On October 26, the Libraries hosted an incredible screening of Filipino American film-maker, PJ Raval’s 2023 documentary, “Who We Become: A Story of Kapwa”.
In honor of Filipino History Month, over 50 attendees gathered to watch Raval’s feature documentary about three young Filipina women wrestling with the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic and racial tensions. Raval’s work follows the women as they find themselves on a journey of self-discovery and self-reflection within their families and communities, finding new meanings of Kapwa.
Multiple organizations across campus worked together to celebrate Filipino and Filipino American culture; bringing film, food, and community into the Perry-Castañeda Library. The event also featured catering from Kapatad Kitchen & Café, the documentary short, Pagtiyagaan (2023), created by Giullian Canlas, a current senior in Asian American Studies and Radio Television Film at the University of Texas at Austin, and an insightful Q&A with Director PJ Raval.
Filmmaker Ava DuVernay’s distribution company, ARRAY, is bringing Raval’s documentary to Netflix on December 1st, and UT librarians, Uri Kolodney and Adriana Cásarez, are acquiring the film for the UT Libraries permanent collection.
This event was co-sponsored by the Center for Asian American Studies at UT Austin, UT Libraries, Radio, Television and Film (RTF), Moody College of Communication DEI, Filipino Students Association (FSA) and UT Asian American Journalists Association (UT AAJA).
Read, hot & digitized: Librarians and the digital scholarship they love — In this series, librarians from the UT Libraries Arts, Humanities and Global Studies Engagement Team briefly present, explore and critique existing examples of digital scholarship. Our hope is that these monthly reviews will inspire critical reflection of, and future creative contributions to, the growing fields of digital scholarship.
The E-lijah Lab (text in Hebrew) is a digital humanities lab in the Department of Jewish History & Bible Studies at the University of Haifa in Northern Israel. Among many projects that map the history of Jewish culture, HaMapah (Hebrew for ‘The Map’), founded in 2018 by then PhD students Elli Fischer and Moshe Schorr (now a Rabbi and a software engineer respectively), “aims to bring modern tools of quantitative and geographic analysis to Rabbinic literature.” Mapping ‘rabbinic networks’ that are based on responsa (Jewish legal texts written in the framework of questions and answers), the project reveals new data that “shows spheres of influence through time and across space.”
Schorr explains that “a true responsum, the answer that a rabbi writes to a query posed by another rabbi, is the basic unit of rabbinic authority. It orders the two correspondents hierarchically; the one asking acknowledges the greater expertise of the one answering, thereby expanding the latter’s influence.” Moreover, “because the hierarchy is … emerging implicitly from the deference of the secondary and tertiary elite, it can tell us more about the dynamics of influence, reputation, and expertise than many other forms of legal authority.”
The metadata of responsa – when they were written, to whom, by whom, from where, and to where they were sent – can be digitally quantified and visualized in different ways. HaMapah examines the effects of national and cultural borders on the spread of rabbinic authority. Data visualization shows the ‘reach’ of Rabbis who lived near one another, either at the same time or in succession, demonstrating rabbis’ authority.
For example, while mapping Noda Bi-Yehuda, a two volume responsa work by Rabbi Yechezkel ben Yehuda HaLevi Landau (1713-1793) who was an influential authority in halakha (Jewish law), the researchers discovered significant differences between the two volumes, as they represent distinct parts of his career.
The responsa in volume 1, published in 1776, are scattered across a wider geographic area than those in volume 2 (published posthumously in 1810), even though it contains only about half the number of responsa and was composed earlier. Those in volume 2 are much more densely concentrated in Bohemia, Moravia, and Hungary, whereas Volume 1 includes more responsa to Germany and Poland. It seems that the publisher, who was actually Landau’s son, wanted the contents of the book to shape and perhaps geographically expand his father’s reputation. The knowledge gained through visualization leads Fischer to assert that “the implication is that Rabbi Landau had a certain geographic consciousness. He was aware that a greater reach implied greater halakhic authority and had a mental map of his sphere of influence, or at least of the sphere of influence he wished to project to his readers.”
The success of HaMapah has branched out to adjacent projects, including a Searchable Map of Hebrew Place Names, and the comprehensive database of Prenumeranten. Similar to today’s crowdfunding campaigns, the Prenumeranten were lists of readers who presubscribed to books before publication. Those lists were printed in around 1700 Hebrew books published during the 18th-20th centuries. They document almost 10,000 distinct places of Jewish residence, mainly in Europe, as well as the names of hundreds of thousands of individuals. Each subscription – noting a specific person, living in a specific place, buying a specific book in a specific year – is a data point in a vast network of cultural interactions. For example, Fischer used this vast data set to reconstruct the itineraries of three booksellers as they sold subscriptions throughout Europe in the mid-19th century. He also researched the reception of specific authors and their works in various communities, such as that of Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna (1720-1797), better known as the Vilna Gaon.
The HaMapah and Prenumeranten projects effectively combine historical documents and cutting-edge technologies to shed new light on the intersections of travel, book culture, and Jewish history. While these projects are still in their infancy, I encourage readers to visit the website for conference papers on their early findings and to learn more about these important projects.
Fischer, Elli and Schorr, Moshe. Analysis of Metadata in Responsa : Methods and Findings. Innovations in Digital Jewish Heritage Studies – the 1st International Haifa Conference. July 13, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MV9N1Zt15Uc (video).
Haas, Peter. Responsa : literary history of a rabbinic genre : Atlanta, Ga. : Scholars Press. 1996.
 Rabbinic literature, in its broadest sense, is the entire spectrum of rabbinic writings throughout Jewish history. However, the term often refers specifically to literature from the Talmudic era, as opposed to medieval and modern rabbinic writing. In academic research, Rabbinic literature includes the Mishnah, Halakha, Tosefta, Talmud, Midrash, and related writings (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbinic_literature).
Eight UT graduate students were selected to participate in the program cohort. The students–in MA and PhD programs–are studying in the African & African Diaspora Studies, English, History, and Middle Eastern Studies departments, as well as in the UT iSchool. They have a variety of experiences with research in libraries and archives, with digitization, and with publishing scholarship, all of which they bring to their cohort discussions. However, they are united to realize the goals of this symposium program, which include reading about, discussing, and creating approaches for research and collection development in a digitizable environment. The latter can be described with the question: what does it mean to create or select print and electronic content in an environment in which digitization is possible and high quality; in which there is support for the applications of machine-readable text; and in which the materials are stewarded by libraries and used by researchers outside of the materials’ region of origin?
The Theory & Practice of Digitization cohort, with Dale J. Correa and Beth Dodd.
Cohort participants are encouraged to engage with existing writing (scholarly and popular) on these topics in thoughtful and critical ways, with the end goal being to create a sense of belonging to the conversation. What gets digitized and how it gets digitized are decisions that affect everyone, but most of all, marginalized communities that have been historically disadvantaged from participation in scholarship and the building of library collections (even, and especially, collections for which they are the subject). As part of this program, cohort participants are trained in the basics of scanning, OCR, and outputs/applications with a material selection of their choice, so that they have insight into the hands-on processes of digitization and how to use this technology for their goals. The program’s culminating public symposium puts the cohort’s theoretical and practical experiences in conversation with a digital cultural heritage scholar and engagement with the audience in order to realize new approaches to digitized resources.
I developed The Theory & Practice of Digitization Community Symposium Program as the final project for my Mellon Fellowship for Diversity, Inclusion & Cultural Heritage at the Rare Book School. As fellows, we are asked to put together a community symposium at our home institution that advances understanding of cultural heritage, archives, and/or special collections and allows us to promote aspects of our collections to broader publics and communities. With the development of the new Scholars Lab at the Perry-Castañeda Library, and considering my own interests in reparative and restorative practices in librarianship and scholarship, I wanted to create an opportunity for graduate students to expand their researcher skill-sets and build reflective approaches to their future professions. We are incredibly fortunate to have a wide range and depth of expertise at the UT Libraries, and it is from this well of experience and insight that this program has drawn.
Our first session, held at the end of August shortly after the semester began, featured a conversation with Rachel E. Winston (Black Diaspora Archivist at the Benson Latin American Collection) and Beth Dodd (Curator at the Alexander Architectural Archives) on defining terms for our work in this program through their experience with digitization as archivists at UT. Rachel and Beth presented on the process of selecting and adding items to the archives, including when, how, and why they make decisions around digitization. Their experiences with a variety of collections––from donors or vendors; recent or older; created in the U.S. or around the world––gave them insight to respond to students’ questions regarding the ethics of archival digitization and stimulated the students’ engagement with crucial concepts by providing real and tried examples for them to consider.
TPD cohort session #1 with Rachel E. Winston and Beth Dodd in the PCL Learning Labs,
The program’s second session introduced students to the basic principles of handling cultural heritage materials and digitizing them. My colleagues from the UT Libraries’ Stewardship department, Brittany Centeno (Preservation Librarian) and Kiana Fekette (Head of Digitization) led the students through a review of best practices for handling paper materials such as books, periodicals, and personal archives. The session was held in the new Scan Tech Studio in the Scholars Lab, which functions as a self-service facility for independent researcher digitization, image processing, and text recognition-based scholarship. Brittany and Kiana brought sample materials so that the students could get a sense of what to do for for different preservation situations, such as a book with a broken spine, brittle and flaking paper or leather, bent or misshapen items, and materials that are tightly bound. They also demonstrated how to use a diffuser light set up, which can be particularly useful for items with a difficult-to-capture sheen (such as different types of photographs) or for mobile applications when traveling for research.
TPD cohort session #2 with Brittany Centeno and Kiana Fekette in the Scan Tech Studio.
In our third session, we met with Allyssa Guzman (Head of Digital Scholarship Services) and Ian Goodale (European Studies Librarian) for a survey of, training with, and discussion of tools that the students might use for their research with digitized materials. Allyssa covered how to get started with digital scholarship, including project planning/management and tool selection. She created an excellent LibGuide for the cohort to refer back to as they move forward with their work. Ian reviewed a number of tools that we recommend and regularly use here at the UT Libraries for transcription/OCR correction and text analysis, including some that he has developed himself.
TPD cohort session #3, with Allyssa Guzman in this image.
The cohort’s efforts will culminate in a community symposium on November 9, 2023, 5 – 7 PM in the PCL Scholars Lab Data Lab. This event is free and open to the public: everyone is invited and encouraged to attend. The symposium is an opportunity for the UT, Austin, and greater central Texas communities to learn about the digitization of cultural heritage through the experiences of the student cohort members. It’s also an opportunity to hear from a respected scholar of digital cultural heritage, Dr. Raha Rafii, who will be giving the keynote address. Her lecture, titled, “Navigating the Ethical Landscape of Manuscript Digitization,” will look at recent examples of digitized forms of cultural heritage and the impact on their origin communities in order to think through complex issues of ethics, and to determine the lines between academic researcher priorities and digitization as an extension of colonial and imperialist practices. For more information on the community symposium, please see the UT Libraries’ Events page.
AUSTIN, Texas—The Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at The University of Texas at Austin has acquired the archive of prominent Nicaraguan writer and activist Gioconda Belli.
The acclaimed author of nine novels, a memoir, two volumes of essays, nine poetry collections and four children’s books, Belli is the recipient of several major literary prizes over her decades-long career, including the prestigious Casa de las Américas Prize for poetry (1978) and the Reina Sofía de Ibero-American Poetry Prize (2023).
Known for her feminist writing and erotic poetry, Belli has a broad international following, with works translated into at least 20 languages. The English translation of her memoir, The Country under My Skin, was a finalist for a Los Angeles Times book prize.
Gioconda Belli, photo by Daniel Mordzinski
Belli was among the leaders of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), which defeated the regime of Anastasio Somoza Debayle in the Nicaraguan Revolution of 1979, and she worked in support of the Sandinista government until 1993. Amid her increasingly vocal criticism of the Daniel Ortega–Rosario Murillo regime, Belli was forcibly expelled, stripped of her citizenship and declared a traitor to her country in February 2023 along with 93 other Nicaraguans. This is her second exile.
Newspaper clipping, “Poemas y prosemas,” published in La Prensa Literaria, 1970s. Benson Latin American Collection.
In celebration of her archive’s arrival at the Benson Collection, Belli will visit the campus of The University of Texas at Austin from March 19-22, 2024, for a series of events, including a public lecture.
Belli discussed her work, the contents of her archive and her decision to entrust it to the Benson in an interview with Benson director Melissa Guy. Read the interview in Spanish here or in English translation.
“As a longtime admirer of her literary work and her activism, I am honored that Gioconda has entrusted the Benson with her collection,” Guy said. “We look forward to engaging students and faculty with the archive, and to welcoming Nicaragua’s greatest living poet to Austin in the near future.”
For more information: Susanna Sharpe, Communications Coordinator, LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections.
Hispanic Heritage Month is observed September 15 through October 15 and celebrates Hispanic Americans’ contributions to our nation and society. Before this observation comes to a close, let’s look at some poets who have enriched America with collections accessible at UT Libraries.
From (the first Latina) US Poet Laureate, Ada Limon, comes a collection of poetry that won the 2018 National Book Critics Circle Award. “Vulnerable, tender, acute, these are serious poems, brave poems, exploring with honesty the ambiguous moment between the rapture of youth and the grace of acceptance.”
The first Latino Yale Series of Younger Poets award winner, Eduardo C Corral seamlessly braids English and Spanish and hurtles across literary and linguistic borders toward a lyricism that slows down experience. He employs a range of forms and phrasing, bringing the vivid particulars of his experiences as a Chicano and gay man to the page.
Sandra Cisneros is the bestselling author of The House on Mango Street and winner of the 2019 PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature. A candid, sexy and wonderfully mood-strewn collection of poetry that celebrates the female aspects of love, from the reflective to the overtly erotic.
In this collection of poems, written during and immediately after two years on the road as United States Poet Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera reports back on his travels through contemporary America with the multiple powers of the many voices and many textures of every day in America.
Written by the first Latina to win a Pulitzer Prize in poetry, Postcolonial Love Poem is an anthem of desire against erasure. Through these poems, the wounds inflicted by America onto an indigenous people are allowed to bloom pleasure and tenderness.
Calling into question the concept of the American Dream, Javier Zamora reimagines home, fusing music and memory to address the quandaries that tear families apart and—if we’re lucky—inspire the building of lives anew in this debut poetry collection.
works of award-winning poet and novelist Julia Alvarez are rich with the language and influences of two cultures: the Dominican Republic of her childhood and the America of her youth and adulthood. They have shaped her writing just as they have shaped her life.
A graduate costume design class recently visited the Fine Arts Library to learn more about library resources. I was thrilled to be able to share with them excerpts from performances by Sharir+Bustamante DanceWorks, projecting video clips such as 2001’s Automated Body Project on our media wall. To everyone’s delight, we then had the chance to view the actual physical costumes seen in the video footage, examples we now understand as early explorations in wearable technology.
Wearable Technology. Photo by Mark Doroba
It was exciting to witness the students engage with these artifacts, thoughtfully analyzing form and function through the lens of design; posing insightful questions; and drawing connections to their course material, ongoing discussions, and personal experiences.
This interactive instructional opportunity was only possible through the generous donation of Dr. Yacov Sharir, who gifted his archive to the Fine Arts Library in 2016. Sharir came to Austin in 1978 to start the American Deaf Dance Company and became faculty at UT shortly thereafter. In 1982, the Sharir Dance Company became the professional company-in-residence at the UT Department of Theatre and Dance. (The company later took the name Sharir+Bustamante Danceworks in 1998, acknowledging José Luis Bustamante as co-artistic director). Sharir was an early innovator in the area of dance and digital technology, and his work has had a profound impact not only on the University, but on the Austin modern dance community as a whole.
Sharir Dance Company, Wise Heart (1988). Photo by Jon Leatherwood
Sharir passed away on September 29, 2023, at the age of 83, leaving behind a rich legacy as an artist, educator, and mentor. As we remember, honor, and celebrate this legacy, the gift of his archive takes on a deeper meaning, an enduring offering for many more groups of students and researchers to come.
Sharir Dance Company. Cyber Human Dances (1996)
I encourage you to explore the Sharir and Sharir/Bustamante Dance Collection which includes videos, photographs, programs, press materials, art, costumes, and virtual reality equipment. It features the choreography of Sharir and Bustamante through the 2007 final season of S+BDW and beyond, along with the work of many guest artists and collaborators. Owing to the combined efforts of former Theatre and Dance Librarian Beth Kerr, research assistant Katie Van Winkle, and many folks in UT Libraries’ Digitization Services, a large portion of the collection has been digitized, and is openly accessible to the public on Texas ScholarWorks.
The much-anticipated grand opening of the new Scholars’ Lab at the University of Texas at Austin’s Perry-Castañeda Library (PCL) officially launched the new space on Thursday, October 5, with more than 100 members of the campus community and beyond in attendance. This event marked a significant milestone in the university’s commitment to fostering innovation, collaboration, and research excellence.
The Lab is a dynamic space designed to support interdisciplinary research, collaboration, and digital scholarship, welcomed scholars, researchers, students, and community members to its beautifully designed premises. The event was a celebration of the university’s dedication to providing cutting-edge resources for its academic community.
The grand opening event featured from university administrators and experts in libraries, who highlighted the importance of the Scholars’ Lab in advancing research and scholarship at UT Austin. Attendees were then given an opportunity to explore the state-of-the-art facilities, including dedicated workstations equipped with the latest technology, collaborative spaces for group projects, and a vast collection of digital resources.
As the Scholars’ Lab officially opens its doors, it is poised to become a vibrant center for academic inquiry and collaboration. The university’s investment in this cutting-edge facility reaffirms its commitment to fostering innovation and excellence in research.
In the coming months and years, we can expect to see exciting developments and groundbreaking research emerge from the Scholars’ Lab at UT Austin. The grand opening event was just the beginning of what promises to be a transformative journey for the academic community and the university as a whole.
UT Austin became the first university from the United States to participate as the guest of honor at this prestigious event. The gathering attracted over 35,000 participants from 10 different countries, and featured over 50 roundtable discussions, research symposia, live podcasts, musical performances, film screenings, and exhibits, covering a wide range of topics.
The UT delegation was comprised of more than 130 faculty members, graduate students, performers, staffers, campus leaders, and alumni representing 20 of the University’s colleges, schools, and units. The University of Texas Press, a long-time FILUNI participant, showcased 600 of its titles, with more than 1,100 books available for purchase at the fair’s on-site bookstore.
While in attendance, Guy had the opportunity to talk with regional media, and was featured in several publications:
“Colección Nettie Lee Benson, joyas latinoamericanas en EU,” El Universal
StoryMaps is a digital tool that enables you to craft a narrative using maps, images, videos, and text. This workshop session will provide an introductory overview of creating a digital exhibit with StoryMaps. Participants will learn to weave together data points, images, videos, and text to form engaging stories.
How much is a star really worth? This session will examine customer review data including how to use reviews effectively, how to spot fake reviews, and what consumers, companies and academic researchers do with customer review data.
Where: Zoom and Perry-Castañeda Library (PCL), Scholars Lab, Data Lab
This workshop will provide an explanation of key geospatial terms and concepts and an introduction to open source geographic information system (GIS) software for visualizing, analyzing, storing, processing, and managing geospatial data. By the end of this session you should have the core knowledge required to start working effectively with geospatial datasets using open source tools.
In this session we’ll talk about Libraries’ support for open access (OA) publishing, including support that eliminates article processing charges (APCs) for UT authors. We’ll discuss the main types of OA publishing business models (including OA book publishing), and how the Libraries is strategically investing in these options. Finally, we’ll show participants how they can share their work regardless of the publication model. This free session is open to anyone, but will be of most interest to faculty, students, and staff who publish scholarly content. Registration is required.