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.
A twenty-two-year program that began during World War II and is still relevant nearly sixty years after its conclusion in 1964, the Bracero Program was an agreement between the U.S. and Mexican governments to permit short-term Mexican laborers to work in the United States.
In an effort to stem labor shortages during and after the war years, an estimated 4.6 million workers came to the USA with the promise of thirty cents per hour and “humane treatment.” Of course, we know that loosely defined terms like “humane treatment” present a slippery slope that can erase and omit stories. Fortunately, through the collaborative efforts of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, George Mason University, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Brown University, and the University of Texas at El Paso’s Institute of Oral History, many of those once-hidden stories have been preserved and made accessible through the Bracero History Archive (BHA).
The BHA offers a variety of materials, most notably over 700 oral histories recorded in English and Spanish. While the metadata fields for each oral history could be more robust, the ability to hear first-hand accounts and inter-generational stories is a dream come true for primary source-seekers. All audio is available to download in mp3 format for future use.
Apart from oral histories, other resources are also available. Images, such as photographs and postcards, provide visuals of the varied environments that hosted the Braceros as well as portraits of the Braceros themselves.
Again, further detail on these resources would benefit the archive. For example, the photograph above, titled “Two Men,” demonstrates a lack of context needed for a more profound understanding while also acknowledging the potentially constant transient nature of Bracero work. In fact, the very word bracero, derived from the Spanish word for “arm,” is indicative of the commodification and dehumanization of the human body for labor. Workers lived in subpar work camps, received threats of deportation, and lacked proper nourishment, especially given the arduous work conditions.
Additional BHA resources include a “documents” section in which offspring share anecdotes about the Bracero Program and track down information about loved ones. Finally, the site offers resources for middle school and high school teachers to use in their curriculum. Here again is an opportunity to further build out the site for university-level instruction.
The digital objects in the BHA are worthwhile for those looking to recover an often-overlooked subject in American history that still resonates with themes relating to immigration today. Indeed, farmworkers continue to be exploited and underappreciated despite their contributions to society. This has led to a number of movements, marches, and boycotts in efforts to improve living conditions and wages.
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.
Zines, those do-it-yourself publications that
have found renewed popularity in the last decade, provide a medium for
different groups to cultivate their own forms of expression. And this
expression can vary depending on the zine creator. Broadly speaking, recurring
themes tend to interrogate identity (gender, sexuality, race), place (home,
gentrification, nation), and time (childhood, adolescence, adulthood). For
their part, audiences continue to flock to this form of cultural production
because zines are affordable, rare, and allow unfettered access to the
creator’s perspectives. Such access is significant as many zinesters come from
historically marginalized groups that publishing companies have traditionally
overlooked. Their perspectives tend to subvert or resist mainstream American
A new exhibit, “You Are What You (Do Not) Eat: Decolonial Resistance in U.S. Latinx Zines,” aims to underscore this resistance by examining Latinx zines that interrogate food and its impact in shaping cultural identity. Zinesters draw on memoirs and artwork to promote plant-based diets and condemn colonial impositions regarding food, “healthy” bodies, and medicine. As an offshoot of food, the exhibit also highlights zines that discuss traditional healing, speciesism, and body positivity.
will find a nice array of zines, with contributors from as nearby as San
Antonio and as far as Washington D.C. Some examples will be more text heavy
while others will use mixed media to articulate their points.
will be of interest to anyone who is interested in zine culture, food studies,
decolonial studies, and Latinx cultural production. My hope is that scholars
will develop similar projects using zines. The print versions of these zines and
others are available in the Rare Books and
Manuscripts Room at the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection.
Daniel Arbino is the Librarian
for U.S. Latina/o Studies.
What costs approximately five dollars but can be considered rare ephemera in academic libraries? Zines, of course! We three (Daniel Arbino, Gina Bastone and Sydney Kilgore), who work with zines, hope to share our enthusiasm for the format in this quick overview, as well as three exhibitions during the coming year. In explaining the who, what, when, why, and where of zines on the UT Campus, we hope to capture your imagination and get you as excited about zines as we are.
What do zines actually look like? Think of the appearance of all the instruction pamphlets you have ever received that accompany all the objects you have ever bought, and you will get some idea of the many ways zines can look. And like these enclosed sets of instructions, zines are most often staple-bound pages of images and texts that are light to hold, easy to flip through, with subjects galore.
The OED states that zine is a shortened form of the word fanzine, a term coined by a group of ”makers” that created handmade publications for their fellow science fiction fans in the 1930s. This same zine format – small circulation, handmade, often self-published – was picked up as a way of publishing social and political views in the 1960s by activists, then in the 1970s-1990s by punk rock and feminist groups. During subsequent decades the number of people making zines has grown huge, with a resultant rise in the number of zine formats and subjects. Which brings us to the present and to thoughts the three of us have about zines and the zine collections housed in the UT Libraries’ Collections.
What is a zine?
Gina Bastone: My gut-response to this question is that a zine is a just photocopied, staple-bound booklet. Most are really that simple, but at the same time, this flexible format is a vessel for anyone – and I mean, literally anyone – to have a voice. That means zines can be as varied and diverse as their creators, which also makes them difficult to define and categorize. Zines don’t cost a lot to make, and they’re accessible, portable, and easy to share. For writers and artists, creating a zine provides a way (outside of mainstream publishing) to put creative work out into the world, and for activists, zines are an effective and low-cost way to spread important information and mobilize others.
Daniel Arbino: This is something that I’ve been trying to pin down for the last few years. In my estimation, a zine is a do-it-yourself publication that historically, has had a very small audience of family of friends. It can include art, photographs, poetry, short essays, or stories. I often think of those materials as highly personal, whether it is the creator’s reflection on their own life or a television show or music genre that they connect with on a deep level. Nowadays, zines can reach larger audiences through online purchasing on Etsy or through zine fests. However, the explosion of zines through these outlets has also made their identification murky for me. Sometimes a self-published graphic novel can look like a zine and vice versa.
Sydney Kilgore: I, like Daniel, have struggled with what defines a zine. Yes, there is the handmade aspect to them or their suggested small circulation number. Zine texts and images are also usually original to the artist. But zines can contain text and images appropriated by the artist as well. Pages in zines can be stapled together in the simplest way or can approach the artist book category in their complexity and beauty. Zines can be self-published or not. They are usually reasonable in price when initially bought, but, with time, can become rare and attain Special Collection status. In truth, I think the inability to easily define what zines are add to their mystique. People want to know about them, and interested, they go to zine fests, meet the artists, look in libraries and books stores and learn what can always be said about zines – they are limitless in their formats, subjects, and appeal.
What is your personal history with zines?
Sydney Kilgore: Zines escaped my notice until I started working in the UT Fine Arts Library (FAL) and learned of the Zine Collection that my boss, former FAL head librarian Laura Schwartz, was building. Her enthusiasm for zines was contagious. I recall one UT Library event, a Zine-A-Thon, Laura organized during which a group of PCL catalogers first explained the perils of cataloging zines – not easy to assign subject headings; numerous contributors with unclear roles; no listed publishers or publication dates; and so forth. Then we attendees attempted to crowdsource-catalog three zines of our choice from the amazingly diverse UTL collections of zines. We ran out of time to complete our cataloging, feeling some sympathy for our cataloguer colleagues. About a year later, armed with limited knowledge and inspired by Laura’s proselytizing, I headed for a conference in Seattle, where I bought my first zine from the famous Seattle bookstore, The Elliott Bay Book Company. I remember grinning as I left the bookstore. I was now one of the Zine initiates.
Gina Bastone: I first discovered zines in college, when friends of mine created staple-bound booklets to showcase their creative writing projects. Back then, it was just a fun thing a few friends did to circulate their writing to a small audience of peers. I didn’t really think much more of it, and I didn’t know anything about the history of zines in punk culture or the Riot Grrrl movement. When I was in my 20s, I learned more about those punk, feminist roots, and I contributed my own writing to more sophisticated art/poetry zine anthologies. I also started collecting poetry chapbooks at public readings. I’m fascinated by the connections and similarities between zines and chapbooks, and why some writers use one term over the other. The “chapbook” as a format has been around for hundreds of years and has its own interesting evolution. But at its heart, a chapbook is a lot like a zine – it’s a simple, low-cost mechanism for sharing creative work outside of mainstream publishing.
Daniel Arbino: I wish that I had my own zine growing up, but alas, I only discovered zines about three to four years ago. I was working on my MLIS at the time and living in New Orleans. For one of my course assignments, I went to the Amistad Research Center and used their zine collection. I was immediately struck by how unique each zine is. Whether it is by shape, size, format, or content, it seems that every zine carries a distinction. The fact that the zine is an outlet for historically marginalized groups captivated me most of all. I thought, here is a chance to incorporate voices that publishers are overlooking. When I started at the University of Texas at Austin, that sentiment contributed to my desire to advance the Benson Latin American Collection’s zine offerings.
What is the University of Texas Libraries’ institutional history with zines?
Daniel Arbino: Speaking for the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, I can say that adding a zine collection was perhaps new in name, but not in practice. We are the official repository for the Puro Chingón Collective, who regularly publishes their own zine. Additionally, my colleagues and our predecessors at the Benson have collected a plethora of DIY and small press publications from across Latin America – Caribbean graphic novels, Brazilian cordeles, Argentine chapbooks, and cartoneras. Curating our zine collection to match these similar materials has been a project of mine for two years. In that time, I have purchased approximately 200 zines focusing on U.S. Latinx creators through zine fests in Austin, Albuquerque, San Antonio, and New York City as well as online acquisitions. In the Spring of 2019, I processed these zines as an archival collection that can be accessed in our Rare Books and Manuscripts Reading Room. The collection is a small, but noteworthy addition to UTL’s commitment to popular culture.
Sydney Kilgore: The Fine Arts Library’s Collection of zines began to grow in earnest in 2012 under the stewardship of former FAL head librarian Laura Schwartz. Laura, fascinated with zines, wanted to build a collection that could be shared with library patrons; the reasonable cost of zines making their collecting possible. She set her collecting parameters – art and music, and/or local and regional artists; and frequented Austin stores such as Domy Books, owned by zine collector Russell Etchen. This relationship later resulted in Etchen gifting his Zine Collection to the FAL. Laura also worked with knowledgeable library colleagues like Beth Kerr, former FAL Dance and Theater Librarian, and Katherine Strickland, PCL Maps Coordinator, who shared their knowledge and made their own additions to the FAL Zine Collections. Laura then made the decision that the zines be searchable in the library catalog and available for checkout. Former Arts and Humanities Liaison Librarian Becca Pad, equally enthused about zines, continued to make additions to the FAL Zine Collection; wrote a LibGuide for them; and helped head the UT Libraries’ participation in the immensely popular Lone Star Zine Festival. Thanks to Becca’s vision, there are now also plans for a new zine exhibition space on the 5th floor of the FAL which will focus interest on these unique collections.
Gina Bastone: When I started at UT in 2016, I knew about the Fine Arts Library’s zine collection, but I figured I wouldn’t work with it too much because I’m based at the Perry-Castañeda Library. However, I oversee the Poetry Center collection, which was founded in the 1965. I quickly learned that the Poetry Center has a wealth of poetry chapbooks, some published as far back as the 1950s. I found a chapbook published in the 70s by a Tejano activist-poet. It has cut-and-paste images interspersed with lines of poetry, and I thought “Is this a zine? Is it a chapbook? Is it somehow both?” And that’s the fun of the Poetry Center collection – it has these treasures, some of which are pretty rare, that document a history of creative writing in Texas entirely outside of mainstream publishing. I’m proud that the UT Libraries is able to preserve these little books and make them accessible to readers!
Over the next few months, we will be rolling out three different digital exhibits that highlight zines and chapbooks from UTL collections. In the meantime, be sure to visit our table at the 2019 Lone Star Zine Fest from 2-8pm on Sunday, September 1st at Northern-Southern Gallery on 1900 E. 12th St. We will be answering questions about zines, showing off a small sampling of our collections, and even handing out a zine that we made ourselves.
Read, hot & digitized: Librarians and the digital scholarship they love — In this 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.
The Puerto Rican Citizenship Archives Project (henceforth PRCAP) is a multi-institutional collaboration focused on the often-shifting legal relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico that began with the annexation of Puerto Rico in 1898. The project’s objective is to show this relationship through the lens of U.S. citizenship.
The timing for this project is apt on multiple levels. More Puerto Ricans are migrating to the mainland than ever before and the United States’ poor handling of the fallout from Hurricane María further exacerbated that fact. Puerto Rico’s status as a free associated state, which many view as a mere extension of an outdated colonial model, continues to be a hot topic for scholars and citizens alike. Moreover, 2017 marked a century since passing the Jones Act, a legislative act that provided the collective extension of citizenship to a U.S. territory that was not a state. With that being said, the path to U.S. citizenship for Puerto Ricans has been far from easily defined. Since 1898, changing laws have provided Puerto Ricans with “non-citizen nationality,” a naturalized citizenship (both individual and collective), and “birthright citizenship.” PRCAP does an excellent job in documenting and detailing these legal changes through government documents.
In some ways, this digital project, principally hosted by the University of Connecticut, is a foil to a lot of the digital scholarship permeating the internet these days. Whereas many of the digital humanities projects I find seem to be driven by visuals (i.e. mapping, timelines), PRCAP is a text-heavy site. This is not a slight on the work; rather, as their recent garnering of awards shows, this project is a welcome return to traditional research approaches and suggests the potential for less technologically inclined scholars to follow suit with their own worthwhile projects. Indeed, many of the site’s offerings include yearly governmental bills and acts to follow the trajectory of citizenship for Puerto Ricans. While more visual content could be beneficial, the webpage will be of great use to scholars working on Puerto Rican cultural studies at large, migration studies, political science, and law.
An ambitious fall semester project in the Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies provided the opportunity for cross-campus collaborations that brought together the Harry Ransom Center and the Benson Latin American Collection.
The Department of American Studies Ph.D. candidate Amanda Gray’s course “Latina/o Representation in Media and Popular Culture” took students out of the classroom and into special collections to get a hands-on feel for archival research. The course took advantage of the “Mexico Modern: Art, Commerce, and Cultural Exchange, 1920-1945 exhibition” at the Ransom Center in late September before returning there on October 5th for an instructional session working with collection materials led by Andi Gustavson, Head of Instructional Services. Gustavson’s selected materials featured photographs of Mexican migrant workers from the 1960s, an anthology of early Mexican American literature, and items from the papers of acclaimed Dominican American author Julia Alvarez. However, it was Ernest Lehman’s collection on the film West Side Story that caught the eye of many students who were interested in how Puerto Ricans are represented, especially when many non-Puerto Rican actors played their roles, often in brown face.
On October 10th, the class came to the Benson for another show and tell wherein I focused on archival materials relating to Latina reproductive health, the 1968-1972 Economy Furniture Company strike here in Austin, and the establishment of what has come to be known as the National Chicana Conference. Between the two archival visits, students saw a wide array of Latino representation, whether self-representation or dominant cultural representation, from the 1950s to the present day.
Under the guidance of Latin American Studies Digital Scholarship Coordinator Albert A. Palacios, the students incorporated the show and tell materials, along with their own research, into group digital projects using storytelling tools like StoryMapsJS and TimelineJS. The projects touched on a variety of issues, including class, disability, ethnicity, gender, race, sexuality, and other subjectivities. Scholarly Communications Librarian Colleen Lyon chipped in with a copyright crash course that taught students the best practices for posting academic findings online.
The students showcased their digital projects at one of the PCL Learning Labs on December 15th to the delight of an audience that consisted of UTL and HRC staff as well as faculty from the Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies. As for the students, they exclaimed how much they preferred working with these tools in a group setting as opposed to writing a traditional final paper. To that end, Professor Gray’s innovative pedagogical approach represents the possibility for integrating the library into courses going forward and in the process, strengthening relationships across campus.
If you would like to view the final projects, click here.
On November 3rd, the Libraries’ Social Sciences Team conducted its first Graduate Research Showcase, which featured twenty posters with a wide array of topics ranging from the economic impacts of state immigration reform to the role of paternal warmth and maternal stress in child-rearing to sport as part of Great Britain’s colonial enterprise in India. In total, the twenty graduate students came from fifteen different departments across campus, sparking interdisciplinary dialogue, collaboration, and scholarly engagement.
The showcase elevated the library as a platform. It provided an opportunity for the students to explain their research in a low-stress environment replete with refreshments as they received constructive criticism on their work. Students welcomed the idea to practice talking about their research. Katie Bradford, a doctoral student in the Department of Communication Studies noted that “the event was a great opportunity to receive feedback. I was able to take notes and came away with ways to further develop my project.” Similarly, Department of Curriculum & Instruction doctoral student Hye Ryung Won appreciated the cross-department possibilities: “I got a lot of feedback from people and could make some connections with peers from other departments.” The enthusiasm found in these statements resonated throughout the day.
Moreover, one lucky student won the vote for best poster: Briana Barber, a doctoral student in the Department of Radio-Television-Film put forth stimulating research on African American voices in podcasts. Titled, “‘The Conversations that Black People Have When White People Aren’t in the Room’: The Podcast as Public Sphere,” the presentation focused on how African Americans continue to carve out spaces in a medium previously dominated by white voices. The best poster contest may have been just for fun, but it had a real impact on Barber, who remarked that “winning the poster competition was just the motivation I needed to know that the work I’m doing is interesting, important and necessary.”
The Social Sciences Team organized the event at the Perry-Castañeda Library’s Scholars Commons, a newly designed space for UTL to foster research initiatives and exhibit space. By all accounts, the Showcase represented a successful shift in the Library’s involvement with research: it attracted over 100 students, staff, and community members while students have called for another poster session to be held the following semester. Indeed, Assistant Director of Digital Scholarship Jenifer Flaxbart commented that “the Scholars Commons has never buzzed and hummed with the cadence of so many voices discussing interesting, broad-ranging research as it did today.” Stay tuned for future events!