Field Notes Photography Exhibition Showcases Student Research in Latin America

Each fall, LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections invites graduate and undergraduate students from all departments and disciplines across the university to submit photographs to the Field Notes student photography exhibition. Thirty images are chosen for display in the Benson Latin American Collection. Through these images, student photographers document moments from their research on Latin America or US Latina/o communities.

In addition to showcasing student research, the exhibition awards prizes of $250 to two student photographers. The winning photos are chosen in a blind competition by a panel of faculty and staff.

Fall 2019 marks the tenth anniversary of the photography show, originally conceived by Adrian Johnson, librarian for Caribbean studies and head of user services at the Benson. In this Tex Libris post, we give a glimpse of this beautiful and varied exhibition, and invite readers to visit the Benson to view all of the photos.

The announcement for Field Notes 10 used “La limpia,” show in the Field Notes 9 show, and taken in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, by LLILAS PhD candidate Nathalia Ochoa.

Through her research with Mexican migrants in Austin, prize-winner Maribel Bello created the Facebook page Rancho Querido, which she calls “an emotional-visual-exchange bridge” for sharing of images showing everyday activities in Mexico. Her winning photo shows children playing hide-and-seek. Bello is a master’s student in Latin American Studies at the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies (LLILAS).

“Yo mejor me escondo,” by Maribel Bello, was taken in La Cueva, Guanajuato, Mexico.

In his untitled prize-winning photo (below), Arisbel López Andraca, a PhD student in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, depicts a religious procession in Havana, Cuba. López has been researching the visuality of “daily religious practices” in the streets of Havana, noting the considerable increase in the circulation of “dressed dolls” or “spiritual dolls” as representations of orichas, spiritual entities, or eggungun.

“Untitled,” by Arisbel López Andraca, taken in Havana, Cuba, shows a woman carrying a dressed doll in the procession of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre.

LLILAS PhD candidate Ricardo Velasco looks at “cultural initiatives for memory and reconciliation in the context of Colombia’s current transitional justice conjuncture.” He conducted ethnographic research in Comuna 13, he says, to inquire about “how youth visual culture has contributed to the transformation of what once was one of the urban epicenters of Colombia’s armed conflict.”

“Comuna 13, Medellín,” by Ricardo Velasco. The photo depicts the built environment of Medellín as seen from Comuna 13.

Pablo Millalen Lepin, a LLILAS PhD student, studies public policies toward indigenous people in his native Chile. His photo reflects the meaning of ranching and livestock ownership for Indigenous Mapuche families, for whom “the possession of an animal can be interpreted as part of the local economy, and/or the promise of future work, principally in the area of agriculture.”

“El pequeño toro solitario / The Lonely Little Bull,” by Pablo Millalen Lepin, taken in Lof Mañiuko, a Mapuche community in the South of Chile.

To see and enjoy all of the photographs, visit the exhibition in the first-floor corridor of the Benson Latin American Collection during library hours. Exhibition runs through December 2019.

Feature image, top, taken in Boyacá, Colombia, by Sofia Mock, undergraduate in Plan II.

Read, Hot and Digitized: This is Not an Atlas

Read, hot & digitized: Librarians and the digital scholarship they love — In this series, librarians from UTL’s Arts, Humanities and Global Studies Engagement Team briefly present, explore and critique existing examples of digital scholarship. 

This Is Not an Atlas is a continuation of a book of the same name, subtitled “A Global Collection of Counter-Cartographies.” Critical geography proposes that maps are never neutral, but rather reflect views of the map maker, often those in power. Counter-mapping, or creating counter-cartographies, refers to the use of maps to reframe the world in such a way as to challenge dominant power structures and to articulate alternative, progressive and even radical interests (Kitchin, et al., 2011).

In the spring of 2015, kollektiv orangotango, a self-described network of critical geographers, friends, and activists who deal with questions regarding space, power, and resistance, sent out a call for maps in English, German and Spanish. Overwhelmed by the response and realizing that many of the maps submitted are dynamic, they decided to create a website to, not only highlight projects from the print edition, but also to “continue to share maps, struggles, projects, texts, and inspirations online.” Here I highlight a counter-mapping project that successfully deals with the politics of in/visibility, as described in Emancipatory Mapmaking: Lessons from Kibera.

Map Kibera was initiated after a group of geographers attending a mapping conference in Nairobi, Kenya noticed that Kibera, one of Africa’s largest informal settlements, was not mapped. In fact, they discovered that authorities had labeled and designated the Kibera Slum as a forest. How could a community with an estimated population of 250,000 people be omitted from official maps of Nairobi? Two geographers who were also interested in open source mapping decided they wanted to change this. In October 2009, Mikel Maron and Erica Hagen started the Map Kibera project to address “the glaring omission of roughly a quarter-million of Nairobi’s inhabitants from mass communications and city representation and policy decisions” (Hagen, 2011).

Current (09/09/2019) image of Kibera in Google Maps.
Current (09/09/2019) image of Kibera in Google Maps.
Detail view of Kibera in Google Maps yields little detail about the community.
Detail view of Kibera in Google Maps yields little detail about the community.

Kibera is too densely populated to rely on satellite data for mapping. Maron and Hagan knew they would need to map it from the ground. They recruited a dozen young residents to be “mappers,” gave them GPS devices, and sent them to collect data by creating “traces,” a GPS-enabled process that tracks and records your physical location. The mappers interviewed residents and collected observational data, such as the names of clinics, schools, and businesses, locations of water pumps, public baths, and other “points of interest” along their routes as well. The team then added the data to OpenStreetMap (OSM), a crowdsourced world map that relies on user-generated content to create geographic data that is relevant and available to everyone. And within three weeks they had created an incredibly dense map of Kibera for the world to see. But more importantly, a map of Kibera that was extremely useful to residents.

Kibera in OpenStreetMap (09/09/2019)
Kibera in OpenStreetMap (09/09/2019)

The project did not stop there; they immediately created, printed, and distributed maps of clinics and schools within the community. And a security map of Kibera warning of areas to avoid and illustrating places to get help. And have since formed the Map Kibera Trust, created the Voice of Kibera, a platform for citizen reporting, and replicated their model in other marginalized communities in Nairobi.

Map Kibera is just one counter-mapping project highlighted in This Is Not an Atlas. Visit the site to discover situational maps defending traditional territories of the Amazon; a documentation of human rights violations in Rio de Janeiro’s Favelas; an anti-eviction mapping project that started in the Bay Area and has expanded its scope; a crowdsourcing project that helps people locate public toilets in an Indian megacity; and many more counter-cartographies.

The book is as beautiful as the website; visit the UT Libraries to see it in person. If you’re interested in learning more about critical geography and counter-mapping, I highly recommend Rethinking the Power of Maps and the Map Reader. Map Kibera initiators, Erica Hagen, and Mikel Maron later founded the Ground Truth Initiative. Visit their project page to find out about other counter-mapping projects they are working with, such as Grassroots Jerusalem.

Whit’s Picks: Take 6 – Gems from the HMRC

Resident poet and rock and roll star Harold Whit Williams is in the midst of 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 1Take 2Take 3Take 4, Take 5

Parts & Labor / Stay Afraid

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

Brooklyn’s Parts & Labor droned and thrashed in somewhat obscurity for exactly one decade (2002-2012), but left behind an impressive slab of noise pop albums in the vein of early Hüsker Dü, or a more song-oriented Lightning Bolt. Stay Afraid pushes the faders all the way up with its scorched earth feedback and fuzz, its electronica squeal and hyper-manic drumming, but those sugar-sweet vocal hooks are still up there in the mix (somehow!) front and center. 

Sid Selvidge / A Little Bit Of Rain

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

Selvidge, the late great Mississippi Renaissance Man (songwriter/anthropologist/radio producer/record label owner), graciously bequeaths us this collection of Americana classics, with a couple of topnotch originals to boot. His protean vocals moan and yodel on country standards such as Long Black Veil and Swannanoa Tunnel, then growl and screech on old-time rocker Real Thing. Recorded in his adopted hometown of Memphis with gorgeous and understated production by the legendary Jim Dickinson, the songs drip with Delta sincerity, simultaneously breaking the heart while nurturing the lovesick soul.

My Brightest Diamond / Bring Me The Workhorse

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

Avant pop singer-songwriter Shara Nova (previously Worden) simply sparkles and shines as My Brightest Diamond. Utilizing her classical voice training from the University of North Texas, Nova served as guest/backup vocalist for the likes of Sufjan Steven, The Decemberists, Laurie Anderson, and David Byrne. But on her debut studio album, Bring Me The Workhorse, she combines these masterful vocals with a slightly skewed, shadowy songcraft that presents something uniquely her own. The etherealness of Kate Bush; the edginess of PJ Harvey. A Goth pop instant classic.

Marc Cary Focus Trio / Live 2009

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

NYC pianist and McCoy Tyner acolyte Cary leads his Focus Trio (bassist David Ewell, drummer/percussionist Sameer Gupta) into jazz hinterlands on this mesmerizing concert recording. A droning intonation of Monk’s classic ‘Round Midnight starts things off, then the trio lets things unravel artfully with intense originals. Cary’s piano beseeches us to hear those notes between the notes while his rhythm section hard bops like a most welcome punch in the gut. Gupta’s classical Indian tabla is highlighted on KC Bismillah Khan, and audio of Malcolm X and Dr. King speeches weave their way in to the mix (Runnin’ Out of Time, and Slow Blues for MLK), adding a historical gravitas to what is already a truly heavy experience. Metaphysical, moving, and masterful.

Soledad Brothers / Voice of Treason

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

The Soledad Brothers were White Stripes garage rock fellow travelers back in the day (guitarist Johnny Walker taught Jack White how to play slide, while White produced their debut album). Having said that, the Ohio natives became more Sticky Fingers than Seven Nation Army. Their third album, Voice of Treason, finds them not only stomping and hollering tried and true swaggering blues, but also mellowing out on tracks such as the sweet and soulful Muscle Shoals-inspired Only Flower In My Bed, or the acoustic Delta-tinged Sons of Dogs. Dig that warm analog tape sound captured by UK producer Liam Watson.  

[Harold Whit Williams is a Content Management Specialist in Music & Multimedia Resources. He writes poetry, is guitarist for the critically acclaimed rock band Cotton Mather, and releases lo-fi guitar-heavy indie pop as DAILY WORKER.]

Art History Prof Shares Black Press Collection

Friend of the University of Texas Libraries and Art History Professor Eddie Chambers has curated a collection of publications for a display in the reading room at the Fine Arts Library.

Chambers’ exhibit — “Recognizing the History of Black Magazine Publishing in the US” — features selections from his personal collection that represent the burgeoning of an independent press which spoke to the experience of African Americans in the late 20th Century, and includes examples from the period of the publications Ebony, Ebony Jr!, Jet, Black World, Negro Digest and Freedomways.

The exhibit is on display during regular Fine Arts Library hours through the fall semester.

Selection of Jet magazines from the late 20th century.

What motivated you to curate the display?

Eddie Chambers, Professor, Art History: I have over the years collected, for research purposes, various magazines and journals, going back a number of decades. These magazines and journals have particular relevance to African American history, culture, politics, identity, and so on. Some of these I’ve assembled for the current FAL display. I am always attracted to vintage, archival items such as these as they enable us to get a direct feel, not only of the graphics and aesthetics of the times during which they were published, but in reading their texts, we get a direct sense of arguments, reportage and opinions, again, from the respective times.

As with so many things that carry an ‘African American’ prefix, we can perhaps trace the establishment of the Black press to a reluctance by the white-dominated media to pay proper and respectful attention to the agendas of African Americans. Magazines such as Ebony were important for a wide range of reasons including the readership’s ability to keep apprised of the ins and outs of Black celebrity lives, the ins and outs of the struggle for civil rights, going back many a decade, and the ins and outs of stories and issues that lay at the heart of African American existence. With the spectacular growth of the internet, the publishing media is in general, in various levels of retreat. This applies also to the Black press and the display points to the ways in which magazines published weekly or monthly were such an important and necessary means by which African Americans gleaned a wide range of information. And in Ebony magazine, the adverts are as entertaining as can be! It’s not hard for us to be inclined to the view that contemporary issues are different from those people thought about and acted on in decades gone by. Seeing magazines such as these, we might think, or realize, that issues we are concerned with or interested in at the present time, go back years, and decades.

Where are the materials from? 

EC: I have collected the materials over the course of a number of years. Most of the material relates to some or other aspect of my research. For example, I recently acquired a copy of an Ebony issue that trailed on its front cover a feature on the quest for a Black Christ. Sourcing this came about because I am editing a volume – the Routledge Companion to African American Art History – which contains a text by a scholar, looking at visualizations of Christ and Christianity by African American artists. I wanted to double-check quotations by her, from this Ebony issue, in her essay. Material such as these magazines and journals are not frequently available to researchers and scholars, without considerable effort, so I find myself constantly sourcing such material. Having acquired items, I am always keen to share the material, which is why I periodically undertake displays such as this, in the Fine Arts Library (FAL). Right now, I have different archival material loaned out for exhibits that are currently on view at both the Blanton Museum and the Christian Green Gallery, here at UT Austin.

Copy of Ebony Magazine with Jackie Robinson on the cover.

What do you see as the major impacts of the selected publications? 

EC: The types of materials on view represent some of the sources African Americans had to turn to, in order to read stories that reflected themselves. Television was of course very poor at offering anything that was not considered of primarily mainstream (i.e. white) interest. Black publishing — and the adverts it carried — offered a vital route through which African Americans could source hair care products or, more generally, see adverts that featured people who looked like them. The importance of this cannot be overstated.

These magazines were also an environment that stimulated and gave work to Black journalists at a time when the mainstream media was frequently reluctant to. Photographers, typesetters, journalists, sub editors, layout artists, etc., all professionally benefitted from the Black press. We might think that in the modern age, people’s attention spans might be somewhat skewed or compressed, but the stories presented in some of these Black magazines enabled substantial, engaged, complex stories to be told, as well as the lives, loves, and ups and downs of Black celebrity life, to be digested. Of course, a pocket-sized magazine such as Jet offered its readers information in decidedly bite-sized chunks.

The perpetual, systemic framing of African Americans within the white dominated media was one of them as being ‘problems’. African Americans tended to realize that the framing of them as having problems was but a short hop skip and jump away from them being problems. The formidable perception, framed and maintained by the white controlled media, of America having first, Negro, then Afro American, then African American problems was more than enough to persuade African Americans of the need to maintain, for their own sense of self, a Black press that respected the multi-dimensionality of their selfhood. The Black press enabled African Americans to see themselves not as cardboard cutout problems, but as complex human beings who existed in the round.

Of course, it must be added that African Americans relied on the Black press to carry nuanced, informed analyses of the problems they had. In this sense, a profound manifestation of empathy existed between the Black press and its clientele.

Selection of Ebony, Jr. magazines.

How did this era of the Black press influence the representation of African Americans in modern media? 

EC: Modern media is of course vastly different from publishing in decades gone by. One of the biggest influences is perhaps the ways in which white-controlled media has diversified, to an extent, its content. Quite rightly, we expect the New Yorker, the New York Times, and a slew of other media to carry stories that speak to the country’s diversity, including of course, that of the African American demographic. Diversified media content has in its own way perhaps worked to lessen the impact and importance of a distinctly African American branch of publishing. 

There is of course still huge amounts of work to be done, but at the present time, the wholesale exclusion of African Americans from mainstream media, as was the case in decades gone by, is arguably less of an issue at the present time.

Benson’s Latinx zines on view at Gordon-White Building

By Daniel Arbino, Librarian for U.S. Latina/o Studies

They are colorful, vibrant, tongue-in-cheek, eclectic, expressive, melancholic, and political. They are self-published, sold, traded, and given away. Extremely rare, but inexpensive. And now, they are on display. The University of Texas at Austin’s Latino Studies has a flashy new exhibition in the halls of the Gordon-White Building (GWB). Made up of self-published poetry, essays, photographs, short stories, and artwork, Dissent: Zine Culture (And the Voices You Wouldn’t Hear Otherwise) highlights the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection’s U.S. Latinx Zine and Graphic Novel Collection with over forty zines.

The term “zine” is derived from fanzine, a form of expression that started in the 1930s among science fiction fans. Zines took off in the 1960s among countercultures, particularly those invested in socio-political activism that may have identified with civil rights movements, the Chicano movement, Feminism, LGBTQ+, etc. From the 1970s to the 1990s, zines continued to grow, especially through punk communities. Now, zines are more popular than ever, with a variety of subject matter that can be disseminated using twenty-first-century technologies like social media or Etsy.

What makes zines so important is that they provide an outlet for groups that have been overlooked or silenced by mainstream society and, by extension, publishers. Through self-publishing, creators of cultural content have autonomy over their content and design. This would resonate with the intersectionality flourishing within Latinx communities.

From “Being Half Guatemalan” by Breeña Núñez. Benson Latin American Collection.

The origins of the U.S. Latinx Zine and Graphic Novel Collection started in the summer of 2017 with the single purchase of Chifladazine at the Lone Star Zine Fest in Austin. Since then, the collection has grown in its size and uniqueness with additional purchases made on trips to San Antonio, New York City, and Albuquerque. Other zines have been purchased online over the span of two years. The collection currently consists of 259 zines, graphic novels, and chapbooks that focus on U.S. Latinx zine creators. Some Indigenous writers are included as well. The Benson’s oldest zine is from 1984, but the majority were published within the last decade.

One particular interest has been on different, but inclusive, Latinx voices, with a special privilege given to feminist and LGBTQ+ expressions. Within the collection, there zines about Xicana veganism, traditional knowledge systems, gentrification, immigration, and body positivity that dismantle ways in which mainstream society thinks about these topics. Their relevance underscores the fact that zines provide a documented record of opposition, hence the exhibition title.

“La Horchata” arts magazine. Benson Latin American Collection.

Curated by Mallory Laurel, the Director of Outreach and Communications for Latino Studies, Dissent: Zine Culture (And the Voices You Wouldn’t Hear Otherwise) recognizes the power that self-publishing has as a means to challenge accepted mainstream ideas while attracting the attention of students with their eye-catching formats. The exhibit is thematically structured around seven different themes: health & body, love & relationships, politics & protest, place & identity, medicinal folklore, St. Sucia Zines, and zines that come in different shapes and sizes. Though each scope is different, all aim to enunciate new modes of representation; all refuse to accept silence.

Issue XIII of “Inmigrante,” by St. Sucia. Benson Latin American Collection.

While this particular collection is new, the Benson has a history of collecting ephemeral materials such as Puerto Rican graphic novels, Brazilian cordel literature, Cuban historietas, and cartoneras. Our goal is to offer a wide breadth of materials from Latinx and Latin American populations. To that extent, Latinx zines and graphic novels participate in a hemispheric attempt to use self-publication as a means to articulate perspectives on community and identity. In housing zines at the Benson, we show creators that we value their message, support and promote their work, and want them to succeed. To our patrons, we want to emphasize the inclusivity of our collection and of our space.    

From “Growing Up Salvadoran,” by Yeiry Guevara. Benson Latin American Collection.

The Exhibition

The Dissent exhibition will run until December 10, 2019. Patrons can visit the Benson Latin American Collection to access our other zines and should continue checking back periodically as the collection grows. 

Bordados testimoniales de refugiados de la Guerra Civil Salvadoreña accesibles en línea

Por Albert A. Palacios, Coordinador de Escolaridad Digital de LLILAS Benson

Read in English

Durante el verano, LLILAS Benson y el Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen (MUPI) en El Salvador agregaron otra iniciativa digital a su portfolio de colaboración. Desde 2012, las dos instituciones han trabajado juntos para digitalizar archivos relacionados a la Guerra Civil Salvadoreña (1980–1992), gracias al generoso apoyo de la Fundación Andrew W. Mellon. Continuando estos esfuerzos, esta nueva iniciativa también exploró el potencial de las humanidades digitales para destacar una de las colecciones más impresionantes de MUPI: los bordados testimoniales de refugiados salvadoreños.

Bordado que conmemora un campamento de refugiados y las personas y actividades asociadas con el lugar.

Los testimonios sobre la violación de derechos humanos se presentan en diferentes formas, y el fundador y actual director de MUPI, Carlos “Santiago” Henríquez Consalvi, ha procurado preservar la diversidad. Poco después de la firma de los Acuerdos de Paz de Chapultepec en 1992 que pusieron fin a la Guerra Civil Salvadoreña, Santiago dirigió una campaña para rescatar el patrimonio cultural creado antes, durante y después del conflicto armado. Esto ha incluido propaganda política, publicaciones y las grabaciones de la estación de Radio Venceremos. Desde su fundación formal en 1999, MUPI ha continuado esta preservación y ha expandido su enfoque para incluir varios temas sobre la cultura e historia salvadoreña.

La colección que ha crecido más recientemente, y el enfoque de esta nueva iniciativa, consiste de bordados testimoniales creados por campesinas salvadoreñas refugiadas en Honduras durante la guerra civil. Estas piezas fueron creadas para comunicar al mundo las experiencias vividas de los refugiados, y muchos de los textiles se enviaron a grupos y organizaciones de solidaridad en Europa y Canadá para ello. Gracias a una campaña internacional reciente, más de veinte obras han sido repatriadas y enviadas a MUPI. A través de talleres en las comunidades rurales de El Salvador, MUPI ha renovado el aprecio por esta tradición cultural, promoviendo el arte y los esfuerzos de repatriación a través de una exposición titulada Bordadoras de Memoria en la capital.

Ahora que los bordados están volviendo a casa, MUPI está utilizando tecnologías digitales para continuar el trabajo de abogar por los derechos humanos que estas mujeres comenzaron en la década de los 1980s. Para alcanzar y educar a un público más amplio e internacional, específicamente jóvenes descendientes de salvadoreños en los Estados Unidos, el Museo trabajó con el personal de Estudios Digitales en LLILAS Benson (LBDS) para recrear Bordadoras de Memoria en línea. En junio, el equipo de LBDS viajó a San Salvador y capacitó al diseñador gráfico de MUPI, Pedro Durán, en el uso de la plataforma Omeka para que pudiera reconcebir la exhibición digitalmente, utilizando fotografías preliminares de los bordados. El equipo también aprovechó la oportunidad para hablar sobre otras herramientas de código abierto que el personal de MUPI puede usar en su trabajo con jóvenes locales.

Proceso de fotografía y reproducción digital de un bordado.

La visita también lanzó otro proyecto archivístico pos-custodial para ambas instituciones. Dado el tamaño de algunas obras (la pieza que se muestra arriba es más de 2.5 metros de largo), el proyecto requirió un flujo de trabajo completamente diferente en la digitalización y entrenamiento en nuevos equipos. Capacitados por el personal de archivos pos-custodiales (PC) de la Colección Latinoamericana Benson, el equipo de LBDS trabajó con el personal de MUPI para iniciar la digitalización y la descripción archivística de los bordados. El equipo de PC espera incorporar la colección al portal Latin American Digital Initiatives a finales de este año, así que estense atentos.

Miembros del equipo de Iniciativas Digitales de LLILAS Benson trabajan con personal del Museu de la Palabra y la Imagen en San Salvador, El Salvador.

Para aprender más sobre este proyecto, los invitamos a ver el especial de Retratos producido por FocosTV. Para obtener mayor información sobre el Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen, visite su sitio web https://museo.com.sv/. Explore las colecciones digitales de MUPI y de otros colaboradores por el portal Latin American Digital Initiatives de LLILAS Benson.

Participantes del proyecto:

  • Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen
    • Carlos “Santiago” Henríquez Consalvi (Director)
    • Carlos Colorado (Coordinador de Digitalización)
    • Pedro Durán (Diseñador Gráfico)
    • Jakelyn López (Coordinadora de Archivo)
  • LLILAS Benson
    • Dra. Jennifer Isasi (Becaria Postdoctoral de CLIR) 
    • Albert A. Palacios (Coordinador de Estudios Digitales)
    • David Bliss (Archivista de Ingestión Digital) 
    • Itza Carbajal (Bibliotecaria de Metadatos Latinoamericanos)
    • Theresa Polk (Jefa de Iniciativas Digitales)

Embroidered Testimonies of Salvadoran Civil War Refugees Accessible Online

By Albert A. Palacios, LLILAS Benson Digital Scholarship Coordinator

Leer en español

Over the summer, LLILAS Benson and El Salvador’s Museum of the Word and the Image (often referred to by its acronym, MUPI, for Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen) added yet another digital initiative to their long-standing partnership. Since 2012, the two institutions have worked closely to digitize archival materials related to the Salvadoran Civil War (1980-1992), thanks to the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. While continuing these efforts, this time around the collaboration explored the potential of digital humanities tools to showcase one of MUPI’s most visually compelling collections—embroidered refugee accounts.

Embroidered piece remembering a Salvadoran refugee camp and the people and activities associated with it.

Testimonies of human rights violations come in different forms, and MUPI’s founder and current director, Carlos “Santiago” Henríquez Consalvi, has actively sought to preserve the diversity. Soon after the signing of the 1992 Chapultepec Peace Accords that ended the Salvadoran Civil War, Santiago directed a campaign to rescue cultural heritage created prior to, during, and after the armed conflict. This has included political propaganda, periodicals, and the Radio Venceremos station recordings. Since its formal foundation in 1999, MUPI has continued this preservation and expanded its collecting and educational scope to include various topics in Salvadoran culture and history.

Its most recent growing collection—and the focus of this newest collaboration—consists of remarkable embroidered testimonies created by refugee Salvadoran peasant women in Honduras during the civil war. These pieces were meant to communicate to the world the refugees’ lived experiences, with many of the textiles being sent to solidarity groups and organizations in Europe and Canada at the time. Thanks to a recent international campaign, over twenty artworks have been repatriated and sent to MUPI. Through community workshops in El Salvador’s countryside, MUPI has striven to renew appreciation for this cultural tradition, promoting the art form and subsequent collecting efforts through an exhibition titled Embroiderers of Memories in San Salvador.

Now that the testimonies are making their way back home, MUPI is using digital technologies to continue the advocacy work these women began in the 1980s. In an effort to educate a broader and international audience, specifically El Salvadoran-descendant youth in the United States, the Museum worked with LLILAS Benson Digital Scholarship (LBDS) staff to recreate Embroiderers of Memories online. This past June, the LBDS team went to San Salvador and trained MUPI exhibition designer Pedro Durán on how to create digital exhibitions in LLILAS Benson’s Omeka platform so that he could reconceive his design online using working scans of the embroidery. The LBDS team also took the opportunity to introduce MUPI staff to other open-source digital humanities tools that could enrich MUPI’s active engagement with local youth groups.

Digitization of an embroidery.

The visit also launched another post-custodial archival project for both institutions. The initiative required an entirely different approach to digitization and new equipment training, considering the size of some of these artworks; for example, the piece pictured at the beginning of this blog was over 8 feet long. Pre-trained by the Benson’s post-custodial (PC) staff, the LBDS team worked with MUPI staff to start the archival-quality digitization and item-level description of the embroidery collection. The PC team hopes to incorporate the collection into LLILAS Benson’s Latin American Digital Initiatives later this year, so stay tuned.

Members of LLILAS Benson’s Digital Initiatives team work with archivists at the Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen in El Salvador.

Project participants:

  • Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen
    • Carlos “Santiago” Henríquez Consalvi (MUPI Director)
    • Carlos Colorado (Digitization Coordinator)
    • Pedro Durán (Graphic Designer)
    • Jakelyn López (Archive Coordinator)
  • LLILAS Benson
    • Dr. Jennifer Isasi (CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow) 
    • Albert A. Palacios (Digital Scholarship Coordinator)
    • David Bliss (Digital Processing Archivist) 
    • Itza Carbajal (Latin American Metadata Librarian)
    • Theresa Polk (Benson Head of Digital Initiatives)

Arabic Treasures from Turkey

Traveling internationally to secure unique and distinctive acquisitions for UT Libraries and to make essential academic connections for UT Austin is one of the true joys of serving as Middle Eastern Studies Librarian. In June of this year, I traveled to Istanbul, Turkey, for two weeks. I focused on collecting Arabic titles published in Turkey and investigating study abroad opportunities for graduate students in the Middle East and Islamic Studies programs at UT.

I had the pleasure of flying into the brand new Istanbul airport, located on the opposite side of the city from the stalwart Atatürk Airport that I knew so well. I arrived at the end of Ramadan, which meant that I got to enjoy Bayram (the Turkish name for the festival celebrating the end of Ramadan) sales. I stayed in the neighborhood of Kuzgüncuk, a small, religiously diverse section of the city on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, just before the first bridge. There were several local book and magazine sellers, as well as produce vendors. It was from one of the local produce vendors that I learned of a children’s bookfair happening on the Asian side of the city, and I made a plan to visit it in the coming days.

A Turkish produce stand.

While in Istanbul, I was able to receive a title for which I had been hunting in Egypt, Majallat al-Qaḍāʾ al-Sharʿī. There are only a handful of copies of this title around the world; yet, it is a crucial source for the social and legal history of early 20th century Egypt. So what makes a “rare” book in Islamic Studies, like this one?

Researchers at U.S. universities may often conceptualize a rare book as something necessarily old, a “first edition,” a banned title, etc. These are all potential markers of a rare book or special material, but they are not the only factors that librarians consider when making acquisitions for their collections. Consider government/official publications. They are often ephemeral in that they arere published for one run; they are often difficult to find because they are seen as an archival burden for someone else (presumably the government or organization); and, on top of all that, they may on the surface appear dull, dry, or irrelevant to deep (particularly historiographical) analysis. Even if one decides to go after government publications, it can be nearly impossible to track them down for these reasons. When I do manage to track them down, I’m often asked, why this?

Thanks to this acquisitions trip, I managed to obtain a copy of Majallat al-Qaḍāʾ al-Sharʿī, a briefly-issued publication of a judicial training school in Alexandria. It includes articles by figures who would end up shaping the Egyptian judiciary for decades to come, and provides insights into the political history of early 20th century Egypt. Cautiously, I may say that the UT Libraries will be the sole North American institution with the full set of volumes for this title (they are in processing now).

During my time in Istanbul, I also had opportunities to explore new and old publications and to learn more about the current frontiers of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies scholarship. I visited the Hilye-i Şerif ve Tesbih Müzesi (museum of manuscripts honoring the Prophet Muhammad, and prayer beads) to see excellent exhibits of stunning manuscript illumination and religious arts. I also stopped in to the official government Turkish manuscripts publications office to check on the latest Arabic and Ottoman editing developments. Additionally, I had the pleasure of meeting up with a PhD candidate from Princeton University, to hear about her research and projects and to get the impressions of a junior scholar on the state of research in Turkey and other parts of the Middle East.

As my trip continued, I reflected on how book buying can be simply wandering around––somewhat aimlessly––and relying on serendipity (although I admit to wandering neighborhoods known for bookshops; I cannot leave everything up for chance). I found myself in awe of the materials selection available in the average bookshop. Stopping in at one in Üsküdar (Asian side of Istanbul), I found books in Turkish, Arabic, French, English, and German; translations of seminal works such as the biography of Muhammad Ali; Turkish conference proceedings that fill gaps in our collection; a large and diverse children’s section; premier Turkish Studies scholarship; and popular hero fiction. 

There was a sign in the bookshop that read “3 books, 10 Turkish lira.” The shelves below it were a gold mine of popular fiction that will augment UT Austin’s Turkish literature collection and expand the options for our students to read during their intensive study of the Turkish language. I was able to procure them at a fraction of the price we would normally pay through other venues.

A book about mythical hero Battal Gazi Oglu.

Additionally, I had the pleasure of meeting up with Murteza Bedir, Dean of the Faculty of Divinity and Professor at Istanbul University. We spoke about our research projects, upcoming conferences, recent publications in Islamic Studies, and Turkish Islamic Studies graduate programs.

Dale with Murteza Bedir, Dean of the Faculty of Divinity and Professor at Istanbul University.

Professor Bedir also took me to the symposium on the history of science in honor of the late Fuat Sezgin at Istanbul University. Scholars from around the world—Turkey, U.S., Uzbekistan, and others—presented their latest research and reflected on Sezgin’s contributions to the field. It was quite a time to be in Istanbul.

Correa with Professor Bedir at an exhibit honoring Dr. Fuat Sezgin.

I continued my work making critical connections as the PCL and the UT Libraries Middle Eastern Studies librarian for both collections and scholarship opportunities by meeting with Recep Şentürk, professor of sociology and president of Ibn Haldun University in Istanbul, and some of his advanced graduate students. We met at the university’s Süleymaniye campus, housed in an Ottoman-era madrasa next to the Süleymaniye Mosque, following their class on Abu Hamid al-Ghazali’s Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din. Professor Şentürk knows of my interest in Arabic critical editions produced in Turkey, and graciously brought the first publication of the Ibn Haldun University Press—Mulla Gurani’s commentary on the Qur’an—to share with the UT Libraries. UT is the first university library in the world to acquire this edition, and I look forward to following the publications of this new press. 

I am grateful for, and awestruck by, the generosity and hospitality with which I was met in Turkey, and which made my trip possible. I extend my sincere gratitude to the UT Libraries and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies for supporting my travel and acquisitions in Istanbul this year.

CELEBRATING THE BIRTH AND LIFE OF GLORIA ANZALDÚA

“I am a Libra (Virgo cusp) with VI — The Lovers destiny”: Celebrating the Birth and Life of Gloria Anzaldúa by Julia Davila Coppedge

Image of Gloria Anzaldúa by Annie F. Valva.


Her Life

Seventy-seven years ago, on September 26th, Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa was born to migrant farmers Urbano and Amalia Anzaldúa in Raymondville, Texas. As the oldest of four, she helped work on ranches and farms to help support her family. It was during this time in the Valley that she first learned about discrimination against Mexican Americans. Anzaldúa would later leave South Texas, living in other parts of the state, and in Indiana and California. She would also spend a large part of her career traveling internationally. But, her experiences growing up in the borderlands would influence her writing for the rest of her career, as she alludes to, when states that “I am a turtle, wherever I go I carry ‘home’ on my back.”

Anzaldúa was a self-described “tejana patlache (queer) nepantlera spiritual activist.” Her contributions to U.S. American literature, U.S. feminisms, queer theory, postcolonial theory, and Chicana/o Studies cannot be overstated. Anzaldúa won many awards in her lifetime including the National Endowment for the Arts Fiction Award (1991) and the Lambda Lesbian Small Book Press Award (1991).

Anzaldúa died on May 15, 2004 due to Diabetes-related complications. It is fitting we celebrate Anzaldúa’s life in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month, which is observed September 15th – October 15th.

Her Time at UT Austin

Anzaldúa received her master’s degree in English and Education in 1972 at UT and returned in 1974 to pursue a PhD in Literature. In the foreword to the third edition of This Bridge Called My Back: Writings By Radical Women of Color, she reflected on her stuggles at UT: “As a Chicana, I felt invisible, alienated from the gringo university and dissatisfied with both el movimiento Chicano and the feminist movement…I rebelled, using my writing to work through my frustrations and make sense of my experiences.”

While at UT Austin, Anzaldúa also taught a class called “La Mujer Chicana.” During this time she struggled to find materials that reflected the experiences of her students, which drove her to edit the anthology.

The class “Ethnicity & Gender: La Chicana” is still offered at UT through the Mexican American and Latina/o Studies (MALS) Department. In 2011 the Center for Mexican American Studies (CMAS) dedicated the West Mall building room 512.6 as the Gloria Anzaldúa Student Activities Room.

Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestizaje

Borderlands is a semi-autobiographical collection of poems and essays which draw on Anzaldúa’s experience as a Chicana and lesbian activist. The text is characterized by its sophisticated use of code-switching, “exploring Latinx and Chicana identity while also furthering an artistic vision.” Norma Élia Cantú and Aída Hurtado said in the introduction to the fourth edition:

“When Borderlands was published there was hardly a public discourse addressing multiculturalism. Anzaldúa’s persistent mixing of cultures, languages, and even writing genres, as exemplified in the structure and content of Borderlands, was blasphemous. The ‘cultural wars’ were in full force inside and outside the academy. The 1980s and early 1990s was an era of the mainstream academics fighting to preserve the Western canon and of political mobilization by conservatives to add an amendment to the Constitution establishing English as the official language of the United States…. Under these historical conditions the publication of Borderlands was an act of courage was well as innovative intervention to continue advocating for cultural diversity, the inclusion of sexuality in all academic and political production, and a call to social justice based on inclusion rather than exclusion.”

In January 2012, twenty-five years after it was published, Borderlands was banned in the Tucson Unified School System in Arizona, as a part of a law banning Mexican American Studies in public schools. Pérez and Cantú said the ban “affirms the value of the work even as it attempts to deny it.” This policy was lifted in 2017 after a federal judge in Arizona ruled it unconstitutional.

Borderlands was translated into Italian in 2000 and Spanish in 2015, and a French translation of the book is currently underway. Anzaldúa’s original manuscripts and other written notes and materials for Borderlands can be found in Boxes 32 – 38 of the Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa Papers collection at the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection.

Her Legacy

In 2001, just three years before she died,  Anzaldúa reflected on the work of feminists of color in the foreword to the third edition of This Bridge Called My Back, saying “Yes, collectively we’ve gone far.” She continued, “But we’ve lost ground–affirmative action has been repealed, the borders have been closed, racism has taken new forms and it’s as pervasive as it was twenty-one years ago.” Eighteen years later the fight of People of Color, the LGBTQIA+ community, and working class people continues.

Emma Pérez says of Anzaldua’s work, “Long after the end of this century, her philosophy will endure. Gloria was an unassuming philosopher-poet whose words will inspire generations. She articulated our past to make sense of our present…She looked to the past to excavate hope for the future.”

This hope is reflected in Gloria Anzaldúa’s words, which inspire us today and are a testament to her lasting impact and legacy:

“This land was Mexican once,

was Indian always,

and is.

And will be again.”

Collection Highlights:

The Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa Papers [Mixed Materials]

The Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection is home to the personal archive of Gloria Anzaldúa, which contains “personal and biographical materials, correspondence, written works, research materials, photographs, audiovisual materials, and artifacts” documenting her life and career.

“The Benson Collection is also composing a complete bibliographic list of Anzaldúa’s personal library of more than 5000 books. This is an ongoing project, and interested researchers should contact the rare books reading room for this information.”

Longhorn Radio Network: Onda Latina

Chicanas And Literature (1977) [Sound Recording]

“Inez Hernandez Tovar and Gloria Anzaldúa discuss the political context and cultural work of Chicana writers. They explain that the Chicano movement provided some Chicano and Chicana writers the support and forums necessary to share their work. While mainstream publishing presses ignored minority voices, Chicanos and other groups were creating their own journals. These journals helped legitimate bilingualism among Chicanos as a vehicle of Chicano expression. Chicanas and Chicanos felt free to publish works written in a mixture of Spanish and English that reflected the language(s) they felt most comfortable in.”

Additional Works By Anzaldúa

This Bridge Called My Back: Writings By Radical Women of Color (4th Edition, 2015) edited by Gloria Anzaldúa [Book]

“A groundbreaking collection reflects an uncompromised definition of feminism by women of color.” Along with Cherríe Moraga, Anzaldúa co-edited this anthology.

Interviews / Entrevistas (2000) edited by AnaLouise Keating [Book]

“In this memoir-like collection, Anzaldúa’s powerful voice speaks clearly and passionately. She recounts her life, explains many aspects of her thought, and explores the intersections between her writings and postcolonial theory. For readers engaged in postcoloniality, feminist theory, ethnic studies, or queer identity, Interviews/Entrevistas will be a key contemporary document.”

The Gloria Anzaldúa Reader (2009) edited by AnaLouise Keating [Book]

“This reader–which provides a representative sample of the poetry, prose, fiction, and experimental autobiographical writing that Anzaldúa produced during her thirty-year career–demonstrates the breadth and philosophical depth of her work. While the reader contains much of Anzaldúa’s published writing (including several pieces now out of print), more than half the material has never before been published. This newly available work offers fresh insights into crucial aspects of Anzaldúa’s life and career, including her upbringing, education, teaching experiences, writing practice and aesthetics, lifelong health struggles, and interest in visual art, as well as her theories of disability, multiculturalism, pedagogy, and spiritual activism.”

Prietita and the Ghostwoman (1995) [Children’s Book]

“Ever since she can remember, Prietita has heard terrifying tales of la llorona — the legendary ghost woman who steals children at night. Against a background of vibrant folk paintings, Gloria Anzaldúa reinterprets, in a bilingual format, one of the most famous Mexican legends. In this version, Prietita discovers that la llorona is not what she expects, but rather a compassionate woman who helps Prietita on her journey of self-discovery.”

Friends From the Other Side / Amigos del otro lado (1993) [Children’s Book]

“Having crossed the Rio Grande into Texas with his mother in search of a new life, Joaquin receives help and friendship from Prietita, a brave young Mexican American girl.”

Works Inspired by Anzaldúa

Imaniman: Poets Writing In the Anzaldúan Borderlands (2016) Edited by Ire’ne Lara Silva and Dan Vera [Book]

“Named for the Nahuatl word meaning “their soul,” IMANIMAN presents work that is sparked from the soul: the individual soul, the communal soul. These poets interrogate, complicate, and personalize the borderlands in transgressive and transformative ways, opening new paths and revisioning old ones for the next generation of spiritual, political, and cultural border crossers.”

Bridging: How Gloria Anzaldúa’s Life and Work Transformed Our Own (2011) edited by AnaLouise Keating and Gloria González-López [Book]

“The inspirational writings of cultural theorist and social justice activist Gloria Anzaldúa have empowered generations of women and men throughout the world. Charting the multiplicity of Anzaldúa’s impact within and beyond academic disciplines, community trenches, and international borders, Bridging presents more than thirty reflections on her work and her life, examining vibrant facets in surprising new ways and inviting readers to engage with these intimate, heartfelt contributions.”

Entre Guadalupe y Malinche: Tejanas In Literature and Art (2016) edited by Inés Hernández and Norma Elia Cantú [Book]

“Mexican and Mexican American women have written about Texas and their lives in the state since colonial times. Edited by fellow Tejanas Inés Hernández-Ávila and Norma Elia Cantú, Entre Guadalupe y Malinche gathers, for the first time, a representative body of work about the lives and experiences of women who identify as Tejanas in both the literary and visual arts.

The writings of more than fifty authors and the artwork of eight artists manifest the nuanced complexity of what it means to be Tejana and how this identity offers alternative perspectives to contemporary notions of Chicana identity, community, and culture.”

This volume was dedicated principally to Gloria Anzaldúa.

Spiritual Mestizaje: Religion, Gender, Race, and Nation In Contemporary Chicana Narrative (2011) by Theresa Delgadillo [Book]

“Delgadillo analyzes the role of spiritual mestizaje in Anzaldúa’s work and in relation to other forms of spirituality and theories of oppression. Illuminating the ways that contemporary Chicana narratives visualize, imagine, and enact Anzaldúa’s theory and method of spiritual mestizaje, Delgadillo interprets novels, memoir, and documentaries. Her critical reading of literary and visual technologies demonstrates how Chicanas challenge normative categories of gender, sexuality, nation, and race by depicting alternative visions of spirituality.”

El Mundo Zurdo: Selected Works from the Meetings of The Society for the Study of Gloria Anzaldúa 2007 & 2009 (2010) edited by Norma Alarcón, Norma Cantú, Christina Gutiérrez, and Rita Urquijo-Ruiz [Book]

“This collection of essays, poetry, and artwork brings together scholarly and creative responses inspired by the life and work of Gloria Anzaldúa. The diverse voices represented in this collection are gathered from the 2007 national conference and 2009 international conference of the Society for the Study of Gloria Anzaldúa (SSGA). More than 30 scholars, activists, poets, and artists contributed to EL MUNDO ZURDO, whose release coincides with the SSGA’s second annual international conference in San Antonio, Texas.”

El Mundo Zurdo 5 : selected works from the 2015 meeting of the Society for the Study of Gloria Anzaldúa (2015) edited by Domino Renee Perez, Larissa M. Mercado-López, and Sonia Saldívar-Hull [Book]

“A collection of diverse essays and poetry that offer scholarly and creative responses inspired by the life and work of Gloria Anzaldúa, selected from the 2015 meeting of The Society for the Study of Gloria Anzaldúa.”

Women reading women writing: self-invention in Paula Gunn Allen, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Audre Lorde (1996) by AnaLouise Keating [Book]

“As self-identified lesbians of color, Paula Gunn Allen, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Audre Lorde negotiate diverse, sometimes conflicting, sets of personal, political, and professional worlds. Drawing on recent developments in feminist studies and queer theory, AnaLouise Keating examines the ways in which these writers, in both their creative and critical work, engage in self-analysis, cultural critique, and the construction of alternative myths and representations of women.”


Julia Davila Coppedge is the LLILAS Benson User Services GRA. She conducts in-person and online reference requests for patrons using library materials from the Special Collections and circulating collection. Julia is also a 2nd year Master of Science in Information Studies Candidate at UT Austin.

For more inclusive reading lists, visit the blog of the UT Libraries’ Diversity Action Committee.

You Can Go Home Again

Despite his spare frame and quiet demeanor, Greg Lipscomb isn’t a wallflower, especially regarding his thoughts on the subject of libraries.

“The library is just in my veins,” he says. “I cannot imagine living in a society or a culture that doesn’t have a library.”

Lipscomb is the incoming chair of the UT Libraries’ Advisory Council and has just committed to a large planned gift for the Libraries, so I’m sitting with him to find out why.

Greg Lipscomb.

He begins by recounting the period during his study at UT in the early 1960s when a confluence of history and wanderlust compelled him in a direction that would ultimately lead him on a fifty-year journey away from Austin, on an odyssey of professional work and travel that would brush against events of notable historical significance.

“It was at the end of 1961 – the end of my sophomore year – I was over in one of the massive reading rooms in the Tower with the beams above and the wide tables and so forth, and at the end of finals, I stood up and I went out and took on the world as best I could see it in my own interpretation,” says Lipscomb, “and I was gone from that sort of setting for 50 years.” 

Lipscomb expresses that he wasn’t walking away from his college career or academic endeavor forever – he went on to graduate Phi Beta Kappa from UT – but the draw of civic responsibility was too compelling to ignore. This was the time of John Kennedy’s clarion call to public service, and the cacophony of protest was growing audibly across the campus. 

“You have to realize that in the 60s, you could literally be in class — many times we had the windows open because there wasn’t air conditioning — and you could hear civil rights demonstrations out on Guadalupe,” he says. “And there was this pull. John Kennedy was in office and he was making politics elegant again for the first time since Roosevelt. And the notion of public service was big.”

The urge to be part of something larger than himself became too strong to dodge, and led him down a five-decade path which presented the opportunities that ultimately formed him as a person.

“I felt the need to play a concrete role in the changes that were happening, so I got involved in student politics,” he recounts. “I got involved in civil rights. I went off to the army because of Vietnam. I went around the world. I went to California and worked for Jerry Brown. Went to Washington and worked for the Democrats there. Went to Harvard for the Kennedy School,” 

Lipscomb became an active leader in the student civil rights protests at UT, was elected student body president in 1964, and used his standing to make the final push to get the regents to integrate the dorms on campus. He and a carload of his journalism colleagues from The Daily Texan drove 800 miles to document the fateful march at Selma, Alabama. As a member of ROTC, Lipscomb landed in an intelligence unit at the Pentagon during the war in Vietnam. After hitchhiking around the world with his wife, he worked at the San Francisco Chronicle, which propelled him into California politics, including a position in Governor Jerry Brown’s administration. He later returned to D.C. as a speechwriter for the first African American chair of the Federal Communications Commission. Any pairing of these life events might be enough to mention; that they’re woven into a single period of a single life is remarkable.

Amid his extended interlude in the Beltway at the FCC, Lipscomb began to seek distraction through some of the intellectual rigor that he left behind in college. He surveyed his environs and eventually wound up bumping around the library at George Washington University (GWU). After being given broad access to resources there, he felt an obligation to do what he could to return the favor, and approached the library’s development office to make a donation. Library administrators thought that as someone with no significant ties to GWU, Lipscomb might provide a valuable perspective as chair of their advisory board. His acceptance of that role enjoined him to a cause in libraries.

“Several years later, I decided retirement was timely. I was burned out on Washington. It had changed in temperament.”

The experience at GWU also elicited a change in him. Lipscomb summoned the earlier version of himself, making a conscious attempt to return to the point in time when he walked out of the library back in 1961 to take on the world. He wanted to find a place to settle where he would have ready access to the knowledge resources of a library, and began to consider all the familiar places from his past. 

“And then, in 2014, I came back to Austin and I sat down at the same place and picked right up where I left off. What I was reading, what I was writing,” he says. “It’s like T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets – ‘in my beginning is my end,’” says Lipscomb.

Lipscomb personifies this internalized value as “The Eternal Sophomore.” “That’s the kind of mindset I say with affection. You’re on the precipice, but your mind is still fresh, your attitude is fresh. And I saw the library reading room as a sort of cathedral, a sacred space. That’s sort of where I came back and picked up.”

“Coming back was a huge decision, and I came back humbled – and a little appalled at my arrogance sometimes along the way. Also proud of certain things and people I worked with, and causes I worked on. But I was ready to keep learning as a sophomore.”

And some undergraduates on campus might recognize him as a fixture in their world, or, perhaps, as a fellow traveler. Lipscomb’s loyalty to self-improvement through learning means he spends a significant chunk of his time on campus, much of it on the upper floors of the Perry-Castañeda Library. 

“Within the closures of this building – if I had food and medicine – I could be here indefinitely,” he says. “Right now I spend about 20 hours a week – it’s a part-time job. I got up to that writing some personal stuff and just catching up on all the reading I never got to, the great reading.”

Lipscomb continued to feel a responsibility to the Libraries when he returned to Austin, wanting  to carry through on the advocacy role he’d taken on at George Washington. He expressed interest to administrators at the UT Libraries, and was invited to join the council in 2014 where he has been a consistent participant not only at regular meetings, but as a vocal proponent and supporter both on campus and beyond.

Still, Lipscomb’s primary drive is in discovery and personal growth. That lengthy period of working on behalf of others has earned him the opportunity to focus on his interests, and he’s taking full advantage of it.

“The library to me is a great conversation,” he says. “I think of it in terms of books – but these books, they talk back and forth. And you can tell the mentor and the mentee — like in a translation of The Iliad or something — one passes on to the other. It’s the DNA of ideas. You can start out with just a germ of a phrase and watch it blossom into something right there.”

But even the bibliophile in Lipscomb recognizes the value of a diverse array of resources. He’s spoken extensively with library professionals about the transition to digital resources and the advantage it gives to preservation, and he’s been in active attendance at all of the public discussions in the last year related to a task force on the future of UT Libraries, where the conversation about the value of books and the impact of technology has real currency. 

He especially appreciates the benefits that technology brings to research, particularly in making discovery significantly more efficient: “You can do it digitally. That’s a different training that I’m having to come up to, but I respect it. It’s easy to say, ‘Everybody’s just channel-surfing through nothing more than a paragraph or two.’ It’s a mile wide and an inch deep. But, also, you can search, you can go backwards and forwards. Software is beginning to mimic the brain, or learning as we know it.”

Whatever the challenges that have arisen since he was an undergraduate at UT, Lipscomb feels his experience all pointed him back to this place.

“I didn’t realize back in 1961 how much had been passed on to us in terms of the resources and the staff, the wonderful reading rooms – I didn’t realize until later,” says Lipscomb. “That’s when it occurred to me that I owed something.”

“The library function, role, the sanctuary, the passing on from one culture to another –  it’s an optimistic enterprise,” he continues. “It says, ‘We have here your past, which is valuable, and you have to carry it forward.’ That’s what we do in the libraries. You owe current and future generations the gratitude that you received.” 

“There is almost a Buddhist sense of circularity…returning to where you started. You come back and pay respects to the master that formed you. The mentor, the habits, the patterns, the depth of thinking.”

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