A Night with Gioconda Belli

Renowned Nicaraguan writer and political figure, Gioconda Belli, spoke to a captivated crowd of over 120 attendees at a March 20 event hosted by the Benson Latin American Collection. The occasion served not only as a platform for Belli to share her remarkable journey but also to celebrate the acquisition of her archive by the Benson Latin American Collection.

Born in Managua, Belli grew up amidst the political upheaval of the Somoza dictatorship. Educated both in Nicaragua and abroad, she studied in Europe and the United States before initially pursuing a career in advertising, later shifting her focus to revolutionary politics.

In 1970, Belli joined the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), a leftist guerrilla organization opposing the Somoza regime, where she served as a clandestine courier, transported weapons, and travelled around Europe and Latin America obtaining resources and raising awareness of the Sandinista struggle.

Belli’s literary works artfully merge fiction and autobiography, drawing from her experiences as a revolutionary and a woman. Themes of love, desire, politics, and social change permeate her writing, notably exemplified in her renowned novel “The Inhabited Woman” (La mujer habitada, 1988).

Belli’s talk at the Benson delved into her experiences as a Sandinista and how these pivotal moments, intertwined with her personal life, have shaped her identity as a writer. The event provided Belli an opportunity to reflect on the preservation of her legacy at the Benson, and the importance of maintaining a historical accounting.

Attendees were treated to a recital of her poetry during her talk, and her compelling narrative resonated deeply with the audience, sparking thoughtful questions during the Q&A session that followed with director of the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies (LLILAS) Adela Pineda.

Despite being exiled by the government of Daniel Ortega in 2022, Belli remains actively engaged in social and political advocacy, championing women’s rights and democratic reforms in Nicaragua and beyond. Continuously writing and participating in public discourse, she uses her platform to amplify marginalized voices and advocate for social justice.

The event not only served as a tribute to Gioconda Belli’s contributions to literature and politics but also highlighted the importance of preserving her legacy through the acquisition of her archive by the Benson Latin American Collection.

Read an interview with Gioconda Belli by Benson Director Melissa Guy, which appeared in a recent edition of Portal.

Open Education Week 2024 Recap

The Libraries once again recognized Open Education Week (March 4-8) with events and activities intended to raise awareness of open educational resources and their application across campus, foster collaboration, and empower learners and educators alike.

Open Educational Resources (OER) are openly licensed materials that can be:

  • Retained
  • Reused
  • Revised
  • Remixed
  • Redistributed

OER can make a huge difference for students, especially in terms of cost savings. In the 2022-2023 academic year alone, students saved over $1.8 million dollars because OER was prioritized over paid course materials.

The highlight of the Libraries’ Open Education Week 2024 was a virtual panel discussion featuring educators and students who gathered to share their perspectives on the transformative potential of open educational resources (OER) in widening access to quality education. From exploring innovative pedagogical approaches to discussing the role of technology in enhancing learning experiences, the panel provided invaluable insights into the evolving landscape of open education.

Tocker Open Education Librarian Heather Walter amplified the celebration and recognized faculty and student OER advocates throughout the week on web platforms. Dr. Jocelly Meiners (Spanish and Portuguese) received a spotlight for championing open educational resources (OER) and  collaborating with faculty to integrate OER into their courses and promoting awareness of open access principles among students and colleagues. And student advocate Marco Pevia (COLA, Spanish and Linguistics) received a nod for his collaboration with faculty to incorporate OER into courses, participated in open access advocacy efforts, and engaging in projects aimed at expanding access to knowledge.

Walter also used her social media prowess to promote the message of Open Education Week, sharing updates, resources, and insights on Instagram which provided glimpses into the vibrant events taking place, encouraging broader participation and sparking meaningful conversations around the importance of openness in education.

Even though Open Education Week 2024 has drawn to a close, the Libraries continues its commitment to fostering a culture of openness, accessibility, and collaboration in education. Through ongoing initiatives, partnerships, and advocacy efforts, the Libraries strives to empower learners and educators to embrace the principles of openness and drive positive change at UT.

Women’s History Month, Chicana Feminism

Women’s History Month is an opportune time to reflect on the multifaceted contributions of women, especially those from diverse cultural backgrounds. In recognition, we turn our attention to the Chicana community and the rich resources available at the University of Texas Libraries – and especially the Benson Latin American Collection – that celebrate and document their stories.

At the heart of Chicana history lies a narrative of resilience and resistance. From the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and 70s to contemporary social justice initiatives, Chicana women have been instrumental in advocating for change. The Libraries’ collections include seminal works and primary sources that shed light on Chicana activism, identity formation, and community organizing. Researchers and enthusiasts alike can access documents, oral histories, and archival materials that capture the spirit of Chicana activism across different eras.

The Libraries boast a rich assortment of Chicana literature, from classic works by luminaries such as Gloria Anzaldúa and Sandra Cisneros to contemporary voices pushing boundaries and redefining genres. The Libraries’ catalog offers an extensive selection of Chicana-authored works – including poetry, fiction, or scholarly analysis – that illuminate the complexities of identity, migration, and belonging.

The visual and performing arts are integral to Chicana cultural expression, offering mediums through which artists challenge stereotypes, reclaim narratives, and celebrate heritage. Libraries’ resources include an impressive collection of visual art, photography, and performance documentation that capture the vibrancy and diversity of Chicana artistic production. From iconic murals to groundbreaking performances, these materials provide insight into the evolution of Chicana artistry and its intersections with politics, feminism, and cultural heritage.

In addition to physical holdings, the Libraries offers an array of digital archives and special collections that provide convenient access to rare and unique materials. Through digitization initiatives, scholars and enthusiasts worldwide can explore manuscripts, photographs, and ephemera related to Chicana history and culture. These digital resources not only preserve valuable artifacts but also facilitate research, teaching, and community engagement initiatives that promote awareness and understanding of Chicana experiences.

Here are some examples from the extensive holdings at the Libraries and the Benson Latin American Collection:

Chicana Movidas: New Narratives of Activism and Feminism in the Movement Era by Maylei Blackwell: This groundbreaking book examines the contributions of Chicana activists during the civil rights and feminist movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Drawing from oral histories and archival research, Blackwell sheds light on the often-overlooked role of Chicana women in shaping social and political change.

Chicana/Latina Studies: The Journal of Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social (MALCS): This peer-reviewed journal focuses on the scholarly study of Chicana and Latina experiences. It publishes research articles, creative writing, book reviews, and more, reflecting the diverse voices and perspectives within the Chicana/o community.

Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldúa: An iconic work in Chicana feminist literature, Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera explores the intersection of gender, race, and culture in the borderlands between the United States and Mexico. Through prose and poetry, Anzaldúa challenges conventional notions of identity and belonging, inspiring generations of activists and scholars. The Benson holds Anzaldúa’s archive, so curious scholars can see the author’s process at work from original manuscripts and source materials.

Chicana Archival Collections: The Benson Latin American Collection stands as a repository of invaluable Chicana primary resources, preserving the rich cultural tapestry and narratives of Chicana individuals. Within its holdings, iconic figures contribute distinct threads to the vibrant mosaic of Chicana heritage. Gloria Anzaldúa’s groundbreaking works challenge societal boundaries and explore the complex intersections of identity. Yolanda Alaniz’s activism and writings on feminism and Chicana identity serve as testament to the resilience and agency of Chicana women. Carmen Tafolla’s poetry and prose capture the spirit and struggles of Chicana life, while Carmen Lomas Garza’s art vividly depicts everyday scenes infused with cultural symbolism and familial warmth. These examples provide a mere cross-section of the rich Chicana holdings available to researchers and the curious alike.

Chicano Database: This comprehensive bibliographic index covers Chicano and Latino topics, including art, education, history, literature, and more. It includes citations to articles, books, book chapters, and conference papers, making it an invaluable resource for conducting research on Chicana studies.

Chicana: This documentary by Sylvia Morales traces the history of Chicana and Mexican women from pre-Columbian times to the present. It covers women’s role in Aztec society, their participation in the 1810 struggle for Mexican independence, their involvement in the US labor strikes in 1872, their contributions to the 1910 Mexican revolution and their leadership in contemporary civil rights causes, and shows how women, despite their poverty, have become an active and vocal part of the political and work life in both Mexico and the United States.

Chicana Feminist Thought: The Basic Historical Writings edited by Alma M. Garcia: This anthology brings together key writings by Chicana feminists, spanning from the early days of the Chicano movement to the present day. Covering topics such as reproductive rights, immigration, and intersectionality, these essays and manifestos offer essential insights into Chicana feminist thought.


Whether you’re a student, scholar, or simply interested in learning more about Chicana history and culture, these materials offer a rich and diverse perspective on the contributions of Chicana women to our society.

As we commemorate Women’s History Month, let us honor the legacy of Chicana women by delving into their stories, amplifying their voices, and recognizing their enduring contributions to society. Through the resources available at the University of Texas Libraries, we have the opportunity to deepen our understanding of Chicana history, culture, and activism, ensuring that their narratives continue to inspire and empower future generations.

Read, Hot & Digitized: Black Classicists in Texas

Read, hot & digitized: Librarians and the digital scholarship they love — In this new series, librarians from UTL’s 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.


For the past two years, I have been delighted to work on the Black Classicists in Texas exhibition project, a collaborative endeavor to tell the story of Central Texas’ early Black educators and their passion for the study of antiquity. This joint initiative, led by Dr. Pramit Chaudhuri, Dr. Ayelet Haimson Lushkov and myself, involves collaboration between the University of Texas at Austin’s Department of Classics, University of Texas Libraries, the Benson Latin American Collection, Huston-Tillotson University and the Carver Museum & Cultural Center. At its core, the project’s exhibitions underscore advocacy for classics, 20th century African American advancement and highlight a vibrant community of scholars, students and public intellectuals.

Although the physical exhibitions concluded in December 2023, their legacy endures through an online exhibition that emphasizes the relationship between education about the classics, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and the historical trajectory of education in Austin. Leveraging digital platforms, the online exhibition employs multimodal approaches including story maps, virtual tours and digitized archival materials to provide users with a dynamic exploration of the individuals and institutions intertwined in this narrative.

The website, a cornerstone of the project, exemplifies the initiative’s collaborative efforts. Choosing the education-friendly Reclaim Hosting allowed for easy hosting, a custom domain and installation of web applications with the built-in installer, Installatron. Through Installatron, we were able to build a custom website with WordPress, assisted by the exceptional team at UT Austin’s Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services and beautifully designed by the creative studio, In-House International.

Screenshot of the Explore the Materials page, showing the three exhibition institutions
The landing page of the Explore the Materials section.

The “Explore the Materials” section of the website provides users with access to digitized versions of the physical exhibition materials, alleviating the need for researchers to physically visit archives to view the items. As someone intimately involved in the project’s archival research process, I am delighted to offer researchers an easy access point to these materials, each complete with detailed metadata and sourcing information, ensuring folks can find the original materials even now after the physical exhibition is over.

A screenshot of metadata and thumbnail for R.S. Lovinggood's 1900 pamphlet, "Why Hic, Haec Hoc for the Negro?"
A digitized item on the Huston-Tillotson University section of the Explore the Materials page.

Archival research often presents challenges, whether the archival finding aid is detailed, vague or non-existent. That’s why it’s particularly exciting to preserve items that might not be found through traditional methods. These include a photograph of Samuel Huston College President Matthew Simpson Davage, discovered in a box of unprocessed photographs brought to the research team by the former Huston-Tillotson University Archivist. Similarly, hard to track down documents like the 1976 report of UT’s affirmative action compliance from the Black Diaspora Archive and custom exhibition panels and maps are now digitally accessible.  

Beyond digitized materials, the website features technologically innovative elements, including 3D models of the physical exhibition spaces courtesy of our collaborators at In-House. Hosted on the freemium 3D platform, SketchFab, these interactive models preserve the essence of the physical exhibitions, offering users an immersive experience. They even allow users to see some of the materials in greater detail than possible in-person.

Screenshot of the SketchFab 3D model showing the physical exhibition
Screenshot of SketchFab 3D model of the physical exhibition in the Benson Latin American Collection Rare Books Reading Room, as it appeared in 2023.

Additionally, the ArcGIS StoryMap linked on the site, “This is My Native Land: Tracking the “Classical” Legacy Across Texan Historically Black Colleges and Universities”, adds another interactive element to the story of Black Classicists in Texas and their legacy. While many of the tools we used in the project came at a cost, we were fortunate to create an ArcGIS Story Map for free.

Landing page of the StoryMap, "This is My Native Land". Photographs from the exhibit are scattered in the background.
StoryMap created by project researcher, Elena Navarre.

Moreover, pages dedicated to resources on Black history and culture in Austin, alongside preserved interviews originally showcased at the Carver Museum, provide invaluable context and insight into the broader socio-cultural landscape surrounding the Black Classicists in Texas narrative.

By showcasing the contributions of Black Classicists in Texas, the website and associated tools shed light on underrepresented voices in the study of antiquity and Texas educational history. They serve as a testament to the diversity and resilience of these scholars, enriching our understanding of their invaluable contributions and histories.


Explore more in these UT Libraries resources:

Cook, William W., and James Tatum. African American Writers and Classical Tradition. University of Chicago Press, 2010.

Greenwood, Emily. Afro-Greeks Dialogues Between Anglophone Caribbean Literature and Classics in the Twentieth Century. Oxford University Press, 2010.

Hairston, Eric Ashley. The Ebony Column Classics, Civilization, and the African American Reclamation of the West. University of Tennessee Press, 2013.

Cásarez, Adriana. “Diverse Adaptations of Classical Literature.” University of Texas Libraries Exhibits, 2020. https://exhibits.lib.utexas.edu/spotlight/diversity-classics.

Happy Open Education Week!

Today marks the start of Open Education Week! Open Educational Resources are openly licensed materials that can be: 

  • Retained
  • Reused
  • Revised
  • Remixed
  • Redistributed 

OER can make a huge difference to our students. In the 2022-2023 academic year alone, students saved over $1.8 million dollars because OER was prioritized over paid course materials. 

However, as important as these resources might be, they’re often overlooked or misunderstood. Are you curious about OER? Check out this infographic to learn more. 

And if you’d like to learn even more about OER, here are our upcoming OE Week activities: 

Monday March 4th – Friday, March 8th: Come visit our blog for a daily post spotlighting OER work happening here at UT Austin.  

Tuesday, March 5th, 12pm-2pm: Tabling event in PCL Lobby. Come by to chat with a librarian about OER. 

Friday, March 8th, 1pm-2pm: OE Week Virtual Panel. Our joint student/faculty panel will discuss their experiences with adopting, implementing and even creating OER. The event is free, but you do need to register.

Scholars Lab Newsletter – March 2024

Digital Humanities Workshop

 Introduction to Recogito

When: 3/8/24, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Where: Zoom

Presenters: Miriam Santana and Willem Borkgren

Recogito is an open-source semantic annotation tool that allows you to tag key terms and reveal the relationships between key names, places, and events between multiple documents. Attendees will learn how to create an account, upload documents, and start working on tags and annotations. They will also learn the deeper capabilities of Recogito, such as mapping relationships, working collaboratively on a corpora of documents, and exporting data for use in other DH tools.

Zoom Registration

Introduction to Optical Character Recognition (OCR)

When: 3/22/24, 12:00 pm – 1:15 pm

Where: Hybrid – Zoom and Scholars Lab Data Lab, Perry-Castañeda Library

Presenters: Dale J. Correa, Mercedes Morris, & Natalya Stanke

This workshop introduces the basics of optical character recognition (OCR), which allows for full-text searching and other types of text manipulation of a digitized document. Attendees will learn how to use Google Docs to create a basic machine-readable text from an image file and be introduced to Tesseract for OCR through exercises in Google Colab.

This workshop is open to researchers interested in OCR for any language. It is strongly recommended that attendees:

1) prepare a digitized, highly legible sample image file for trying out the tools

2) have a Google account to do the exercises fully and save their work.

Register for Zoom or PCL Scholars Lab Data Lab


Open Education Week Virtual Panel

When: 3/8/24, 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Where: Zoom

UT Austin’s OER Working Group invites you to celebrate Open Education Week (March 4-8) by joining our faculty/student panel for a virtual discussion on open education practices. Join us for a special Open Education Week discussion on applying open education practices in your teaching. Our student/faculty panel will discuss their experiences finding, adopting, and even creating open educational resources (OER) and other no-cost course materials.

In addition to this faculty perspective, our panel will also include a student voice. Our student panelist is currently collaborating on an original OER project, bringing valuable and unique insight into how open pedagogy can transform student learning experiences.

Zoom Registration


Digital Scholarship in Practice

When: 3/8/24, 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm

Where: Scholars Lab Data Lab, Perry-Castañeda Library

Want to get started with Digital Humanities in the classroom, but you don’t know where to start? This introductory workshop will provide advice and practical ideas to incorporate digital humanities methodologies at all levels of teaching — from syllabus design to assignments and classroom activities. Learn about platforms, strategies, and resources to fit your classroom, your teaching style, and your comfort level with technology. While the advice given will apply to a wide variety of classrooms, the workshop will highlight resources specific to Japanese and East Asian Studies.

Unraveling Trauma Through Maps: Rethinking Historical GIS

In a recent event hosted at the Scholars Lab in the Perry-Castañeda Library, the Institute for Historical Studies (IHS) in the Department of History at the University of Texas at Austin delved into the complexities of mapping trauma in a workshop titled “Mapping Trauma: A Workshop on Space and Memory.”

This event, part of IHS’s exploration of the theme “Experiencing Place: Interrogating Spatial Dimensions of the Human Past,” brought together scholars and practitioners to discuss the limitations of traditional Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in capturing the nuances of human experiences, particularly in contexts of trauma such as the Holocaust.

The keynote speakers, Dr. Anne Kelly Knowles and Levi Westerveld, presented insights gleaned from their extensive research collaboration spanning a decade. Knowles, a McBride Professor of History at the University of Maine and co-founder of the Holocaust Geographies Collaborative, along with Westerveld, a Senior Engineer & Geographer at the Norwegian Coastal Authority, offered innovative perspectives on mapping trauma, drawing from their work with Holocaust survivor testimonies.

Traditional GIS methodologies, while effective for certain types of mapping, often struggle to represent the complexities of human experiences. Knowles and Westerveld’s research challenges the default Cartesian grid approach of GIS, advocating for alternative mapping techniques that accommodate the fragmented and subjective nature of traumatic memories. They emphasized the importance of incorporating qualitative data and subjective narratives into geospatial practices, moving beyond mere coordinates to capture the emotional and psychological dimensions of historical events.

The workshop explored various strategies for mapping traumatic memory, including the concept of “mental maps” and inductive visualization techniques. Participants engaged in hands-on exercises, analyzing survivor testimonies and experimenting with visualization tools to uncover hidden spatial narratives. Through these activities, attendees gained a deeper understanding of the challenges inherent in representing trauma spatially and the creative possibilities for addressing them.

The event offered a thought-provoking exploration of the intersection between geography, memory, and trauma. By challenging traditional GIS approaches and embracing alternative mapping techniques, scholars are in a better position to uncover deeper insights into historical experiences and enrich understanding of the human past.

Learn more about IHS programs, including those under the “Experiencing Place” research theme this year, by following @utaustinihs and joining the mailing list here.

Watch video of the event.