Illuminating Explorations: French Communism and Global Revolution

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


Radical politics in Europe experienced a pronounced growth in strength and popularity in the early 20th century, both before and following the communist revolution in Russia in October 1917. France possessed a unique position in the continent-wide growth of leftist and labor-focused–and specifically communist and anarcho-syndicalist–parties and movements. The Paris Commune and its politics played an important role in the development of Marxism, which would later become the most prominent political position in politically successful leftist parties and revolutionaries from Russia to Western Europe. While very influential and popular throughout France in the early twentieth century, there were also significant forces opposed to the rise of left-wing sentiment both in France and across Europe. This exhibit curates a number of significant holdings of the UT Libraries surrounding communism in France, and is organized into sections containing pro-communist, anti-communist, and leftist but not explicitly pro-communist materials.

The exhibit aims to shed light on the varied political attitudes and interests active in Francophone literature at this time. These perspectives include explicitly pro-Leninist ideas, firmly in line with the Soviet-led Third International, or Comintern, to outwardly monarchist tracts opposed to the Bolshevik seizure of power. Also included are dissenting leftist opinions that, while decidedly pro-labor and in the leftist camp politically, are nevertheless not truly in line with the Soviet model of democratic centralism as propagated and put into practice by Lenin. In addition to French authors, the exhibit also represents a few pamphlets that are French translations of Russian texts, highlighting the truly international character of European socialism during this period.

The pamphlets presented here have been selected for this exhibit not only because of their importance to the UT Libraries’ distinctive collections, but because of their relevance to the political and socio-cultural history of Europe, both Western and Eastern, which continues to influence contemporary politics in France and beyond. Many of the publications also feature graphics and designs that will be of interest to anyone interested in the history of monographic design and publishing in the early to mid-twentieth century.

This collection will be of interest to anyone who would like to learn more about French-language history and propaganda, or who is interested in the development of socialist (specifically communist) and anti-socialist ideologies in Europe. The print versions of the pamphlets are available at the Perry-Castañeda Library and their digitized versions are available through the UT Libraries’ Collections Portal.

Ian Goodale is the European Studies Librarian for UT Libraries.

Diversity Residents Move On

In fall of last year, the Libraries welcomed the first class of The Consuelo Artaza and Dr. Carlos Castañeda Diversity Alliance Residency Program who arrived for a 2-year term. Residents Laura Tadena and Natalie Hill spent the last year+ in rotations with various units for an immersive experience in librarianship, and though their terms haven’t yet expired, both earned the sort of attention that generated interest from other institutions wanting to lure them to professional opportunity. While we’re sad to see them leave, we’re extremely proud of the work they put in during their time at UT, and for the extensive contributions they made to what we do.

Hill and Tadena sat with me to reflect on their experience during their residencies, and to share their impressions of the program and the knowledge they gained.


Natalie Hill and Laura Tadena.
Natalie Hill and Laura Tadena.

Tex Libris: What is the main value or biggest takeaway you have from participating in the program?

Laura Tadena: I think for me it was learning about all the resources that we have access to or that are available for the state, and really wanting to share that information with others. Coming into this, I wasn’t familiar with the Texas State Library. I also didn’t realize how many libraries are open and free to the public, especially academic and college libraries. So, I think the most valuable thing for me was learning that and really refining my information literacy skills. Now I feel equipped to really find information in a way that I wasn’t before, especially research and reference skills. I did chat, which was part of learning UT’s system, and then we ended up doing a lot of presentations together, which required a lot of research that recalled the knowledge I learned in school and put it into practice in a professional setting. And seeing how some of the other librarians in action, how they do their jobs, and being like, “Wow…that’s how you get information.” 

Rachel Winston and Natalie Hill standing in front of a work of art.
Rachel Winston and Natalie Hill.

Natalie Hill: My big takeaway is knowing how the library works at multiple levels, and how information is communicated. Rotating between the different areas and being on all of the listservs, even after I’ve left an area, has been really interesting to see when people find things out about what’s going on. The experience has really encouraged me to go into leadership, which isn’t something I had strongly considered before. Now I want to do that.

TL: Do you feel like you gained some confidence from your time here?

NH: For sure.

TL: That’s a huge value, if you can walk into a place feeling like a visitor, and walk away thinking, “I can do this.”

NH: I think meeting directly with (Libraries’ Director) Lorraine Haricombe a few times was really valuable, and having her provide encouragement…when she says you can do something, you think, “Yeah, I can, if she thinks I can.”  So it was a big confidence boost.

TL: You have both done a lot of presentations in your time here, and that comes along with the territory, being in the residency program, but not all of the presentations were required as a component of your positions as resident; they were elective. Was that interest in presenting something you brought to your work here, or was it a byproduct of the confidence you’ve talked about gaining in your time at the Libraries?

NH: I think it was after we got here. Presentations were what I was least looking forward to. And now I’m like, “These are easy.”

LT: I think that one of the things that kind of started it was when we had a window into the hiring process, and saw what the CVs, resumés and cover letters looked like. We realized that we needed to get that sort of activity into our CV to be able to compete in the market. And so we put a bunch of submissions out thinking we weren’t going to get accepted…

NH: We thought it would be harder to get accepted…

LT: We also recognized a higher value in presenting papers or being included in panels as opposed to other forms of presentation.

TL: Did the experience meet your expectations?

NH: I didn’t fully know what I wanted to do when I started, but I felt it would have something to do with open education. So being able to call myself the open education librarian, and write my own job was great. So, in that way the experience exceeded my expectations — especially with the development work behind open education going on simultaneously, to see it becoming a real strategic initiative within the organization and to be part of it as that was happening.

LT: I think coming into this, I initially thought I was going to be doing more outreach and connecting with the student body, so learning how academic libraries work was what exceeded my expectations. And the access we had to professional development was incredible. We had opportunities to go to professional conferences, and I got practice in applying for scholarships. I came in here wanting to find ways to serve Texas, and I think I leave here now with a better foundation for doing that.

NH: I think one thing I didn’t expect was being known in the field. And I feel like now people know us – probably as a pair, not necessarily as individuals – but, still that’s bizarre. It’s kind of strange to be familiar to people in positions of leadership.

Hill and Tadena with fellow diversity residents.
Hill and Tadena with fellow diversity residents.

TL: This is a nascent program that didn’t have a lot of predetermined direction when you came in, and you’ve had a chance to steer it in a way.

LT: We didn’t expect to start a Slack space for various diversity residents across the country, but there are ACRL liaisons contacting us about the development of that. We’re being brought on as mentors for other residents. So it’s rewarding to be able to give back to the profession.

NH: Laura met with the iSchool to try to set up presentation opportunities for students.

LT: I also met with the dean of my alma mater who’s been recruiting me to teach there. I didn’t realize that as library schools are moving more towards an information science orientation, there is a shortage of public school librarians, resulting in a shortage of people who can teach about school librarianship. Someone told me – I think it was Portia (Vaughn, previous science liaison) – that every opportunity should lead to another opportunity, and I’ve found that it does tend to happen if you are open to talking with people and seeing if you can meet each other’s needs and trying to think ahead.

TL: What was the benefit of getting to work with professionals in librarianship?

NH: I worked with Colleen Lyon (Head of Scholarly Communications) most of the time that I’ve been here, and that’s been really beneficial because she really knows what she’s doing.

LT: I think that working with Porcia (Vaughn, former Liaison Librarian for Biosciences) and Carolyn (Cunningham, Head of Teaching and Learning Engagement Team), they have a way of communicating with you and teaching you – the had a way of teaching you how to do things, including the decisions behind their methods; it was extremely helpful and not something that everyone naturally does. Carolyn was really helpful in navigating internal and institutional frameworks, and Porcia helped with the external opportunities, like connecting with other STEM librarians, introducing me to other networks to get involved in of which I was unaware. And through our residence space, we learned about what was happening at other libraries.

Porcia Vaughan, Laura Tadena and Natalie Hill.
Porcia Vaughan, Laura Tadena and Natalie Hill.

TL: What was something you didn’t know about libraries before that you know now?

NH: I didn’t know anything about instructional design, and now I’m going to be an instructional designer. At the time we came in, job postings in the field suggested that people were looking for assessment and instructional design experience, and I was like, “I don’t really care about either of those things.” But, working in open education, I realized that I was drifting away from affordability arguments, and toward student engagement and being able to adapt materials to better serve users, and those are really just instructional design principles. So, open pedagogy is what I want to do now.

LT: I really didn’t understand how academic libraries operated, big picture stuff. I think one of the biggest things I learned was how we provide services to our community. And what, as librarians, we’re able to do. I didn’t know that there was a state library that did just professional development. And I didn’t know about AMIGOS which does professional development support for all libraries. That area of the profession is very interesting to me because of my instruction background, and so I’m excited to be able to take that forward and support all types of libraries.   

NH: I don’t think I knew about how professional associations work before this, and having the ARL president here (Haricombe), I now know what the ARL does, which has been really valuable, because you can see where broader initiatives start then trickle out to the rest of field in succeeding years.

LT: And how committees operate, because we’re getting practical experience.

Three people standing with a large Olmec head sculpture.

TL: What advice would you give to someone who was considering applying to a residency program like this?

NH: Know that the program is for you, so if there’s not going to be a lot of flexibility or freedom, maybe consider another option. I think that we’ve been really fortunate here in that coming in as the first class of residents, it was pretty unstructured, and people were pretty willing to say yes to ideas. We’ve seen where other residency programs have a set job description and I don’t think something like that would be anywhere near as valuable an experience.

LT: My suggestion would be to connect with other residents — to learn about what they are doing and use that to help support what you are doing or to create your own agency, and advocate for your own benefit within the program. Because being part of it is about learning, and I think we’ve seen a lot of residents in positions where they don’t know they can ask for more, or they aren’t aware that they have some control over their experience and what they gain from it. We’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity – as long as it ties to our growth and development – to help shape our own experience.

TL: What do you think can be done to improve the experience for future residents?

LT: Cohort models are nice. I don’t know that this program would have been as beneficial for us if there was just one of us. It was a great experience to be able to have someone to go to talk with about the shared experience, to have someone that you’re constantly able to check in with. And, then again, to have someone available to bounce ideas off of was helpful, especially since the program is a safe space. Moving forward, I would recommend that there are at least two residents at the same level, or at least in a cohort model that is closer together. Having a buddy is good. And having great mentors.

NH: Maybe there could be a refresher for staff on what the program intent is. Because it’s up to the individual resident what interest within the organization they choose to pursue, they could end up in any area, even one that may have not had previous experience with a resident. We stayed in pretty public-facing academic engagement roles, but maybe someone else would be really interested in technical services. So just a reminder that it could go any way. And keeping the door open so that residents can go anywhere within the library that appeals to them, because that is what makes this program unique from other ones.

TL: What’s next for each of you?

LT: I will be the inclusive services consultant at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, and I’ll be working for the first year with public libraries, helping to train staff and ensure that they have adequate resources to provide inclusive services. My future supervisor has said that the hope is to expand the role and potentially bring my work into both school and college/academic libraries. I’m looking forward to the type of work that I’m going to do. It’s another job that I don’t really know what I’m getting into, but I’m excited because of the great things I’ve heard about the State Library. And I’ll be close by.

NH: I will be an instructional designer with the University of New England in Portland, Maine, and I will be on a team of instructional designers within the College of Graduate and Professional Studies, which is made of fully online graduate programs. So, I will be working with faculty and subject matter experts to develop new online courses and provide quality assurance and redesigns for existing courses. I think that my specialty on the team will be promoting open educational resources and moving those to the forefront in the course creation process.

LT: Outside of our future roles, we’re also going to be working on a book chapter with (new diversity resident) Adriana Casarez on the residency program, and we’ll be presenting at TLA together, on a panel about residencies in Texas.

NH: Then, hopefully, the goal is to come up with an ACRL proposal so that we can do that in 2021.

TL: Congratulations on be the first class and being first class.

NH/LT: Thank you!

NH: We’re the first to graduate!

LT: Yay! We get to move our tassle….

Collections Highlight: Bertolini’s “Florula guatimalensis”

Historical photo of Antonio Bertoloni
Antonio Bertoloni

Antonio Bertolini (1775-1869) was a Italian botanist and professor of botany at Bologna who wrote predominantly on Italian botany. He also collected notable samples of Central American flora.

Joaquin Velasco, a Mexican physician, came to Italy in 1836, as part of the Mexican papal delegation, and brought with him numerous dried plants and seeds from Guatemala which he presented to Bertolini. Most of them were new or rare species, and their description and classification was compiled and published by Bertolini as Florula guatimalensis sistens plantas nonnullas in Guatimala sponte nascentes. One of the 28 copies available at libraries worldwide resides in the Benson Latin American Collection.

print of poinsetta
“Euphorbia erytrophylla,” commonly known as flor de pascua or poinsettia pulcherrima, from Antonio Bertoloni, Florula guatimalensis sistens plantas nonnullas in Guatimala sponte nascentes (Bononiae [Bologna]: ex typographaeo Emygdii ab Ulmo, 1840), plate 6. Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas Libraries.

Several of the plants Velasco provided to Bertolini were successfully grown in the Bologna Botanical Gardens.

Read, Hot and Digitized: South by—The Border Studies Archive at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

BY DANIEL ARBINO

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 Border Studies Archive (BSA) at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) has fostered really interesting digital collections of borderlands materials in recent years. These projects include Traditional Mexican American Folklore; Border Wall and Border Security; Border Music; Latinas and Politics; Spanish Land Grants; and Visual Border Studies. Each of these collections offers insight into a vast array of cultural elements that combine to depict life along the U.S.­–Mexico border.

From non-Western healing practices to government documents on border patrol to land grants, the archive seeks to be as encompassing as possible for local community members and scholars conducting research. In fact, many times these cultural processes challenge the notion of a geopolitical border through transnational production like music, folklore, and curanderismo, as many of these elements exist on both sides of the border. Importantly, much of this information is offered through oral histories and video interviews to retain original voices.

UT Rio Grande Valley Border Studies Archive page.

One of the highlights is the BSA’s Border Music Collection, which contains rare regional music that has been donated by scholars and community members alike. This collection recalls local and now-defunct record companies, musicians of yesteryear, and a genre of local music that is threatened by globalization. But music is just one aspect of the collection. It also includes rare interviews with musicians who discuss their life and what influenced their songs. These interviews come via donations and also interviews conducted by the BSA or students in partnership with the BSA. To that end, the BSA contributes to the growth of its own archive by enlisting university students and the community to record these histories with high-quality equipment. The Border Music Collection continues to digitize old records and CDs for an online collection that offers excerpts of the larger collection.

Video interview with Guadalupe Wally Gonzalez on the UTRGV archive’s Border Music page.

Why go to all this trouble? For the curators, this archive builds a sense of community where everyone can learn something new from interacting with members. Perhaps more significantly, it opposes popular U.S. discourse that the borderland is only a violent space in need of heightened security. On the contrary, the archive portrays a vibrant society alive with unique cultural processes and innovation that has the potential to unite both sides of a border divided by “una herida abierta” (Anzaldúa 1987, 3).

Hidalgo County Land Grant Map, UTRGV Border Studies Archive.

Access to the Collections

University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is employing CONTENTdm to showcase these collections. This platform permits the embedding of different types of content, including audio, video, and text. Only some metadata is supplied with certain files, but the user has to dig around to find it; it’s not easily discoverable on the public-facing side of the site. However, the site’s content is fully available in both Spanish and English, an important recognition of the populations being served. Aside from the need for more robust metadata, there remains an opportunity for further digital scholarship that will surely come with time. The Spanish Land Grants section would benefit from additional visual mapping options like CARTO, for example. However, the current interactive map allows users to click on highlighted areas and watch short videos pertaining to the region.  

For music-related materials at the Benson Latin American Collection, please refer to: The Oscar Martinez Papers, Robert P. and Sugar C. Rodriguez Collection of Tejano Music, the Tish Hinojosa Papers, and the Dan Dickey Music Collection For oral histories, please see: Los del Valle Oral History Project and Voces Oral History Project. Finally, for visual renderings of some traditional healing practices, see Carmen Lomas Garza Papers and Artworks.

Citation

Anzaldúa, G.E. (1999). Borderlands/La Frontera. 2nd ed. San Francisco, CA: Aunt Lute Books.