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 new 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.
Government documents can offer crucial insight into the histories of a nation, but traditional access can require skill with microfilm readers, resources to travel to an archive and astute understanding of how to use an index. As cultural heritage institutions take on more digitization projects, researchers have benefited from remote access to digital collections complimented by user-friendly browse and search features. This past November, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) gifted scholars and genealogists alike with the Freedmen’s Bureau Search Portal, a valuable new platform to discover 1.7 million pages of digitized records from the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands.
Created in 1865, the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, more commonly known as the Freedmen’s Bureau, aspired to help Southerners, including 4 million formerly enslaved people, transition to a new society after the Civil War. Congress charged the Bureau with providing social support like medical care, rations and educational opportunities, and tried to help poor individuals deal with seized lands and find employment. Abolished in 1872 by Congress, the short-lived Bureau’s positive impact on assisting formerly enslaved people is still debated. However, the utility of these records for genealogical and scholarly purposes is certain as they offer valuable insight into the Reconstruction period, including government policies and interactions between freedmen, white southerners and government officials.
Previously, portions of these records have been available online for browsing, but were not always searchable or in one place. The NMAAHC interface allows users to filter records by collection, record type, location and date. In addition to a keyword search, these features help users discover materials like ledgers of employment, marriage records and reports describing criminal and civil disputes. Thanks to efforts to index names and locations, users can also search the names of enslaved and former owners, which is of particular use to genealogists and individuals researching family histories.
The indexing was the first step to the collection portal’s debut on the Smithsonian-developed digital asset management system, “Enterprise Digital Asset Network (EDAN)”. This system connects multiple Smithsonian digital collections and allows users to access metadata using the institution’s own API. The user-friendly search interface is built using the open source search platform, Apache Solr, which UT Libraries also uses for our own Collections portal.
What makes the NMAAHC’s search portal especially notable is its support from a crowdsourcing transcription project, a collaborative endeavor from the NMAAHC and Smithsonian Transcription Center. This is the largest crowdsourcing project the Smithsonian has ever undertaken and so far, 400,000 pages have been transcribed by volunteers. The records’ cursive script makes it challenging to automatically transcribe using OCR, and the project will greatly benefit from transcription efforts. These efforts are invaluable as the letters and reports that provide more details beyond statistical ledgers are more often than not untranscribed.
For now, users can still search the indexed data for names, places and dates, and additional information provided by volunteers in their transcription efforts like subjects and keywords. The records themselves and the transcription project will provide scholars a glimpse into life during the Reconstruction period and allow genealogy researchers to make meaningful connections with ancestors and family histories.
Digital resource exclusively devoted to an American family history research containing primary sources devoted specifically to African American family history, including census records, vital records, freedman and slave records, church records, legal records, and more.
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 Texas Freedom Colonies Project (TFCP) was founded in 2014 by Dr. Andrea Roberts as a multimodal research and social justice initiative to document and preserve Texas’ historic Black settlements. Affiliated with Texas A&M University, the TFCP is a unique digital scholarship project that highlights the resiliency of Black communities in Texas through GIS mapping, archival research and community outreach.
Settlements founded by formerly enslaved people after the Civil War up until the 1930s were known as “Freedom Colonies” in Texas. These rural communities were established by Black Texans as self-sufficient colonies and offered refuge from the treacherous systems of debt bondage and sharecropping in the Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras. Although 557 Freedom Colonies are known to have existed, the project notes that “Freedom Colony descendants’ lack of access to technical assistance, ecological and economic vulnerability, and invisibility in public records has quickened the disappearance of these historic Texas communities.” 
That’s where the Texas Freedom Colonies Project’s Atlas comes in. The project’s interactive map displays Freedom Colonies’ physical locations alongside records of the settlement’s history documented in primary and secondary sources, community websites and other media. So far, the project has mapped the points of 357 colonies in Texas and has documented all known 557 colonies in its Atlas database.
Built with ArcGIS StoryMap, the atlas utilizes dynamic GIS layers to show current development and ecological threats to surviving communities. The project’s use of external datasets as custom map layers distinctly illuminates the power and significance of this digital mapping project by revealing the interconnected history and present of Texas Freedom Colonies.
For example, the “Texas Harvey Affected Counties” layer shows Texas counties that were affected by hurricane Harvey in 2018. The TFCP notes that 64% of Freedom Colonies were located on land that FEMA designated as disaster areas (!). Viewing the Atlas with this particular layer is a striking visual reminder of how vulnerable these communities are as they were often founded on land prone to natural disasters.
The TFCP is also a testament to the power of grassroot activism, harnessing the knowledge of living communities, descendants and volunteers. One way the public can be active participants in the preservation of Freedom Colonies is through community mapping. “Community mapping” or “participatory mapping,” is an application of critical cartography that emphasizes the importance of community knowledge as markers of place and belonging. Users can submit details of Freedom Colonies like locations and photos of cemeteries, churches and schools through a crowdsourcing form built on ArcGIS Survey123. This documentation helps preserve communities that may not be physically apparent on a map and actively counters presumptions by the state of what history is worth preserving.
The Atlas is an impressive showcase of the combined efforts of volunteers, scholars and living communities to assert the history and resilience of communities that have not often been recognized and financially supported. You may notice that the project logo depicts a Sankofa, a bird frequented in traditional Akan art that symbolizes the importance of reflecting on and reclaiming the past to build a better future. And that is exactly what the Texas Freedom Colonies Project project is doing.
Interested in volunteering for the Texas Freedom Colonies Project? Click here to learn more about the research community of practice dedicated to locating freedom colonies and information about freedom colonies.
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.
As we enter a more digital workspace, the copyright of content we reuse in presentations or projects has become a more pressing question in our public facing work. While there are ways to search for resources by their Creative Commons licenses or by digging through the public domain, the results are not always satisfying. Enter The Public Domain Review, an online journal of scholarly essays and curated collections of material from the public domain.
The public domain refers to creative content in the United States that is no longer protected under copyright law. Every January 1st, works published before a certain year are released from copyright protection. 2021 welcomed material published in 1925 into the public domain. The first day of 2021 also saw The Public Domain Review celebrate its 10th anniversary of curating and publicizing interesting and obscured content from the public domain, related to history, art and literature. The digitized items and collections are gathered from 134 cultural heritage institutions and platforms across the internet, including the Smithsonian, Wikimedia and the Library of Congress. What separates The Public Domain Review from just another list of curious findings on the internet is the academic commentary on the relics by scholars, archivists and creatives in its Essays section. The collections on the site are mostly western-centric with a few global works included and are organized by theme, time period and medium. The pieces featured in the Review are not just images but also include film, books and audio. The level of organization and tagging make the unique compilations and essays easy to delve into on the site through its Explore page.
The project was developed ten years ago by history scholars and archives enthusiasts Adam Green and Jonathan Grey. The goal of The Public Domain Review has been to inform and highlight relics often forgotten or buried so deep that it would be difficult to come across serendipitously. The projects’ keen eye for the intriguing, supplemented by its expert commentary are what keeps me coming back to the site, either through the Review’s monthly mailing list or when I need an image for a presentation. The project’s editorial board selects collections and welcomes contributors to submit proposals that feature hidden cultural heritage materials.
The Public Domain Review is teeming with potential for digital scholarship endeavors and while there is no active portion of the project engaging with those scholarly methods, there are traces. The project site itself was built by UT Austin graduate, Brian Jones, a historian and web developer. In the retired series, Curator’s Choice, a guest writer from the GLAM sector (galleries, libraries, archives, museums), would spotlight digital collections or digital scholarship projects from their own institutions. See notable digital humanist, Miriam Posner on anatomical filmmaking here and read how scholars at The British Library are using digital technology to recreate a medieval Italian illuminated manuscript from fragments here.
The site also encourages reuse and remixing through its PD Remix section, holding caption competitions or gif creation challenges using works from their public domain highlights. Although a not-for-profit, they do have a Shop, selling prints, mugs, bound collections of Selected Essays, with the profits used to keep the lights on in this scholastic and engaging corner of the internet.
The public domain itself is a treasure trove of cultural artefacts often hidden by the complexities and rules in copyright law. Luckily, The Public Domain Review exists to spotlight these relics and even shows you how to find your own out-of-copyright gems. Below are some of my favorite exhibits and essays from The Public Domain Review.
Find out more about the public domain in UT Libraries collections and guides:
-Still not sure what the public domain is or want to know more about copyright and fair use? See the library’s Copyright Crash Course guide.
-Take a look at the list of works that entered the public domain in 2021 on UT Austin’s Open Access blog here.
-Fire insurance has never been more exciting than when depicted in the colorful, aesthetically pleasing Sanborn Fire Maps from the PCL Map Collection.
“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.
I’m excited to share these diverse adaptations of classical literature in our library collection, especially since they hold a special significance for me as a Latina who completed her undergraduate work in Latin and History here at UT Austin.
The study and teaching of Greek and Roman Classical Civilization has largely been a white and male tradition. As there are increasing calls for diversity in academia, Classics hasmade somestrides, but largely fromstudents and early career scholars, raising the questions about just who is Classics ‘for’?
A new online exhibit, “Diverse Adaptations in Classical Literature” showcases items from the UT Libraries collection of original classical Greek literature in translation and contemporary adaptations created by a more diverse authorship than usually discussed. UT Libraries contain a depth of diverse adaptations but showcased here are works of authors from Latinx & Latin American, African & African Diaspora, Asian-American and LGBTQ+ communities.
Variety of adaptation is also highlighted in the form of plays, novels, visual art and in a wide array of translations and scholarly approach. The collection and themes presented in this exhibit on diverse adaptations are intended to encourage those, especially people of color (POC) and LGBTQ+ folks, who may not have historically felt included in conversations related to classics or classical literature. For those already engaged in classics, they can see the evolution of translation studies and how classical antiquity draws parallels to the contemporary realities of diverse communities.
These adaptations are fantastic in their own right but also showcase the illuminating perspectives and unique takes on classical literature. Everyone loves a good Simpsons take on the Odyssey, but there is something novel about reading an adaptation of Medea that includes culturally familiar dialogue of English mixed with border Spanish. These types of perspectives elevate the original work.
In highlighting diverse publications, this exhibit also calls attention to the issue of diversity in the field of Classics itself. This showcase also challenges us to grapple with questions around structural issues such as the lack of retention of those from underrepresented backgrounds in the academy. It will take a combination of entities and systemic efforts to transform a field that historically does not include POC or LGBTQ+ scholarship. This exhibit asks us to redefine who Classics is ‘for’ by delving into how the ancient world has been received and recontextualized by diverse adaptations engaging with classical literature. As such, it is but one effort to illustrate a fresh and more nuanced face of a field that is no longer just for an exclusive class, gender or color of people.
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 Quantitative Criticism Lab (QCL) was formed in 2014 as a collaboration between humanists, computer scientists and computational biologists. The project’s unique combination of expertise informs its innovative approach to the computational analysis of Latin literature. And I’m not just saying that as a research assistant for the project!
is led by Pramit Chaudhuri, an Associate Professor of Classics at the
University of Texas at Austin, and Joseph Dexter, a computational biologist and
Neukom Fellow at Dartmouth. They recruited me before I knew what digital
humanities was, though I was certain that I wanted to do something more with my
Classics undergraduate degree other than teaching fifth graders “Heads,
Shoulders, Knees and Toes” in Latin (“Caput, umeri, genua and pedes”, if you
This digital Classics project uses machine learning, natural language processing and systems biology to study Latin literature and its influence. QCL uses a computational approach to explore the traditional study of “philology”, or the development and history of language in text. The lab’s first development was its tool, Fīlum (Latin for the thread of a web), an apt name given the tool’s purpose to reveal relationships amongst Latin texts by identifying intertextual references in Latin literature.
example of intertextuality, in the epic poem the Aeneid, Vergil uses the
phrase “immane nefas”, meaning “huge wrongdoing” to refer to the
unspeakable horrors of the underworld. Years later, the author Lucan, in his
epic, the Pharsalia, references and adapts that phrase to “commune
nefas”, or “collective wrongdoing”, to blame an entire community for the
horrors of civil war. Fīlum aids scholars in discovering, tracking, and
discussing such connections.
So, what makes Fīlum better than a ctrl+f approach? In the example above, a scholar would have to search many texts to even possibly discover Lucan’s reference; with Fīlum, they can search many texts simultaneously. Furthermore, Fīlum can even detect phrasing similar to the search query.
QCL’s computational approach tabulates similarity, using the concept of “edit distance”, or the number of character changes through additions, deletions or substitutions in two words or phrases. For example, the edit distance of “kitten” and “sitting” has an edit distance of 3. You substitute “k” with “s”, “e” with “i”, and add a “g” – three changes in total.
you have a feeling the phrase you want to use in Fīlum, might be in a
different word order? With “Order-Free” searching, the tool searches for any
arrangement of the words in a phrase. This is an especially valuable feature
since Latin often refuses to follow a regulated pattern of word order.
With its search phrase, edit distance and order free option, Fīlum searches through a selected text or a user-selected corpora of Latin literature from the site. With a free account, users can create a search corpus from a library of texts or upload their own.
The output cleanly displays results distinguished by each text’s author, work, and highlights the relevant words in each result. For added context, when selected, each result displays the previous and following lines from the text for context.
enjoyed both working on Fīlum and using the tool for my research. As QCL
continues to improve the tool, I hope other classicists will appreciate not
only its value but the interdisciplinary method that built it.
are interested in the project and its study, please stay tuned to information
about an upcoming QCL sponsored conference in April, here on the UT Austin