humanist-In-The-Loop Graduate Research Fellow at the Harry Ransom Center.


This exhibit was completed as a part of the Humanist-in-the-Loop project, funded by UT’s Good Systems grand challenge. The project aims to bring graduate students in the humanities and their expertise into the loop of library data projects.

Read, Hot & Digitized: Land and Belonging

BY DANIEL ARBINO

Read, hot & digitized: Librarians and the digital scholarship they love — In this series, librarians from the UT Libraries 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.

At a recent talk I gave, an audience member asked me, “What are the strengths of the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection?”

It’s a question I receive often, though I don’t know if I’ve ever given a satisfactory answer. I often point to our historical Mexican archival collections, our collections of women writers and artists, and our US Latinx collections pertaining to civil rights. The truth is that I think the Benson does everything well. We have outstanding Brazilian collections, unique and important Caribbean materials, and strong representation in the Southern Cone. We know we can’t collect everything, but we sure try to anyway.

Some of our most recognizable materials are the Relaciones Geográficas, late-sixteenth-century surveys with maps that came with the Joaquin Garcia Icazbalceta purchase in 1937. The aim was for the Spanish crown to have a deeper understanding of the provinces surrounding what is today Mexico City. Were there waterways to transport goods? Mines to excavate precious gold and silver? The Relaciones have been the subject of books and digital projects, confirming their relevance for posterity.

Relación de Cuzcatlán (1580), located in present-day Tlaxcala. Benson Latin American Collection.

I mention the RGs, as we affectionately call them, because they came to mind when I recently viewed a 1614 painting of a Bogotá savanna in Colombia titled La Pintura de las tierras pantanos y anegadizos del pueblo de Bogotá. Like the Relaciones Geográficas, art and cartography combine in this stunning piece, which was used as evidence in a trial to determine if landowner Francisco Maldonado y Mendoza had defrauded the Spanish crown on his way to accruing vast tracts of land at cheap prices.

La Pintura de las tierras pantanos y anegadizos del pueblo de Bogotá (1614) blends cartography and art to help settle a legal dispute.

This map became the focus of a digital project called Colonial Landscapes: Redrawing Andean Territories in the Seventeenth Century, in which Dr. Santiago Muñoz Arbelaez led a team from across the Americas, including the University of Connecticut, la Universidad de los Andes, Neogranadina, and la Biblioteca Nacional de Colombia, to explore the social and political environment of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Colombia while considering land rights and Indigeneity. The project, which is available in Spanish and English, goes well beyond the digitization of one piece. In the “tour” section of the site, context is provided with the use of stunning rare materials. A portrait of Maldonado y Mendoza allows us to visualize the land baron. Other primary sources, both 2D and 3D, such as early textual and cartographic descriptions of cities and towns provided by Colombia’s national archive, are utilized to delve deeper. In the “Explore” section of the site, users can engage with different aspects of the main map in question.

1758 Map of Sopó, Colombia

However, the highlight of this project is taking a map that discusses landownership between two European entities (Maldonado y Mendoza and the Spanish crown) and inserting Indigenous rights and notions of belonging into the matter. The Muisca are considered at length in this project as the rightful inheritors of the land. The Muisca Confederation was a group of loosely affiliated sovereign regions that made up nearly 10,000 square miles in Colombia when the Spaniards arrived.in 1499.  They had the knowledge to cultivate crops in the savanna and to understand the region’s flora and fauna as well as extensive knowledge of metalworking and salt-mining. Images of Muisca ceramic figures demonstrate a rich culture whose trajectory was upended with the arrival of European colonizers. To that end, the exhibit also shows how Europeans created negative representations of the Muisca to justify the violent imposition of a new order. As land acknowledgements are negotiated and spoken in conversations emanating from sites of power, it is precisely this portion of the project that makes it so timely and necessary. Projects like Colonial Landscapes propose interesting pathways toward digital repatriation while contextualizing our understanding of the past and present. 

Muisca votive figure (600-1600), currently housed in Colombia’s Museo del Oro

Feature image: Relación de Atengo y Misquiahuala, 1579. Benson Latin American Collection.


Daniel Arbino is head of collection development at the Benson Latin American Collection, The University of Texas at Austin.

Human Rights Documentation Initiative Receives Major Web Upgrade to Improve Access and Functionality

By DAVID A. BLISS

The Human Rights Documentation Initiative (HRDI) is a collaborative archival project aimed at preserving and promoting the use of fragile human rights records from around the world, in order to support human rights advocates working for the defense of vulnerable communities and individuals. The HRDI was established at the University of Texas Libraries with a generous grant from the Bridgeway Foundation in 2008. Additionally, the Human Rights Documentation Initiative has partnered with the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice to identify key strategic issues for the initiative as well as provide relevant programming to the UT Austin community and beyond.

The HRDI preserves and provides access to paper-based collections, as well as digitized and born-digital audiovisual collections that are global in scope. Recognizing the importance of online human rights advocacy and the fragility of web content, the HRDI also maintains an archive of websites related to human rights issues, which is updated quarterly.

HRDI partners and collections page in Spanish. Many pages on the new site are available in both Spanish and English. This page lists all current members and their contributed collections.

A number of the collections found on this site have been preserved and made available through post-custodial archival collaborations between the HRDI and partner organizations and repositories. Post-custodialism is a collaborative approach to providing access to archival collections that preserves physical archives within their original contexts of creation while also creating digital copies for wider access. Through these collaborations, the HRDI aims to support the development of partners’ archival capacity, particularly in the areas of digitization, preservation, arrangement, description, and access.

View of the HRDI media player and metadata display. All videos published on the site are accompanied by subtitles and descriptive metadata. Source page.

About the New Platform

The new version of the HRDI site integrates streaming, search, and browse functionality alongside information about each project partner and the HRDI web archive in a single mobile-friendly interface. To fully accommodate international audiences, several pages are available in both English and Spanish, including those describing Spanish-language collections. The previous HRDI website launched in 2008 and was retired in 2020, when Adobe Flash was discontinued. An archived copy of the previous site and the retired HRDI blog are each available via the Wayback Machine.

Selections

Radio Venceremos

Radio Venceremos, the rebel radio station that broadcast from the mountains of Morazán, El Salvador, during the eleven-year Salvadoran Civil War (1981–1992), produced an important collection of recordings that contain valuable historic, anthropological, and ethnographic information, particularly in regards to human rights violations during an era of social transformation in Central America. This recording from December 31, 1981, contains an interview with Rufina Amaya about the massacre at El Mozote: Radio Venceremos Recording

Chammah and Young 1976 Oral History on the Jewish Community in Syria

Four-part account of Albert Chammah and Oran Young’s 1976 visit to Syria to investigate the political, social, and economic status of the Jewish community there. The account details the contemporary size of the Jewish communities in several Syrian cities, formal restrictions imposed by the Syrian government, and general social discrimination. Albert Chammah was a professor at UT Austin, while Oran Young was a graduate student at the time: Conversation between Albert Chammah and Oren Young

This account was transferred from two cassette tapes, donated to the HRDI by Albert Chammah’s son Maurice. Maurice Chammah is an Austin-based journalist and staff writer for The Marshall Project, focusing on capital punishment and the criminal justice system in the United States.

TAVP: Texas After Violence Project

Still from the Texas After Violence Project (TAVP) oral history interview with Donna Hogan, filmed in December 2009. The new HRDI site contains a variety of streaming audio and video collections, made available using a mobile-friendly interface.

Texas After Violence Project (TAVP) is a human rights and restorative justice project that studies the effects of interpersonal and state violence on individuals, families, and communities. The collection includes hundreds of hours of personal testimony that serves as a resource for community dialogue and public policy to promote alternative, nonviolent ways to prevent and respond to violence. Watch: Interview with Donna Hogan


David A. Bliss is digital archivist at the University of Texas Libraries.

Inaugural Open Education Fellows Announced

The University of Texas Libraries is pleased to announce the cohort in the Open Education Fellows pilot program. A competitive application process yielded many high impact proposals, and the selection committee undertook the difficult task of narrowing the outstanding crowd to officially name three Open Education Fellows who will convert their courses to zero-cost required materials through the adoption of existing open educational resources (OER) and one team of Open Education Fellows who will develop their own OER to serve students at The University of Texas at Austin and beyond.

Please join us in congratulating the Adoption / Adaptation Fellows, Dr. Joel Nibert (Department of Mathematics), Dr. Diane McDaniel Rhodes (School of Social Work), and Dr. Amy Kristin Sanders (School of Journalism and Media), as well as the team of Authorship Fellows, Dr. Joshua Frank, Dr. Delia Montesinos, and Mina Ogando Lavin (Department of Spanish & Portuguese). Their work over the next year will impact students enrolled in the following courses:

  • M 358K: Applied Statistics
  • SPN 367D: Business in Hispanic Life and Culture
  • SW 334: The Practice of Social Work in Organizations and Communities
  • TC 302: The Surveillance State

The average price of a new, print textbook is a little over $65 at The University of Texas at Austin, per the University Co-op, but electronic resources and access codes can often cost students much more. Open Education Fellows aim to cumulatively save students enrolled in their courses thousands of dollars each semester by switching from commercial textbooks and other materials to OER and other freely available resources. The open licenses assigned to OER allow students to access course content immediately and at no cost. Beyond this benefit, these open licenses also permit instructors to make copies and customize materials in ways that better serve students’ interests and their learning outcomes. Authorship Fellows will apply open licenses to the works they create and contribute them back to the OER ecosystem for other instructors to discover, adopt, and adapt.

The Libraries will provide Fellows with professional development opportunities to support their activities in finding, evaluating, and/or creating OER as well as stipends to offset the time and effort that we recognize these activities take. In addition to OER adoption and creation, Fellows will share their experiences by participating in Libraries’ events and collect anonymous student perceptions or outcomes data to understand the impact of adopting OER and other no-cost materials in their courses.

The Libraries hopes that the work undertaken by the Open Education Fellows will serve as a model to other instructors who are interested in reducing the financial burden of course materials costs for their students. Vice Provost and Director of the University of Texas Libraries at The University of Texas at Austin Lorraine J. Haricombe has been a longtime advocate for open education and OER adoption.

“When faculty remain informed of OER initiatives at their institutions, there is an increased awareness of these resources and an increased reported likelihood of consideration of future OER adoption,” says Haricombe. “I am delighted to see UT’s first cohort of Open Education Fellows and Authors who will work with UT Libraries to unleash their creative endeavors to innovate how we educate our students.”

The cohort of Open Education Fellows will begin their work in January 2022. Adaptation / Adoption Fellows will integrate OER into their courses by Fall 2022, and Authorship Fellows will have a usable draft of their OER ready by Spring 2023.

Read, Hot and Digitized: “The Death of Ivan Ilich”: An Electronic Study Edition of the Russian Text

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 project “The Death of Ivan Ilich”: An Electronic Study Edition of the Russian Text, based at the University of Minnesota Libraries, is an openly published resource highlighting how digital media can supplement and enhance the close reading of literature. The project contains the text of Lev Tolstoy’s novella The Death of Ivan Ilich in multiple formats, including the original Russian with an English translation side-by-side, versions with hyperlinked  explanatory and interpretive annotations, contextual introductory remarks by the project’s author, and an extensive bibliography. This is an important resource for any serious study of Tolstoy’s work, and it being made available in an open and remixable format is a boon for students and instructors alike.

The project’s homepage, featuring a brief description, license information, and links to read and download the book.

Tolstoy’s novella is a seminal work of world literature, and is studied broadly both in translation and the original Russian. Useful as a tool for students both of the Russian language and of Russian literature, this bilingual edition bridges the gap between language pedagogy and general literary study. The original Russian text–published in 1886–is in the public domain, as is the English translation by Louise and Aylmer Maude. The introduction, annotations and selected bibliography by Gary R. Jahn, Professor of Russian Language and Literature at the University of Minnesota, are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license. This license allows users to share and adapt the text–that is, “copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format” and “remix, transform, and build upon the material” as long as the license terms are followed.

The main interface for the project was built in Pressbooks, a platform that allows users to create and share openly published digital editions of  books that can also be downloaded as PDFs. The edition includes its own identifying ISBN, allowing for easy citation, and is highly interactive. For example, the glossed version of the text, includes linked annotations that can be clicked on to read as you go through the text. Some of these annotations also include images illustrating elements of the text that may be opaque to contemporary readers; one, for example, includes an image of a funeral announcement from 19th-century Russia. These very helpful annotations can be viewed in both the English and the Russian versions of the text.

A portion of the book showing Russian and English text side by side.

This edition is an important contribution both to open scholarship and the study of Russian literature. Allowing students and researchers to easily compare and contrast the original Russian with the translation in an accessible digital format is very helpful, as are the many explanatory notes and annotations included in the project. Furthermore, the bibliographies of both primary and secondary sources in multiple categories allows both the casual reader and the more dedicated student or scholar to explore further. In short, this online edition is a valuable example of the extensive and interoperatible possibilities of digital scholarship and open publishing.

For more information, please consult the UTL resources below:

Danaher, David S. “A Cognitive Approach to Metaphor in Prose: Truth and Falsehood in Leo Tolstoy’s ‘The Death of Ivan Il’ich.’” Poetics today 24, no. 3 (2003): 439–469.

Jackson, Robert Louis., and Horst-Jürgen Gerigk. Close Encounters Essays on Russian Literature / Robert Louis Jackson. Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2013.

Jahn, Gary R. Tolstoy’s the Death of Ivan Ilʹich : a Critical Companion / Edited by Gary R. Jahn. Evanston, Ill: Northwestern University Press, 1999.

Tolstoy, Leo, and Michael R. Katz. Tolstoy’s Short Fiction : Revised Translations, Backgrounds and Sources, Criticism / Edited and with Revised Translations by Michael R.  Katz. 2nd ed. New York: Norton & Co., 2008.

Collection Highlight: The Field Maps Of Roland T. Fenton

Every year the United States honors women and men who have served the U.S. armed forces during war and peacetime on the anniversary of the end of World War I, November 11. Originally called Armistice Day, Veterans Day celebrated and honored the soldiers that lost their lives in World War I. In 1954, after World War II and the Korean War, the federal holiday was officially expanded to celebrate and honor all veterans.

The UT Libraries honors veterans by telling their stories, preserving their legacy in our collections, and making the materials that meant something to them available to researchers for generations to come.

This Veterans Day, we are highlighting a collection of field maps and charts that belonged to Colonel Roland T. Fenton, a veteran of World War I and World War II. We are excited to tell part of his story through the maps he used in the field with an online exhibit, the Field Maps of Colonel Roland T. Fenton.

hand-drawn map depicting Givry, France. Shows built areas, railway line, roads, and vegetation. Hand colored. Purple and blue ink on paper.
Plan of Givry: scale 1:4,000. “July [day illegible], 1918” This hand-drawn map from World War I shows built areas, a railway line, roads, and vegetation is the only manuscript in this collection.

Aside from some basic biographical information, we know very little about Col. Fenton. We know that he spent 28 years of his life serving in the U.S. Army, and in that time, he was infantry and infantry support in both World Wars. And he managed to preserve some essential tools of his deployment, his maps. The fact that these maps survived the treacheries of war is incredible. After Col. Fenton died, his family donated his military effects to the Army Heritage Center who offered UT Libraries the maps to fill in missing maps from our online Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection. They exceed our expectations. The field printing and annotations alone make them exceptional, but also many were classified. We are fortunate to be able to preserve and share them with generations to come.

Detail of 1918 map of Château-Thierry, France depicting Belleau, France. The paper is weathered, brown and shows crease marks, with topographic lines, buildings, roads, rail lines, and town name. There are faded notations in black pencil.
This detail of Château-Thierry: 29 Juin 1918 depicts Belleau, France. On July 18, 1918, (then) Lt. Fenton’s actions earned him the second-highest military decoration, the Distinguished Service Cross.

Visit the UT Libraries’ Exhibit to learn more about Col. Fenton and the context of his collection. The images accompanying this post and the exhibit are a fraction of the 84 maps in the Field Maps of Colonel Roland T. Fenton in the UT Libraries Collections portal.

Map of Darmstadt from 1944. There is an overprint of circles surrounding two cities connected by a line to two symbols. One symbol is a crescent and the other is a funnel. These symbols represent classes of supplies for combat units in World War 1. The crescent symbolizes rations and comfort items. The funnel symbolizes petroleum, oil, and lubricants.
This copy of the Darmstadt map has two overprint annotations, one circle around Gr. Gerau [Groß-Gerau] northwest of Darmstadt, connected to a second circle in the upper left margin enclosing a solid black crescent symbol and one circle around Truppen-Übungspl. Southwest of Darmstadt with a line connected to a second circle in the upper left margin encircling a solid black symbol of a funnel with a handle. The symbols indicate classes of supplies.
Detail of symbols overprinted on map of Darmstadt from 1944. There is an overprint of circles surrounding two cities connected by a line to two symbols. One symbol is a crescent and the other is a funnel. These symbols represent classes of supplies for combat units in World War 1. The crescent symbolizes rations and comfort items. The funnel symbolizes petroleum, oil, and lubricants.
Detail of overprinted symbols representing supply classes; the crescent symbolizes Rations and the funnel symbolizes Petroleum, Oil, and Lubricants (POL).

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