Exhibition: Cuban Comics in the Castro Era

Based on exhibition text by Gilbert Borrego

The publishing industry of Cuba experienced a seismic shift in 1959 when Fidel Castro won a revolutionary war against dictator Fulgencio Batista. With this change, underground and subversive media creators of the Batista era became an important part of the new socialist culture. This helped to mobilize the masses in support of the new Castro government and against U.S. capitalistic ideology.

Fidel Castro understood that media and graphic art could guide ideology and could be used as an educational tool because he knew that it had already being used before in Cuba. Castro portrait, “Zunzún” no. 2, 1980. Benson Latin American Collection.

Cuban Comics in the Castro Era examines the art and history of Cuban comics after the successful 1959 revolution, highlighting the creators, characters, heroes, and anti-heroes of Cuba. It also touches on the triumphs and failures of the publishing industry and how Cuban artists today struggle to keep the genre alive.

Nikita Khrushchev and Dwight D. Eisenhower on the cover of “Zig-Zag,” no. 1079, August 1959. Benson Latin American Collection.

These materials are part of the Caridad Blanco Collection of Cuban Comic Books, acquired in 2018. Blanco, a Havana-based artist and curator, collected over 700 examples of stand-alone comics and newspaper supplements created between 1937 and 2018.

The Birth of Cuba’s Revolutionary Comics

Key to the process of planning a new nationalistic government was the cementing of a new socialistic cultural identity in the minds of the Cuban populace. Radio, television, and print media (including comics) helped to mobilize the masses.

A new world opened up for the creators of comics, who now had the singular purpose of supporting their new government while still appealing to their readers. In this early era, many of these readers were children, who continued to consume U.S.-created comic books and the ideals that went with them.

“Historietas de Elpidio Valdés,” Juan Padrón Blanco, 1985. Benson Latin American Collection.

Widespread suspicion held that beloved American comics were imperialistic indoctrination tools for Cuban children. In response, the new Cuban government began utilizing comics as a means to teach values that aligned with revolutionary doctrine.

Julio Mella was among Cuban figures lauded for heroism or espousing socialistic ideals. “[Revolucionarios],” “Mella Suplemento,” no. 60, undated. Benson Latin American Collection.

Cuban-created comics replaced American ones on the shelves. These works appealed to highly literate youth. Mixing adventure, comedy, and the ideological tenets of the new government, they portrayed revolution as necessary and exciting, especially for the country’s youth.

“Jóvenes Rebeldes,” “Mella,” no. 201, 1962. Benson Latin American Collection.

This exhibition was curated by Digital Repository Specialist Gilbert Borrego and is part of his fall 2019 Capstone Experience course in partial fulfillment of his MSIS, School of Information, The University of Texas at Austin. In addition to the physical exhibition, Borrego curated a richly illustrated online exhibition.

About the Curator

Gilbert Borrego is currently the Institutional Repository Specialist for Texas ScholarWorks at UT Libraries. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in anthropology from Stanford University and will soon complete his master’s in Information Studies at UT Austin. He is passionate about archives, libraries, museums, metadata, and history.


Cuban Comics in the Castro Era will be on view in the Benson Latin American Collection main reading room, December 6, 2019–March 1, 2020.

Read more about the Caridad Blanco Collection of Cuban Comics in LLILAS Benson Portal.

Read, Hot and Digitized: French Revolution Pamphlets

Read, hot & digitized: Librarians and the digital scholarship they love — In this series, librarians from the Libraries’ Arts, Humanities and Global Studies Engagement Team briefly present, explore and critique existing examples of digital scholarship to encourage and inspire critical reflection of and future creative contributions to the growing fields of digital scholarship.

The French Revolution Pamphlets Digital Initiative, based at the Newberry Library in Chicago, is a large-scale digitization initiative that makes digital copies of over 38,000 documents, mostly pamphlets, accessible online. The documents, which primarily consist of material published between 1780 and 1810, encompass 850,000 pages of text, and the dataset produced by the project, containing OCR and metadata files, is roughly 11 gigabytes. This collection of French Revolutionary materials is among the most comprehensive in the world, and enriches the study not only of French and European history, but casts light on broader concepts of revolution and social transformation relevant to a global audience. The materials are of interest to numerous fields of study, including legal, social, and cultural history and the history of printing and publication.

The homepage for the project, built in Scalar.

The collection gathers materials from a number of the Newberry’s collections, including the French Revolution Collection, the Louis XVI Trial and Execution Collection, and several smaller groups of French Revolution era material. The materials chronicle the political, social and religious dimensions of the Revolution’s history, and include works by a diverse set of authors, including Robespierre, Marat, and Louis XIV. The texts include arguments both in support of and opposing the monarchy between 1789 and 1799, and serve as a firsthand chronicle of the First Republic. The collection includes complete runs of well-known journals, many rare and unknown publications, and about 3,000 French political pamphlets published between 1560 to 1653 that document a period of religious wars and the establishment of the absolute monarchy.

The main interface for the project was built in Scalar, a free and open source web authoring platform from the The Alliance for Networking Visual Culture at USC. The Scalar site links to the digital copies of the pamphlets, hosted on archive.org, as well as translations of select pamphlets. The sites also includes a number of other valuable resources, including data downloads, digital pedagogy materials, and pages designed for librarians interested in working with the digital collection.

The digitized pamphlets on archive.org.

To help support scholarship using the collection, the Newberry has funded an open data grant to support researchers working with the project’s large data set. The recipients of the first grant, Joseph Harder and Mimi Zhou, are conducting a sentiment analysis of the French Revolution materials, assigning numerical values to word-use in order to code for positive and negative tone across the data. By applying sentiment analysis to both the popular press and propaganda, Harder and Zhou hope to find trends in public opinion throughout the French Revolution, and to see how those trends shaped the revolution’s political outcomes.

The project’s data on GitHub.

The project serves as an important contribution to digital scholarship in European Studies. The sheer volume of the project’s digitized materials alone is impressive, but the variety of the resources it encompasses makes it particularly distinctive. Its venture into funding research using an open data grant—and the fact that its data set is openly available to anyone who wants to download it—is especially exciting, and I look forward to seeing the scholarship that results from making these materials freely accessible online. For those interested in exploring French Revolutionary materials in the UT Austin Libraries, I recommend looking through our extensive holdings on the subject, including our collection of pamphlets, both in print and on microfilm.

Appreciating Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace was a pioneering computer scientist and mathematician of the 19th century. Since 2009, on the second Tuesday in October individuals around the country and globe gather to celebrate Ada Lovelace Day by commemorating her life and raising the profile of women and LGBTQ+ persons in the STEM fields. To honor her legacy, a group of librarians at UT planned and facilitated a daylong Wikipedia Edit-a-thon scheduled for October 8, 2019. 

Beginning in earnest in mid-August, four librarians including Gina Bastone, Roxanne Bogucka, Lydia Fletcher, and myself sat together at a table in the Physics, Math and Astronomy Library to brainstorm ideas and organize what would turn out to be an amazing experience and very meaningful event. The event drew more than 45 participants from across campus to learn about the Wikipedia editing process and get inaugural edits under their belts. 

To organize a successful Edit-a-thon event requires considerable planning in addition to forethought and purpose. Some of the initial goals were to improve the visibility of women in STEM fields, to teach first-time editors the quirks of Wikipedia editing, and to democratize the process of editing Wikipedia, which itself is largely contributed to by cis white men. Creating an accessible and drop-in event where folks could learn something, grab some food, and edit in between classes was also a priority. Starting the research process, identifying useful Wikipedia-friendly sources on top of creating content was a high order to meet in addition to orienting participants to the editing process. Reflecting on our cumulative past experience it was agreed that structuring the event to be largely self-guided was the best approach. Recognizing that the average participant may spend about an hour between classes at the Edit-a-thon, librarians identified pages that required editing and organizing sources ahead of time, focusing specifically on local women in STEM. We reached out to campus groups such as Women in Physics, Gender & Sexuality Center, and CNS-Q, who proved helpful by enthusiastically providing support in word of mouth and extra sustenance on the day of the Edit-a-thon.

One of the event organizers guides a participant through the structure of a Wikipedia article.

We organized the day through a system of Google Drive links and physical sticky notes to ensure that only one person would be editing one article at a time, while retaining the ability to have more than one contributor to each article on the day. Using this system of sticky notes to identify topics for editing, each person would grab a note with a unique scientist’s name off the board, hold on to it while editing that topic and then return it to the board if the entry still needed further edits. The Google Drive folder contained supporting material for our selected topics in addition to a wealth of curated training documents. Many of these training documents were reused and can be reused again in the future. These tools allowed us to plan and coordinate an event without having a required time for a formal demonstration. 

Three of the event organizers standing in front of the whiteboard used to organize topics.

The Edit-a-thon was wildly successful and drew participation from many first-time editors in the College of Natural Sciences. While the turnout was better than we had expected, the true success was in the feedback. All of the respondents to our survey agreed that they had learned about editing Wikipedia and the construction of articles at the event, and 87% said that they plan to continue editing into the future. The goals of the planning group had been met and exceeded, encouraging us to run further events teaching the ins and outs of contributing to Wikipedia. 

LLILAS Benson colabora en línea para la transcripción y traducción de documentos coloniales

Por Albert A. Palacios, Jenny Marie Forsythe y Julie C. Evershed

Read in English.

Aviso: La colección FromThePage de la Benson estará abierta para la transcripción y traducción colaborativa hasta el domingo 3 de noviembre de 2019. Consulte la lista de documentos y el guía para ver cómo puede ayudar.

El 21 de septiembre de 2019, LLILAS Benson y el Museo de Jazz de Nueva Orleans se unieron para hacer sus colecciones coloniales un poco más accesibles. Las dos instituciones coordinaron un evento conjunto de transcripción que convocó a miembros de la comunidad en persona en el Centro de História de Louisiana, y de forma remota a través de la página de Facebook de la Benson. Colaborativamente, los participantes transcribieron manuscritos españoles y franceses originales de 1559 a 1817, con el objetivo de hacer que estos documentos sean más útiles para profesores, estudiantes, investigadores e historiadores de genealogía.

Interfaz de transcripción de FromThePage, https://fromthepage.lib.utexas.edu/llilasbenson.

FromThePage, una herramienta para la transcripción, traducción e indexación, permitió la colaboración a larga distancia. Durante un período de tres horas, los participantes hojearon la lista de manuscritos en ambos archivos y trabajaron juntos para descifrarlos y transcribirlos en la plataforma digital. Al punto intermedio del evento, el personal del Museo de Jazz nos mostró unos casos coloniales únicos en su archivo, transmitiendo en vivo a través de su página de Facebook, incluyendo una declaración de emancipación montada en tela dada a un hombre jamaicano llamado Santiago Bennet. Siguiendo su ejemplo, el personal de Estudios Digitales de LLILAS Benson (LBDS) compartió a través de la página del evento en Facebook algunos materiales notables de la Benson, incluyendo la colección digital de Relaciones Geográficas de Nueva España.


Personal del Museo de Jazz trabaja con colaboradores de transcripción en el Centro de Historia de Louisiana, 21 de septiembre de 2019. Cortesía del Museo de Jazz de Nueva Orleans.

Al transformar las palabras de los notarios coloniales en formato digital, los estudiantes, investigadores y miembros de la comunidad estaban avanzando una larga iniciativa digital del Museo de Jazz y del Centro de História de Louisiana. A principios de la década de 2010, el Museo y el Centro, junto con muchos otros colaboradores de la comunidad, lograron la increíble hazaña de digitalizar unas 220,000 páginas de registros notariales de Louisiana colonial para crear una colección digital, www.lacolonialdocs.org. Jennifer Long, Michelle Brenner y Jenny Marie Forsythe, administradoras del proyecto “Transcribathon de Documentos Coloniales de Louisiana,” seleccionaron de este rico recurso para crear la colección FromThePage del museo, revelando detalles sobre la esclavitud, auto-liberación y rebelión, parentescos, redadas piratas, medicina colonial, fiestas de juego, disputas de herencia, conflictos matrimoniales y mucho más.

Pintura del Pueblo de Tepatepec contra el Corregidor Manuel de Olvera, 1570–1572. Según el relato, el Corregidor Olvera, quien aparece con su vara, no cumplió con las promesas de representación legal a los indígenas de Tepatepec en conflictos sobre diezmos y disputas laborales. El abuso de poder de parte de españoles locales era común en la Nueva España. Colección Genaro García, Colección Latinoamericana Benson, Universidad de Texas en Austin.

Para el evento conjunto, el personal de LBDS creó en FromThePage una colección de documentos escritos por, o sobre, las poblaciones indígenas en México desde los siglos XVI al XVIII en celebración del Año Internacional de las Lenguas Indígenas. El equipo tuvo bastante de dónde seleccionar: la Benson conserva numerosos archivos importantes que documentan la política, religión y cultura durante el período colonial español, incluyendo varios de los primeros libros publicados en las Américas (1544–1600) y los votos de profesión de Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1669–1695), por nombrar algunos. Durante el fin de semana, un pequeño pero dedicado grupo de personas contestó la llamada de LLILAS Benson y se unió en línea. Colaboradores de ambas costas de los Estados Unidos y tan al sur como Perú colectivamente ofrecieron más de veinte horas de su tiempo para transcribir catorce documentos en la Benson.


Códice ilustrado de las tierras que pertenecen al Colegio de Tepozotlán de los Jesuitas, circa 1600–1625. Mandamiento virreinal ordenando al “Repartidor de Indios” de Tepozotlán dé libranza al Colegio de la Compañía de seis indígenas, 18 de agosto de 1610. Colección Edmundo O’Gorman, Colección Latinoamericana Benson, Universidad de Texas en Austin.

El fin de semana del 18–19 de octubre, el Centro de Recursos de Idiomas (LRC) de la Universidad de Michigan ofreció algunas de estas transcripciones en su “Translate-a-thon,” un evento comunitario en donde fuentes primarias son traducidas para el beneficio de la comunidad local, nacional e internacional. Algunos voluntarios, uno de los cuales se enfoca en México de la época colonial, estaban encantados de ver documentos de la Benson y abordaron su traducción. Entre ellos estaba el decreto ilustrado, visto arriba, que ordenaba al repartidor de Tepozotlán asignar a seis indígenas para trabajar para los jesuitas, subrayando la importancia de la labor indígena en la construcción figurativa y literal del imperio español, y la propagación de la Iglesia Católica. Dado el éxito y el interés de la facultad de Michigan en este esfuerzo conjunto, el LRC y LBDS piensan continuar su colaboración para ampliar la accesibilidad y el uso de las fuentes primarias coloniales en la Benson.

La Dra. Cinthia Salinas guía a estudiantes graduados en su clase de “Métodos de Estudios Sociales” por de un ejercicio pedagógico utilizando un relato pictórico de Moctezuma y Cortés que se encuentra en la Colección Genaro García de la Benson, 19 de marzo de 2019. Cortesía de Albert A. Palacios.

El siguiente paso para la Oficina LBDS será de incorporar estas fuentes primarias transcritas y traducidas en clases de nivel preparatoria en el Estado de Texas y de licenciatura en la Universidad de Texas en Austin (UT). A principios de este año, LLILAS Benson estableció una iniciativa patrocinada por el gobierno federal con el Departamento de Currículo e Instrucción en el Colegio de Educación para diseñar lecciones de nivel secundaria en historia y geografía basadas en las ricas colecciones de la Benson. Agregando a estos esfuerzos pedagógicos, LBDS traducirá, dará contexto y promoverá el uso de estas fuentes coloniales en clases universitarias y proyectos digitales en UT y más allá.

Para aquellos que no pudieron participar en el evento, ¡aún pueden unirse al esfuerzo! La colección FromThePage de la Benson estará abierta para la transcripción y traducción colaborativa hasta el domingo 3 de noviembre. Consulte la lista de documentos y el guía para ver cómo puede ayudar.

Los colaboradores

  • Greg Lambousy (Director)
  • Jennifer Long (Administradora de Digitalización)
  • Bryanne Schexnayder (Técnica de Digitalización)
  • Michelle Brenner (Administradora de la Sala de Lectura, Museo de Jazz de Nueva Orleans y Centro de Historia de Louisiana)
  • Jenny Marie Forsythe (Co-Administradora del Proyecto “Transcribathon de Documentos Coloniales de Louisiana”)
  • Handy Acosta Cuellar (Doctorando, Universidad Tulane; Instructor de Español, Universidad Estatal de Louisiana)
  • Raúl Alencar (Estudiante de Posgrado, Universidad Tulane)

Haga clic aquí para obtener más información sobre los colaboradores del proyecto Transcribathon de Documentos Coloniales de Louisiana.

  • Julie C. Evershed (Centro de Recursos de Idiomas, Directora)
  • Traductores de documentos: Zhehao Tong, Marlon James Sales, y Olivia Alge
  • Albert A. Palacios (Coordinador de Estudios Digitales)
  • Joshua Ortiz Baco (Asistente Graduado de Investigación de Estudios Digitales)
  • Transcriptores en FromThePage (nombres de usuario): guillaume candela, Ken, Betty Cruz L, Matt H., Carolina Casusol, and Handy1985

Los autores

Albert A. Palacios es Coordinador de Estudios Digitales de LLILAS Benson Colecciones y Estudios Latinoamericanos, La Universidad de Texas en Austin. Jenny Marie Forsythe es co-gerente del proyecto Documentos Coloniales de Louisiana Transcribathon. Julie C. Evershed es la directora del Centro de Recursos de Lenguaje, Universidad de Michigan.

LLILAS Benson Collaborates on Remote Translation and Transcription of Colonial Documents

By Albert A. Palacios, Jenny Marie Forsythe, and Julie C. Evershed

Leer en español.

Note: The Benson’s FromThePage collection will be open for collaborative transcription and translation until Sunday, November 3, 2019. Check out the documents list and guide to see how you can help in translation and transcription of colonial documents.

On September 21, 2019, LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections and the New Orleans Jazz Museum joined forces to make their colonial collections a bit more accessible. The two institutions led a joint transcribe-a-thon that convened community members in person at the Louisiana Historical Center, and remotely through the Benson Latin American Collection’s Facebook page. Together, participants transcribed handwritten Spanish and French documents from 1559 to 1817, with the goal of making these records more useful to teachers, students, researchers, and family historians.

FromThePage’s transcription interface, https://fromthepage.lib.utexas.edu/llilasbenson.

FromThePage, a transcription, translation, and indexing tool, enabled the long-distance collaboration. During a three-hour window, participants browsed the compiled list of manuscripts at both archives and worked together to decipher and transcribe them in the digital scholarship platform. At the halfway point, New Orleans Jazz Museum staff gave us a glimpse of unique colonial cases in their archive, including a declaration of freedom mounted on cloth for a Jamaican man named Santiago Bennet, and broadcast it live through their Facebook page. Following their lead, LLILAS Benson Digital Scholarship (LBDS) staff shared through their Facebook event page some of the Benson’s notable holdings, including its digital collection of geographical descriptions and paintings, or Relaciones Geográficas, of New Spain.

New Orleans Jazz Museum staff works with transcription collaborators at the Louisiana Historical Center, September 21, 2019. Courtesy of the New Orleans Jazz Museum.

As students, researchers, and community members retraced and rewrote the words of colonial notaries, they were also furthering a long-standing digital initiative of the New Orleans Jazz Museum and Louisiana Historical Center. In the early 2010s, the Museum and Center, along with many other community partners and advocates, accomplished the incredible feat of digitizing some 220,000 pages of notarial records from colonial Louisiana to create a digital collection, www.lacolonialdocs.org. Louisiana Colonial Documents Transcribathon Project Managers Jennifer Long, Michelle Brenner, and Jenny Marie Forsythe culled from this rich resource to create the Museum’s FromThePage collection, which reveals details about enslavement, self-liberation and rebellion, kinship connections, pirate raids, colonial medicine, gambling parties, disputed inheritances, marital strife, and much more.

Painting, Pueblo of Tepatepec (New Spain) against Corregidor Manuel de Olvera, 1570–1572. According to the account, Corregidor Olvera—identified throughout with a corregidor’s staff—did not deliver on the legal representation he promised the Tepatepec Natives over various disputes regarding tithes and labor conscription. Local Spanish abuse of power was prevalent in New Spain. Genaro García Collection, Benson Latin American Collection, The University of Texas at Austin.

For the joint event, LBDS staff curated a FromThePage collection of documents written by or about indigenous populations in Mexico from the 16th to the 18th centuries in celebration of the International Year of Indigenous Languages. The team had their work cut out for them: the Benson Latin American Collection preserves numerous significant holdings documenting politics, religion, and culture during the Spanish colonial period, including some of the earliest books published in the Americas (1544–1600) and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz’s vows of profession (1669–1695), to name a few. Throughout the weekend, a small but dedicated group of individuals answered LLILAS Benson’s call and joined online. Collaborators from both coasts of the United States and as far south as Peru collectively volunteered over twenty hours of their time and fully transcribed fourteen documents from the Benson.

Pictorial representation of the lands owned by the Jesuit College of Tepozotlán, circa 1600–1625 (left). Viceregal decree ordering Tepozotlán’s repartidor to provide the Jesuit college with Native laborers, August 18, 1610 (right). Edmundo O’Gorman Collection, Benson Latin American Collection, The University of Texas at Austin.

During the weekend of October 19–20, the University of Michigan’s Language Resource Center (LRC) offered some of these transcriptions in their Translate-a-thon, a community-driven event aimed at translating materials for the benefit of the local, national, and international community. A few volunteers—one of whom had done research on colonial Mexico—were thrilled to see documents from the Benson and tackled their translation. Among these was the above decree ordering Tepozotlán’s royal administrator to assign six Natives to work for the Jesuits, underscoring the importance of Native labor in the figurative and literal construction of the Spanish Empire, and the propagation of the Roman Catholic Church. Given the success and Michigan faculty interest in this joint effort, the LRC and the LBDS Office plan to continue the collaboration to broaden the accessibility and use of the Benson’s early modern materials.

Dr. Cinthia Salinas, chair of the Dept. of Curriculum and Instruction, walks Social Studies Methods master’s students through a teaching exercise using a pictorial account of the meeting between Moctezuma and Hernán Cortés, a document from the Benson’s Genaro García Collection, March 19, 2019. Courtesy of Albert A. Palacios.

The next step at the LBDS Office is to incorporate these primary sources into Texas high school and UT Austin undergraduate curriculum. Earlier this year, LLILAS Benson initiated a Department of Education Title VI–funded partnership with the College of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction to design World History and Geography lesson plans around the Benson’s rich holdings. Building on these pedagogical efforts, LBDS staff will be translating, contextualizing, and promoting the use of these Spanish colonial documents in undergraduate classes and digital scholarship projects at UT and beyond. 

For those who missed the event, you can still join the effort! The Benson’s FromThePage collection will be open for collaborative transcription and translation until Sunday, November 3. Check out the documents list and guide to see how you can help.

Project Participants

  • Greg Lambousy (Director)
  • Jennifer Long (Scanning Manager)
  • Bryanne Schexnayder (Scanner)
  • Michelle Brenner (New Orleans Jazz Museum & Louisiana Historical Center, Reading Room Manager)
  • Jenny Marie Forsythe (Louisiana Colonial Documents Transcribathon Project Co-Manager) 
  • Handy Acosta Cuellar (PhD Candidate, Tulane University; Instructor of Spanish, Louisiana State University)
  • Raúl Alencar (Graduate Student, Tulane University)

Click here for more information on Louisiana Colonial Documents Transcribathon Collaborators.

  • Julie C. Evershed (Director)
  • Translation collaborators: Zhehao Tong, Marlon James Sales, and Olivia Alge
  • Albert A. Palacios (Digital Scholarship Coordinator)
  • Joshua Ortiz Baco (Digital Scholarship Graduate Research Assistant)
  • FromThePage collaborators (usernames): guillaume candela, Ken, Betty Cruz L, Matt H., Carolina Casusol, and Handy1985

About the Authors

Albert A. Palacios is Digital Scholarship Coordinator at LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections, The University of Texas at Austin. Jenny Marie Forsythe is co-manager of the Louisiana Colonial Documents Transcribathon Project. Julie C. Evershed is Language Resource Center Director at the University of Michigan.

Read, Hot and Digitized: The Istanbul Urban Database project

Read, hot & digitized: Librarians and the digital scholarship they love — In this series, librarians from the Libraries’ Arts, Humanities and Global Studies Engagement Team briefly present, explore and critique existing examples of digital scholarship to encourage and inspire critical reflection of and future creative contributions to the growing fields of digital scholarship.

The Istanbul Urban Database project, headed by Nil Tuzcu (MIT), Sibel Bozdoğan (İstanbul Bilgi), and Gül Neşe Doğusan Alexander (Harvard), seeks to preserve collective memory and the urban cultural heritage of Istanbul by becoming the most comprehensive online archive of Istanbul’s urban history. The project is based on a digital corpus of maps of Istanbul, aerial imagery, photographs, and geographical features. The project combines this wide range of historical data on a sustainable platform that can be integrated into other projects. The project does not stand alone; there is, in fact, an API in development for serving and exporting the various layers of the information it contains.

With the Istanbul Urban Database, users can select a variety of maps, photos, and other imagery to superimpose over one another, or compare. You can examine one historical map at a time, superimpose them with adjustable transparency, and overlay georeferenced features on the maps. The side-by-side tool allows users to compare maps from two different time periods (currently limited to the 19th and 20th centuries). Uniquely, the project draws on Ottoman and French maps, primarily from the Harvard Map Collection. This allows the user to get a sense of both the internal and external views of Istanbul in the early 20th century.

The map comparison tool.

In terms of infrastructure, the Istanbul Urban Database’s transportation layer hosts information drawn from a 1922 map on ferry, train, and tramway lines. The project organizers decided to present major roads separately because of their impact on city growth. The ferry, train, and tramway lines, and the roads, were drawn by Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative researchers––a quite labor intensive process from which                                                                                                  users benefit immensely. Users also will enjoy having access to Henri Prost’s master plan archives, which have had significant effect on the development of the city of Istanbul. Lastly, users can peruse photographs of everyday life at different points in Istanbul’s history. Examples include beaches, casinos, movie theaters, and patisseries; snapshots of lives well-lived so long ago, in some cases in places that no longer exist.

Looking at spaces of everyday life, including beaches and the spaces of Beyoğlu.

The Istanbul Urban Database project is significant for its combination of resources on an accessible platform with potential for applications in other projects. Istanbul is a difficult city to navigate, let alone understand, today, and so attempting to imagine its past lives might seem rather intimidating for researchers. The Istanbul Urban Database project streamlines access to crucial 20th and late-19th century resources to facilitate research on the growth, structure, and development of the city of Istanbul.

Using the comparison tool between 19th century maps.

I encourage readers to explore all of the tools available, especially the comparison tool that allows you slide two maps right and left to compare time periods. I also suggest looking through the photographs of everyday life that are exhibited through this project, and examine whether or not these places still exist today by zooming into the base satellite map. Readers who are interested in maps of Istanbul and Turkey more broadly would benefit from visiting the UT Maps Collection. The maps of Turkey and specifically Istanbul are extensive and of interest for those piqued by the Istanbul Urban Database.

Celebrating Open Access Week

This October 21st-27th marks the tenth instance of Open Access Week – an international event providing the academic community with opportunities to learn more about Open Access (OA), to share existing OA knowledge with others, and to encourage greater engagement with OA principles and practices. Building on a decade of global action, this year’s theme of “Open for Whom? Equity in Open Knowledge” calls for participants around the world to interrogate the motives, efforts, and outcomes associated with the Open Access movement and to posit solutions toward building a more equitable and inclusive scholarly environment.

Over the years, UT Libraries has made strong efforts toward widening access to scholarship. Just last year, we celebrated 10 years of Texas ScholarWorks, our institutional repository providing open, online access to the products of the university’s research and preserving these works for future generations. This digital portal allows users from all walks of life to engage with scholarly materials and to be aware of groundbreaking research developments free of cost.

While Texas ScholarWorks has been and continues to be a kind of backbone in our Open Access initiatives, it’s by no means the only work we’re doing in this critical area. More recently we’ve discussed our Latin American post-custodial archiving projects and the role they play in access to and preservation of valuable information relating to human rights violations. LLILAS Benson Digital Initiatives, in partnership with El Salvador’s Museum of the Word and the Image (MUPI) and with generous support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is preparing to publically release an online, digital collection “of remarkable embroidered testimonies created by refugee Salvadoran peasant women in Honduras during the civil war.” The opportunity to highlight the struggles and resilience of historically disempowered communities, in close collaboration with individuals from those communities, is a beautiful example of the kind of work that is possible in Open Access.

One of the most pressing and widely addressed issues in Open Access discussions is the rising cost of library subscriptions for online journal and database access. Last year, UT Libraries spent roughly $14 million on library resources to support students, faculty, and staff at the university. In the below Sticker Shock visualizations for annual subscription costs in 2018 and 2019, you can see just how much some already high fees have risen in only a single year.

In order to continue providing high levels of scholarly access and research support, libraries have had to be very thoughtful in their purchasing process, and they’ve also had to make sacrifices. With flat budgets and increasing costs, where libraries choose to spend their money can quickly become a matter of inequity. When you only have so many dollars to spend, whose scholarship is considered “worth it” and whose is not? One way UT Libraries seeks to alleviate this issue of rising costs while supporting a more sustainable and equitable system of publishing and access is through our Open Memberships fund. By financially supporting open infrastructure projects, we seek to encourage greater innovation and equity in the scholarly communications ecosystem.

If you’re interested in learning more about Open Access at UT Libraries, please join a few of our librarians for Open Access Week Trivia in the Perry-Castañeda Library lobby from 2-4 p.m. on Tuesday, October 22nd and check out our Open Access blog. If you want to keep track of Open Access Week news happening outside of UT, you can follow the official event hashtags on Twitter (#OAWeek and #OpenForWhom).

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.]

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