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