Category Archives: Global Studies

Students Use Digital Tools to reveal “Hidden” Collection of Pre-Colonial Objects

Nasca bowl with birds

Students in Astrid Runggaldier’s Art and Archaeology of Ancient Peru class were tasked with an intriguing project this spring: take a collection of pre-colonial objects that is, for all intents and purposes, invisible, and make it visible using digital tools. Their efforts have come to fruition with a first-of-its-kind online exhibition titled Ancient Coastal Cultures of Peru: People and Animals at the Edge of the Pacific Ocean.

The objects in question are part of the Art and Art History Collection (AAHC) at The University of Texas at Austin, a collection associated with the Mesoamerica Center and the Department of Art and Art History. Consisting of ancient artifacts, ethnographic materials, and historical objects primarily from the Americas, the collection, curated by Runggaldier, spans approximately 5,000 invaluable objects for research and studious exploration. These rare pieces do not have their own dedicated exhibition space, although since 2017, select objects rotate through the Ancient Americas gallery at the Blanton Museum of Art (see “Mesoamerican Artifacts Highlight Makeover at UT’s Blanton”).

Chimu spout-and-handle vessel with human effigy

Long focused on the need for a virtual museum to showcase the AAHC collection, Runggaldier looked to the field of digital humanities to devise a project with a few objectives in mind. “Approaching this project from a digital humanities perspective could simultaneously serve in the stewardship of the collection, create an educational resource at UT and beyond, and provide an opportunity for students to become involved in learning goals and tools of digital scholarship, as well as museum studies approaches to collection management and curation,” she said.

Nasca vase with trophy head

Enter the LLILAS Benson Digital Humanities Curriculum Redesign Award. The award provides UT faculty and graduate student instructors with dedicated staff support by LLILAS Benson digital scholarship staff along with a grant of up to $250 to cover expenses incurred in the design or redesign of a course with Latin American, U.S. Latinx, and/or African Diaspora Studies content. Runggaldier applied and received the award, which she used to redesign the Ancient Peru class. For this endeavor, she has worked with Albert Palacios, LLILAS Benson digital scholarship coordinator.

Student’s final project, showing object comparisons

Palacios explains that the goal of the LLILAS Benson Digital Scholarship Office is to “introduce digital humanities principles, methods, and special collections meaningfully and with a critical lens” in the redesign of undergraduate and graduate courses. “Through lectures, class activities, individual assignments and group projects, we aim to strike a balance in the knowledge we impart as co-instructors,” Palacios continues, “so that students leave the course with a well-rounded understanding of the subject matter and course content, as well as information literacy and research methods, basic and more advanced digital skills, and knowledge of ethical issues surrounding collection development and use.”

Chimu vessel

First-year student Miguel Belmonte, a neuroscience major, attests to the success of this aim: Before this course, “I had never used or even known about digital scholarship tools. It was a unique experience.”

Nasca objects depicting chile peppers; postcard showing twentieth-century vendor

Students were divided into teams of four for the final project. Each team had to research objects in the UT collection from two different pre-colonial Andean groups—the Chimu and the Nasca. They then had to compare the objects they chose to an object from another museum collection. To provide context for visualizing the environments of Peru, Runggaldier selected images from the Benson’s Hispanic Society of America Postcard Collection, which has been digitized, described, and mapped by School of Information graduate student Elizabeth Peattie, who is the LLILAS Benson Digital Scholarship and Special Collections intern. Three other indispensable contributors to the success of this project were Brianna Crockett, collections assistant and Art and Art History undergrad, who assisted in the compilation and description of digital assets; Katy Parker, Humanities Liaison Librarian for Fine Arts, who provided research support for students throughout the semester; and Nicole Payntar, doctoral student in the Department of Anthropology, who designed assignment grading criteria and rubrics for research and digital project components.

Student slide featuring Chimu objects and thematic postcard

“I truly enjoy seeing the aha! moment in students’ eyes as they figure out how to use open-source digital tools to make their research more dynamic and interconnected,” says Palacios. “For many, the learning curve is steep, so the digital scholarship staff’s role is to help them overcome this. Luckily, we continue to hear that the in-depth and intense experience was worth the challenge!”

Runggaldier and Palacios had originally planned an in-person opening event to celebrate the going live of the online exhibition. Given the current closure of campus due to the covid-19 pandemic, this was not to be. We encourage readers to visit the online exhibition and to share their opinions on social media by tagging @llilasbenson and @UT_AAH and using the hashtag #digitalhumanities.

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More information: Contact Lauren Macknight, Art and Art History, or Susanna Sharpe, LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections

Digital Preservation and the LLILAS Benson Post-Custodial team

Vea abajo para versión en español / Veja em baixo para versão em português

In honor of World Digital Preservation Day, members of the University of Texas Libraries’ Digital Preservation team have written a series of blog posts to highlight preservation activities at UT Austin, and to explain why the stakes are so high in our ever-changing digital and technological landscape. This post is part four in a series of five. Read part one, part two, and part three.

By DAVID BLISS (@davidallynbliss), Digital Processing Archivist, LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections @llilasbenson

Over the past decade, LLILAS Benson has undertaken post-custodial archival projects in collaboration with partners throughout Latin America and beyond. Post-custodial archival practice encompasses a range of theory and methodology, built on the premise that digital technologies make it possible for collecting institutions like LLILAS Benson to provide access to archival collections from Latin America without taking physical custody or removing them from their original contexts of creation and use.

The Fondo Real de Cholula digitalization team in Puebla, Mexico. The team creates checksums for all files before sending them to the Benson for processing and preservation.

Through these post-custodial projects, LLILAS Benson staff and partner repository staff work together closely to identify collections of interest, select appropriate digitization equipment, and build metadata collection strategies. The materials are then digitized and described on-site in Latin America by partner repository staff. The digitized collections are then transferred to LLILAS Benson, where they are processed, preserved, and in most cases published online. Because the original collections are often vulnerable or sensitive, frequently touching on delicate human rights issues, long-term preservation of their digital copies is especially important to LLILAS Benson staff and partners in Latin America.

A digital photo of a 1607 document from the Fondo Real de Cholula collection. Digital preservation begins the moment each photo in the collection is taken, to protect the integrity of the digital collection.

In recent years, the LLILAS Benson team has integrated file fixity checks in all post-custodial projects. When launching a project at a partner site, LLILAS Benson staff now teach project team members the basic principles of digital preservation and the importance of fixity checks, which verify that files have not been altered or corrupted over time. The project teams are taught to create and verify checksums prior to transferring a batch of files to LLILAS Benson, using free software available in Spanish or Portuguese.

David Bliss and Dylan Joy, of LLILAS Benson, join scholars, government officials, and others at the Archivo Judicial del Estado de Puebla for the launch of the Fondo Real de Cholula digital preservation project. Photo: Revista el Arca de Noé, June 26, 2018.

These checksums now accompany all file deliveries from project sites, and help the LLILAS Benson team identify corrupted or missing files immediately. These checksums speed LLILAS Benson’s processing and preservation work, allowing the files to be published online and preserved long-term more easily. The checksum workflow also encourages each partner to include fixity checks in any future digitization projects they undertake, thus contributing to the partners’ own digital preservation capacity.

Equipo poscustodial LLILAS Benson

Traducido por Jennifer Isasi (@jenniferisve)

@llilasbenson

Durante la última década, LLILAS Benson ha emprendido proyectos de archivo de tipo poscustodial junto con socios a lo largo de América Latina. La práctica de archivo poscustodial abarca una serie de teorías y metodologías basadas en la premisa de que las tecnologías digitales hacen posible que las instituciones colectoras como LLILAS Benson provean acceso a las colecciones de archivos de Latinoamérica sin su custodia física o su eliminación del contexto original de su creación y uso.

A través de estos proyectos poscustodiales el personal de LLILAS Benson y sus colaboradores trabajan en estrecha colaboración para identificar colecciones de interés, seleccionar el equipo de digitalización adecuado y desarrollar estrategias de curaduría de metadatos. Los materiales son digitalizados y descritos en Latinoamérica por parte del personal de cada archivo para luego ser transferidos al equipo LLILAS Benson, quien procesa, preserva y publica los materiales en la mayoría de los casos. Debido a que las colecciones originales son a menudo vulnerables o con contenido delicado, y frecuentemente tocan temas relacionados con derechos humanos, la preservación a largo plazo de sus copias digitales es especialmente importante para el personal y los socios de LLILAS Benson en América Latina.

El equipo de digitalización del Fondo Real de Cholula, en Puebla, Mexico. El equipo crea sumas de verificación para todos los archivos antes de enviarlos a la Benson para su procesamiento y preservación.

En años recientes, LLILAS Benson ha añadido verificaciones de permanencia de archivos en los proyectos poscustodiales en curso. Con el inicio de cada proyecto en el archivo de los colaboradores, el personal de LLILAS Benson enseña a cada equipo los principios básicos de preservación digital y la importancia de añadir verificaciones de permanencia, que verifican que los archivos no han sido alterados o dañados con el tiempo. Los equipos de los proyectos aprenden a crear y verificar sumas de verificación usando programas gratuitos en español o portugués antes de transferir un conjunto de archivos a LLILAS Benson.

Una foto digital de un documento de 1607 del Fondo Real de Cholula. La preservación digital comienza en el momento en que se toma una foto, para proteger la integridad de la colección digital.

Estas sumas de verificación ahora acompañan todas las entregas de archivos desde el lugar de los proyectos de digitalización y ayudan al equipo de LLILAS Benson a identificar archivos dañados o faltantes de inmediato. Esto acelera las tareas locales de procesamiento y preservación en LLILAS Benson y anima a cada colaborador a incluir controles de verificación en cualquier otro proyecto que puedan emprender en el futuro. Esto a su vez contribuye a la capacidad de preservación digital propia de los colaboradores.

David Bliss y Dylan Joy, de LLILAS Benson, en el Archivo Judicial del Estado de Puebla para el lanzamiento del proyecto de preservación digital del Fondo Real de Cholula. Foto: Revista el Arca de Noé, 26 de junio de 2018.

Equipe pós-custodial da LLILAS Benson

Traduzido por Tereza Braga

@llilasbenson

Durante a última década, a LLILAS Benson empreendeu alguns projetos arquivísticos pós-custodiais, em colaboração com entidades parceiras espalhadas pela América Latina e outros lugares. A prática arquivística pós-custodial engloba uma gama de teorias e metodologias assentadas na premissa de que as tecnologias digitais possibilitam a instituições recolhedoras de coleções, como a LLILAS Benson, disponibilizar o acesso a coleções arquivísticas latino-americanas sem necessidade de obter custódia física ou a remoção das mesmas de seus contextos originais de criação e de uso.

Equipe do projeto de digitalização do Fondo Real de Cholula em Puebla, México. A equipe cria checksums para todos os arquivos antes de enviá-los para a Benson para processamento e preservação.

Por meio desses projetos pós-custodiais, as equipes de profissionais da LLILAS Benson e dos repositórios parceiros trabalham em contato estreito para identificar coleções de interesse, selecionar o equipamento de digitalização adequado e criar estratégias de coleta de metadados. O material é então digitalizado e descrito pela equipe de repositório da entidade parceira em cada local específico da América Latina. Em seguida, as coleções digitalizadas são transferidas para a LLILAS Bensonm onde são processadas, preservadas e, na maioria dos casos, publicadas online. Devido ao fato de muitas coleções originais serem vulneráveis ou sensitivas por causa de referências frequentes a questões delicadas de direitos humanos, a preservação a longo prazo de cópias digitais é especialmente importante para a equipe da LLILAS Benson e entidades parceiras na América Latina.

Uma foto digital de um documento de 1607 da coleção Fondo Real de Cholula. A preservação digital começa no momento em que cada foto da coleção é tirada, para proteger a integridade da coleção digital.

Em anos recentes, os profissionais da LLILAS Benson vêm integrando verificações de fixidez de arquivos em todos os projetos pós-custodiais. Agora, ao lançar um projeto em local parceiro, a equipe ensina às equipes do projeto os princípios básicos da preservação digital e a importância das verificações de fixidez para constatar se os arquivos não foram alterados ou corrompidos ao longo do tempo. As equipes de projeto aprendem a criar e verificar as checksums (somas de verificação) antes de transferir qualquer lote de arquivos para a LLILAS Benson, usando software gratuito disponível em espanhol e português.

David Bliss e Dylan Joy, da LLILAS Benson, no Arquivo Judicial do Estado de Puebla, México, para o lançamento do projeto de preservação digital do arquivo Fondo Real de Cholula. Foto: Revista el Arca de Noé, 26 de junho de 2018.

Essas checksums já acompanham todas as entregas de arquivos oriundos de locais de projetos e ajudam a equipe da LLILAS Benson a identificar imediatamente arquivos corrompidos ou faltando. As checksums aceleram o trabalho de processamento e preservação da LLILAS Benson, permitindo publicar os arquivos online e preservá-los a longo prazo com mais facilidade. O fluxograma de checksums também incentiva cada entidade parceira a incluir verificações de fixidez em qualquer projeto de digitalização a ser empreendido no futuro contribuindo, assim, para a própria capacidade de preservação digital de cada entidade.

Digital Preservation and the Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America

Vea abajo para versión en español / Veja em baixo para versão em português

In honor of World Digital Preservation Day, members of the University of Texas Libraries’ Digital Preservation team have written a series of blog posts to highlight preservation activities at UT Austin, and to explain why the stakes are so high in our ever-changing digital and technological landscape. This post is part three in a series of five. Read part one and part two.

By SUSAN SMYTHE KUNG, PhD, Manager, (@SusanKung), and RYAN SULLIVANT, PhD, Language Data Curator, (@floatingtone), Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America @AILLA_archive

At AILLA, we are developing guidelines for language researchers and activists that are intended to facilitate the organization and ingestion of their collections of recordings and annotations of Indigenous, and often endangered, languages into digital repositories so that these valuable digital resources can be preserved for the future. One of the areas of focus for these guidelines is on the importance of using open and sustainable file formats to increase the likelihood that digital files can be opened and read in the future. To help explain these ideas, we produced a short animated video that is available under a Creative Commons license on YouTube at https://youtu.be/2JCpg6ICr8M.

Screenshot from AILLA. 2018. Sustainable File Types , https://youtu.be/2JCpg6ICr8M, CC-By license.

Many digital documents are produced using proprietary software, and future users will need to have the same, or similar, software to open the files or read their contents. While documents in proprietary formats can be put into a digital repository so their bitstreams (all the ones and zeroes) are preserved well into the future, the exact copy of the file a user downloads years from now may be impossible to use if the proprietary software it was made with is no longer available. Documents preserved in these non-open and non-sustainable formats then end up like cuneiform tablets: objects whose marks and features have survived a long passage through time but can only be read by a small number of people after considerable effort and study.

A group of Cañari leaders leaving a meeting in which they discussed the formation of cooperatives to buy land. Cooperativa de San Rafael, man reading: José Zhinin, secretary, law, Antonio Guamán Zhinin president. Man in the door, José María Pichisaca. Front left, Paolo Guamán. photo right, in blue, Francisco Quishpilema; in red Manuel Guamán. Ecuador, 1968. https://ailla.utexas.org/islandora/object/ailla:259974 Photo © Preston Wilson.

Choosing sustainable open formats helps ensure that materials are not just preserved but are accessible and usable into the future, since open-source applications can be more easily built to read files stored in non-proprietary formats.

Archivo de las Lenguas Indígenas de Latinoamérica

Traducido por Jennifer Isasi

@AILLA_archive

En AILLA (por sus siglas en inglés), estamos desarrollando pautas para lingüistas y activistas con la intención de facilitar la organización e ingesta de sus colecciones de materiales de documentación de idiomas en repositorios digitales para que estos valiosos recursos digitales puedan conservarse para el futuro. Una de las áreas que resaltamos en estas guías es la importancia de utilizar formatos de archivo abiertos y sostenibles para aumentar la probabilidad de que estos archivos digitales puedan ser abiertos y leídos en el futuro. Para explicar estas ideas hemos producido un video animado corto que está disponible con licencia de Creative Commons en Youtube: https://youtu.be/2JCpg6ICr8M.

Captura de video de AILLA. 2018. Tipos de archivo , https://youtu.be/SuAUGDzKTol, licencia CC-By.

Muchos documentos digitales se producen con software propietario y se necesita el mismo software (o un software parecido) para abrirlos o leer su contenido. Es cierto que se puede meter documentos en formatos propietarios en un repositorio digital y sus bitstreams (todos los unos y ceros) serán preservados hasta el futuro, pero cuando el usuario del futuro lo descarga, no existe garantía de que aquella copia fiel sea accesible porque es posible que el software necesario ya no exista. Los documentos así preservados en formatos no abiertos y no sostenibles entonces terminan como tableta escritas en cuneiforme cuyas marcas y figuras han sobrevivido tras el tiempo pero solo son legibles por un pequeño conjunto de personas muy especializadas.

Niels Fock con dos hombres cañari en Tacu Pitina, Ecuador, 1974. https://ailla.utexas.org/islandora/object/ailla:259355 Foto © Eva Krener

Escoger formatos sostenibles y abiertos ayuda a asegurar que los materiales no solo permanezcan sino que estén accesibles y útiles en el futuro ya que será más fácil crear una aplicación de fuente abierta para leer archivos almacenados en formatos no propietarios.

Arquivo dos Idiomas Indígenas da América Latina

Traduzido por Tereza Braga

@AILLA_archive

Na AILLA, estamos desenvolvendo diretrizes para pesquisadores linguísticos e ativistas com o objetivo de possibilitar a organização e inserção de suas coleções de gravações e observações em idiomas indígenas (muitos em perigo de extinção) em repositórios digitais para que esses valiosos recursos possam ser preservados para o futuro. Uma das áreas de enfoque para essas diretrizes é a importância de utilizar formatos de arquivo abertos e sustentáveis para aumentar a probabilidade de que esses arquivos digitais possam ser abertos e lidos no futuro. Para ajudar a explicar essas ideias, produzimos um vídeo curto com técnica de animação, que está disponibilizado sob licença da Creative Commons no YouTube, em https://youtu.be/2JCpg6ICr8M.

Captura de tela de AILLA. 2018. Organizing for Personal vs Archival Workflows , https://youtu.be/iZVACb_ShiM

Muitos documentos digitais são produzidos utilizando software proprietário. Assim sendo, o usuário do futuro terá que ter o mesmo software ou similar para poder abrir os arquivos ou ler seus conteúdos. É viável armazenar documentos criados em formatos proprietários em repositório digital, para que seus bitstreams (todos os uns e todos os zeros) sejam preservados por muitos e muitos anos; por outro lado, é também possível que a cópia exata do arquivo baixado pelo usuário daqui a muitos anos seja impossível de utilizar, se o software proprietário que o criou não esteja mais disponível. Documentos preservados nesses formatos não-abertos e não-sustentáveis podem acabar como as táboas de escrita cuneiforme: objetos cujas marcações e funcionalidades sobreviveram uma longa passagem pelo tempo mas só podem ser lidos por um número pequeno de pessoas após considerável esforço e estudo.

Transcrições de histórias tzeltal na Coleção Terrence Kaufman. https://ailla.utexas.org/islandora/object/ailla:257561 Foto © Gabriela Pérez Báez

A seleção de formatos abertos e sustentáveis ajuda a garantir que certos materiais sejam não só preservados mas também acessíveis e utilizáveis no futuro, considerando que é mais fácil construir aplicações de código-fonte aberto capazes de ler arquivos armazenados em formatos não-proprietários.

Read, Hot and Digitized: Wish you were here! Early Postcards from India

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 Indian subcontinent gained independence from Britain in 1947, ending centuries of colonial influence and rule, thereby creating the nation states of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh (Bangladesh was East Pakistan until 1971).  Like elsewhere, the “colonial project” in India took many forms and could be readily observed through examples such as the built environment, changes in civil infrastructure, and ultimately in ways of documenting and “knowing.”  Contemporaries in the colonial period noted (and in some cases celebrated) these changes in many ways too, leaving traces such as official documents and reports, personal narratives including diaries, and even ephemera.  As students of history, we desperately need these primary sources to nuance our awareness of what happened in the colonial period and of how people understood the events at the time.   We need documentary mnemonics.   In this post, I highlight a social media project that encourages us to look closely at postcards as sources to inform our understandings of both what was considered as important (the visuals on the cards themselves) as well as how information traveled and gained collective traction (the sending and receiving of the cards, not to mention what might be written on them). 

As I write this from a scenic spot in Austin on a lovely spring day, I see many folks with their cell phones out, ready to take pictures.  I’m not sure why they’re feeling compelled to take the pictures—maybe to help them remember this pleasant day, maybe to document things they haven’t seen before, maybe to share with friends and family later, inviting them to imagine Austin along with them.  Whatever the reason, this now ubiquitous phenomenon of quick, easy and cheap photo sharing feels simultaneously both very “natural” and very “21st century.”

Hindu Woman on a Bike

Delightful digital projects such as the “Early Postcards from India,” however, challenge my assumption that an ephemeral capturing and sharing images is a particularly “contemporary” activity.  As School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) visual anthropologists Stephen Hughes and Emily Stevenson explain,

“For anyone who has lived through the recent emergence of the Internet, social media, camera phones, and digital-printing technologies, it is perhaps all too easy to assume that the rapid and large-scale circulation of photographic images is a uniquely twenty-first-century phenomenon… A growing body of literature demonstrates that since its invention, in the mid-nineteenth century, photography has always circulated, moving among different spaces, discourses, and material forms.. Of the various nineteenth-century photographic innovations, the humble picture postcard was the most widely traveled of them all.”(1)

In “Early Postcards from India,” Hughes and Stevenson build on the success of their earlier physical exhibits of postcards as historical documents.  They creatively exploit Instagram’s social media platform to reintroduce and redistribute the visual memories captured in and on early postcards from India.  The chosen platform is unpretentious in layout, openly accessible to anyone with an Instagram account, and constantly growing–they have a new image and related provocative or didactic post daily.  Their use of Instagram, one of the most widely adopted and therefore “traveled” image innovations, to continue the circulation and consumption of these images, is a simple but highly effective stroke of genius.   

Metro Cinema, Kolkata

The content in “Early Postcards” is wide-ranging: it includes images of monuments, of municipal infrastructures, of “anthropological types.”  As such, the images evoke feelings of nostalgia, of curiosity, of unease, and perhaps, of collective regret.  Thanks to Hughes and Stevenson for sharing these images so we can all collectively participate in the critiques and (re)writings of history.

Those interested in further exploring the history of postcards, of visual representation(s) and of colonial India might find these helpful starting points:

Akbar, Sohail, “An Exploration of the Early History of the Nation through Personal Photographs.” photographies 6:1 (2013): 7–15.

Jhingan, Madhukar, Post Card Catalogue of India and Native States (New Delhi: We Philatelists, 1979).

Khan, Omar, Paper Jewels: postcards from the Raj (Ahmedabad, India: Mapin Publishing, 2018).

Mathur, Saloni, India by Design : Colonial History and Cultural Display (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007.

Nenadic, Stana, “Exhibiting India in Nineteenth-Century Scotland and the Impact on Commerce, Industry and Popular Culture” Journal of Scottish Historical Studies 34.1 (2014): 67–89.

Pinney, Christopher, Camera Indica : the Social Life of Indian Photographs (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997).

Ponsford, Megan, “Photographic Reportage and the Colonial Imaginary,” Sport in Society 22:1 (2019): 160–184.

Seth, Vijay, and J. R. Nanda. Centenary of Indian Airmails, 1911-2014 (New Delhi: Indian Aviation Research Foundation, 2014).

Notes:

(1) Hughes, Stephen and Emily Stevenson, “South India Addresses the World: Postcards, Circulation, and EmpireCirculation 9:2 (2019).

Ernesto Cardenal Is Dead at 95: The Nicaraguan Poet, Priest, and Revolutionary Chose the Benson Collection for His Archive

Ernesto Cardenal, the Nicaraguan poet, priest, and revolutionary, died in Managua on Sunday, March 1. He was 95.

Ernesto Cardenal, undated photograph.

Admired and controversial, Cardenal was a towering figure in Central American culture and politics. As Nicaragua’s minister of culture under the Sandinista government, which took power in 1979, he oversaw a national program that taught poetry to Nicaraguans of all ages and all walks of life. 

Ernesto Cardenal Papers, Benson Latin American Collection.

As a priest, ordained in 1965, Cardenal defied the Vatican of Pope John Paul II by embracing liberation theology and joining the Sandinista revolutionary armed conflict. His priestly authority was revoked by Nicaragua’s bishops in 1985. Pope Francis absolved Cardenal of “all canonical censorships” in February 2019.

Ernesto Cardenal Papers, Benson Latin American Collection.

Cardenal’s long and rich life can almost be said to be several lives rolled into one. His spiritual path would take him in the 1950s to Gethsemani, the Trappist monastery in Kentucky, where he met and befriended monk and writer Thomas Merton. In the 1960s, he founded an artistic and spiritual community in the Solentiname archipelago in Nicaragua, where he taught literature and painting. He fought in the Nicaraguan Revolution to depose dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle, and serving in the Sandinista government, Cardenal left the Sandinista party in 1994 and became highly critical of President Daniel Ortega.

Ernesto Cardenal. Photo: by Sandra Eleta.

In 2016, the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at The University of Texas at Austin acquired the Ernesto Cardenal Papers, an extensive archive consisting of correspondence, writings by Cardenal, newspaper clippings and writings by others related to Cardenal, photographs, biographical materials, and audiovisual materials. 

Cardenal during his 2016 visit to the Benson. Photo: Robert Esparza.

“We are honored that Ernesto Cardenal chose the Benson Collection as the permanent home for his personal archive. Already, students and scholars from around the globe have been able to consult the materials for their research. We know this accessibility was important to Father Cardenal, and we are committed to the preservation of his life’s work,” said Melissa Guy, director of the Benson Collection.

Virginia Garrard, director of LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections, and professor of history and religious studies, knew Cardenal personally and has long been inspired by him. “Ernesto Cardenal was a fighter: for justice, against dictatorship, for equality, for his faith, and for the power of art and beauty to shine light in a dark world. He was tireless in this lifelong struggle, striving until his final days for a better Nicaragua and true justice for all people. LLILAS Benson is proud to help to carry on his legacy,” Garrard said. (LLILAS Benson is a partnership between the Benson and the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies, or LLILAS, established in 2011.)

Cardenal reads his poetry to a packed house at the Benson. Photo: Travis Willmann.

Cardenal visited the UT Austin campus in November 2016 to celebrate the opening of his archive with a poetry reading before a packed house. During his stay, he was also able to view some of the Benson’s archival treasures and visit with students in a more intimate setting. In honor of the Cardenal archive, and of LLILAS Benson’s emphasis on Central American scholarship and collections, Garrard established Cátedra Ernesto Cardenal, which sponsors a yearly symposium on a topic relating to Central America, and funds research visits to the collection.

Cardenal’s connection with the Benson opened the door to unprecedented access to the man himself, and he granted an interview to former Benson librarian José Montelongo in spring of 2016. Excerpts of the interview, in Spanish with English subtitles, can be viewed at Interview with Ernesto Cardenal.

In 2017, LLILAS Benson published Spanish and English versions of a poignant essay by Professor Luis Cárcamo-Huechante, who discusses the impact of Cardenal’s writings on him as a young man growing up during the Chilean dictatorship. (Read “Cardenal in Hard Times” / “Cardenal en tiempos difíciles.”)

Warhol-inspired libro-disco cover. Caracas, 1972. Benson Latin American Collection.

“It is an extraordinary gift that Cardenal’s papers arrive at the Benson Latin American Collection, in Austin, Texas,” Cárcamo-Huechante wrote. “And it is likely that once again, Cardenal’s writings, and the ethical, political, spiritual, poetic, and human voice that resonates in them, will accompany us at these latitudes of the planet, in the hard times that seem to be upon us.”

For more information, contact Susanna Sharpe, ssharpe@austin.utexas.edu, 512-232.2403.

Distinctive, Collaborative Collections Work in the Subcontinent

Regular travel “to the field” is an indispensable tool in the area studies librarian’s toolkit.  Firsthand knowledge of the cultural, political and intellectual context for the production and distribution of information resources is essential to maintaining both our expertise and currency in support of the global literacy being nurtured and developed here at UT.  I was fortunate to travel to India again this January due to the generosity of UT’s South Asia Institute and the many donors to UTL’s 2019 Hornraiser funding campaign.  I am immensely grateful to both for supporting this mission-critical acquisitions-, networking-, and professional development work! 

This year, I was able to visit 3 north Indian cities (Delhi, Lucknow and Varanasi) and I was able to achieve 3 major goals:

  • Acquire distinctive materials for UT’s collections, including materials specifically requested by UT faculty to advance their teaching and research but also books in Hindi and Urdu that will deepen our ever-growing South Asian Popular and Pulp Fiction Collection
woman in sales transaction with man in black coat and hat, in a book stall
Buying pulp fiction titles in Lucknow.
twelve people (from the english department at the university of lucknow and librarian mary rader) standing, smiling for the camera.
With the English Department at the University of Lucknow
  • Advance post-custodial open access efforts on South Asian Studies, including recently completed and collaboratively funded digitization projects, for example the newly available journals (Viplav, Viplavi Tract and Baagi), while simultaneously advocating the use of open access initiatives such as the South Asia Open Archive

One project I have been working on for the past 5 years exemplifies the type of work we UT global studies liaisons try to do while traveling abroad: the Sajjad Zaheer Digital Archive.  The opportunity to digitize the papers of the 20th century Progressive Writer, Mr. Sajjad Zaheer, was brought to me back in 2014 by 3 UT professors—Kamran Ali (Anthropology), Akbar Hyder (Asian Studies) and Snehal Shingavi (English)—as all 3 used Sajjad Zaheer’s work in their scholarship.  As the Zaheer family had made an MoU with Ambedkar University Delhi (AUD) to be the physical home of the collection, over multiple trips to Delhi and via countless email messages over the years, I worked with both the family members and with representatives of AUD’s Centre for Community Knowledge to inventory the collection, to get permissions to digitize the material, and to put the resulting files online in an open access repository.  Successful appeals to UT’s South Asia Institute and the South Asia Materials Project (SAMP) at the Center for Research Libraries for funding and eventual hosting of the archive enabled the work.  I used connections I had made on previous trips to facilitate the careful scanning work with digitization partners in India (the Roja Muthiah Research Library).  At our meeting this year in Delhi, we celebrated the completion of our initial objectives—digitally preserved and openly accessible copies of the collection

archival photo of three people (Sajjad Zaheer, Jawaharlal Nehru and Nehru's daughter) on a stone pathway in a garden
Photo from the Online Archive of Zaheer with his daughter and India’s 1st Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.

Digital collections are never done, however, so we also used this year’s meeting to put our heads together to explore ways to improve access and discovery of the archive (a digital humanities project currently underway at UTL, again generously funded by UT’s South Asia Institute) and to think of other authors’ work we would like to present in similar ways.  The project may have taken 5 years but they were productive, cooperative, and mutually beneficial years.  I can only hope for such success in future projects!

Read, Hot and Digitized: South by—The Border Studies Archive at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

BY DANIEL ARBINO

Read, hot & digitized: Librarians and the digital scholarship they love — In this series, librarians from the Libraries’ Arts, Humanities and Global Studies Engagement Team briefly present, explore and critique existing examples of digital scholarship to encourage and inspire critical reflection of and future creative contributions to the growing fields of digital scholarship.

The Border Studies Archive (BSA) at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) has fostered really interesting digital collections of borderlands materials in recent years. These projects include Traditional Mexican American Folklore; Border Wall and Border Security; Border Music; Latinas and Politics; Spanish Land Grants; and Visual Border Studies. Each of these collections offers insight into a vast array of cultural elements that combine to depict life along the U.S.­–Mexico border.

From non-Western healing practices to government documents on border patrol to land grants, the archive seeks to be as encompassing as possible for local community members and scholars conducting research. In fact, many times these cultural processes challenge the notion of a geopolitical border through transnational production like music, folklore, and curanderismo, as many of these elements exist on both sides of the border. Importantly, much of this information is offered through oral histories and video interviews to retain original voices.

UT Rio Grande Valley Border Studies Archive page.

One of the highlights is the BSA’s Border Music Collection, which contains rare regional music that has been donated by scholars and community members alike. This collection recalls local and now-defunct record companies, musicians of yesteryear, and a genre of local music that is threatened by globalization. But music is just one aspect of the collection. It also includes rare interviews with musicians who discuss their life and what influenced their songs. These interviews come via donations and also interviews conducted by the BSA or students in partnership with the BSA. To that end, the BSA contributes to the growth of its own archive by enlisting university students and the community to record these histories with high-quality equipment. The Border Music Collection continues to digitize old records and CDs for an online collection that offers excerpts of the larger collection.

Video interview with Guadalupe Wally Gonzalez on the UTRGV archive’s Border Music page.

Why go to all this trouble? For the curators, this archive builds a sense of community where everyone can learn something new from interacting with members. Perhaps more significantly, it opposes popular U.S. discourse that the borderland is only a violent space in need of heightened security. On the contrary, the archive portrays a vibrant society alive with unique cultural processes and innovation that has the potential to unite both sides of a border divided by “una herida abierta” (Anzaldúa 1987, 3).

Hidalgo County Land Grant Map, UTRGV Border Studies Archive.

Access to the Collections

University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is employing CONTENTdm to showcase these collections. This platform permits the embedding of different types of content, including audio, video, and text. Only some metadata is supplied with certain files, but the user has to dig around to find it; it’s not easily discoverable on the public-facing side of the site. However, the site’s content is fully available in both Spanish and English, an important recognition of the populations being served. Aside from the need for more robust metadata, there remains an opportunity for further digital scholarship that will surely come with time. The Spanish Land Grants section would benefit from additional visual mapping options like CARTO, for example. However, the current interactive map allows users to click on highlighted areas and watch short videos pertaining to the region.  

For music-related materials at the Benson Latin American Collection, please refer to: The Oscar Martinez Papers, Robert P. and Sugar C. Rodriguez Collection of Tejano Music, the Tish Hinojosa Papers, and the Dan Dickey Music Collection For oral histories, please see: Los del Valle Oral History Project and Voces Oral History Project. Finally, for visual renderings of some traditional healing practices, see Carmen Lomas Garza Papers and Artworks.

Citation

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

Exhibition: Cuban Comics in the digital Era

Based on exhibition text by Gilbert Borrego

The publishing industry of Cuba experienced a seismic shift in 1959 when Fidel Castro won a revolutionary war against dictator Fulgencio Batista. With this change, underground and subversive media creators of the Batista era became an important part of the new socialist culture. This helped to mobilize the masses in support of the new Castro government and against U.S. capitalistic ideology.

Fidel Castro understood that media and graphic art could guide ideology and could be used as an educational tool because he knew that it had already being used before in Cuba. Castro portrait, “Zunzún” no. 2, 1980. Benson Latin American Collection.

Cuban Comics in the Digital Era examines the art and history of Cuban comics after the successful 1959 revolution, highlighting the creators, characters, heroes, and anti-heroes of Cuba. It also touches on the triumphs and failures of the publishing industry and how Cuban artists today struggle to keep the genre alive.

Nikita Khrushchev and Dwight D. Eisenhower on the cover of “Zig-Zag,” no. 1079, August 1959. Benson Latin American Collection.

These materials are part of the Caridad Blanco Collection of Cuban Comic Books, acquired in 2018. Blanco, a Havana-based artist and curator, collected over 700 examples of stand-alone comics and newspaper supplements created between 1937 and 2018.

The Birth of Cuba’s Revolutionary Comics

Key to the process of planning a new nationalistic government was the cementing of a new socialistic cultural identity in the minds of the Cuban populace. Radio, television, and print media (including comics) helped to mobilize the masses.

A new world opened up for the creators of comics, who now had the singular purpose of supporting their new government while still appealing to their readers. In this early era, many of these readers were children, who continued to consume U.S.-created comic books and the ideals that went with them.

“Historietas de Elpidio Valdés,” Juan Padrón Blanco, 1985. Benson Latin American Collection.

Widespread suspicion held that beloved American comics were imperialistic indoctrination tools for Cuban children. In response, the new Cuban government began utilizing comics as a means to teach values that aligned with revolutionary doctrine.

Julio Mella was among Cuban figures lauded for heroism or espousing socialistic ideals. “[Revolucionarios],” “Mella Suplemento,” no. 60, undated. Benson Latin American Collection.

Cuban-created comics replaced American ones on the shelves. These works appealed to highly literate youth. Mixing adventure, comedy, and the ideological tenets of the new government, they portrayed revolution as necessary and exciting, especially for the country’s youth.

“Jóvenes Rebeldes,” “Mella,” no. 201, 1962. Benson Latin American Collection.

This exhibition was curated by Digital Repository Specialist Gilbert Borrego and is part of his fall 2019 Capstone Experience course in partial fulfillment of his MSIS, School of Information, The University of Texas at Austin. In addition to the physical exhibition, Borrego curated a richly illustrated online exhibition.

About the Curator

Gilbert Borrego is currently the Institutional Repository Specialist for Texas ScholarWorks at UT Libraries. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in anthropology from Stanford University and will soon complete his master’s in Information Studies at UT Austin. He is passionate about archives, libraries, museums, metadata, and history.


Cuban Comics in the Castro Era will be on view in the Benson Latin American Collection main reading room, December 6, 2019–March 1, 2020.

Read more about the Caridad Blanco Collection of Cuban Comics in LLILAS Benson Portal.

Field Notes Photography Exhibition Showcases Student Research in Latin America

Each fall, LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections invites graduate and undergraduate students from all departments and disciplines across the university to submit photographs to the Field Notes student photography exhibition. Thirty images are chosen for display in the Benson Latin American Collection. Through these images, student photographers document moments from their research on Latin America or US Latina/o communities.

In addition to showcasing student research, the exhibition awards prizes of $250 to two student photographers. The winning photos are chosen in a blind competition by a panel of faculty and staff.

Fall 2019 marks the tenth anniversary of the photography show, originally conceived by Adrian Johnson, librarian for Caribbean studies and head of user services at the Benson. In this Tex Libris post, we give a glimpse of this beautiful and varied exhibition, and invite readers to visit the Benson to view all of the photos.

The announcement for Field Notes 10 used “La limpia,” show in the Field Notes 9 show, and taken in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, by LLILAS PhD candidate Nathalia Ochoa.

Through her research with Mexican migrants in Austin, prize-winner Maribel Bello created the Facebook page Rancho Querido, which she calls “an emotional-visual-exchange bridge” for sharing of images showing everyday activities in Mexico. Her winning photo shows children playing hide-and-seek. Bello is a master’s student in Latin American Studies at the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies (LLILAS).

“Yo mejor me escondo,” by Maribel Bello, was taken in La Cueva, Guanajuato, Mexico.

In his untitled prize-winning photo (below), Arisbel López Andraca, a PhD student in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, depicts a religious procession in Havana, Cuba. López has been researching the visuality of “daily religious practices” in the streets of Havana, noting the considerable increase in the circulation of “dressed dolls” or “spiritual dolls” as representations of orichas, spiritual entities, or eggungun.

“Untitled,” by Arisbel López Andraca, taken in Havana, Cuba, shows a woman carrying a dressed doll in the procession of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre.

LLILAS PhD candidate Ricardo Velasco looks at “cultural initiatives for memory and reconciliation in the context of Colombia’s current transitional justice conjuncture.” He conducted ethnographic research in Comuna 13, he says, to inquire about “how youth visual culture has contributed to the transformation of what once was one of the urban epicenters of Colombia’s armed conflict.”

“Comuna 13, Medellín,” by Ricardo Velasco. The photo depicts the built environment of Medellín as seen from Comuna 13.

Pablo Millalen Lepin, a LLILAS PhD student, studies public policies toward indigenous people in his native Chile. His photo reflects the meaning of ranching and livestock ownership for Indigenous Mapuche families, for whom “the possession of an animal can be interpreted as part of the local economy, and/or the promise of future work, principally in the area of agriculture.”

“El pequeño toro solitario / The Lonely Little Bull,” by Pablo Millalen Lepin, taken in Lof Mañiuko, a Mapuche community in the South of Chile.

To see and enjoy all of the photographs, visit the exhibition in the first-floor corridor of the Benson Latin American Collection during library hours. Exhibition runs through December 2019.

Feature image, top, taken in Boyacá, Colombia, by Sofia Mock, undergraduate in Plan II.

Bordados testimoniales de refugiados de la Guerra Civil Salvadoreña accesibles en línea

Por Albert A. Palacios, Coordinador de Escolaridad Digital de LLILAS Benson

Read in English

Durante el verano, LLILAS Benson y el Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen (MUPI) en El Salvador agregaron otra iniciativa digital a su portfolio de colaboración. Desde 2012, las dos instituciones han trabajado juntos para digitalizar archivos relacionados a la Guerra Civil Salvadoreña (1980–1992), gracias al generoso apoyo de la Fundación Andrew W. Mellon. Continuando estos esfuerzos, esta nueva iniciativa también exploró el potencial de las humanidades digitales para destacar una de las colecciones más impresionantes de MUPI: los bordados testimoniales de refugiados salvadoreños.

Bordado que conmemora un campamento de refugiados y las personas y actividades asociadas con el lugar.

Los testimonios sobre la violación de derechos humanos se presentan en diferentes formas, y el fundador y actual director de MUPI, Carlos “Santiago” Henríquez Consalvi, ha procurado preservar la diversidad. Poco después de la firma de los Acuerdos de Paz de Chapultepec en 1992 que pusieron fin a la Guerra Civil Salvadoreña, Santiago dirigió una campaña para rescatar el patrimonio cultural creado antes, durante y después del conflicto armado. Esto ha incluido propaganda política, publicaciones y las grabaciones de la estación de Radio Venceremos. Desde su fundación formal en 1999, MUPI ha continuado esta preservación y ha expandido su enfoque para incluir varios temas sobre la cultura e historia salvadoreña.

La colección que ha crecido más recientemente, y el enfoque de esta nueva iniciativa, consiste de bordados testimoniales creados por campesinas salvadoreñas refugiadas en Honduras durante la guerra civil. Estas piezas fueron creadas para comunicar al mundo las experiencias vividas de los refugiados, y muchos de los textiles se enviaron a grupos y organizaciones de solidaridad en Europa y Canadá para ello. Gracias a una campaña internacional reciente, más de veinte obras han sido repatriadas y enviadas a MUPI. A través de talleres en las comunidades rurales de El Salvador, MUPI ha renovado el aprecio por esta tradición cultural, promoviendo el arte y los esfuerzos de repatriación a través de una exposición titulada Bordadoras de Memoria en la capital.

Ahora que los bordados están volviendo a casa, MUPI está utilizando tecnologías digitales para continuar el trabajo de abogar por los derechos humanos que estas mujeres comenzaron en la década de los 1980s. Para alcanzar y educar a un público más amplio e internacional, específicamente jóvenes descendientes de salvadoreños en los Estados Unidos, el Museo trabajó con el personal de Estudios Digitales en LLILAS Benson (LBDS) para recrear Bordadoras de Memoria en línea. En junio, el equipo de LBDS viajó a San Salvador y capacitó al diseñador gráfico de MUPI, Pedro Durán, en el uso de la plataforma Omeka para que pudiera reconcebir la exhibición digitalmente, utilizando fotografías preliminares de los bordados. El equipo también aprovechó la oportunidad para hablar sobre otras herramientas de código abierto que el personal de MUPI puede usar en su trabajo con jóvenes locales.

Proceso de fotografía y reproducción digital de un bordado.

La visita también lanzó otro proyecto archivístico pos-custodial para ambas instituciones. Dado el tamaño de algunas obras (la pieza que se muestra arriba es más de 2.5 metros de largo), el proyecto requirió un flujo de trabajo completamente diferente en la digitalización y entrenamiento en nuevos equipos. Capacitados por el personal de archivos pos-custodiales (PC) de la Colección Latinoamericana Benson, el equipo de LBDS trabajó con el personal de MUPI para iniciar la digitalización y la descripción archivística de los bordados. El equipo de PC espera incorporar la colección al portal Latin American Digital Initiatives a finales de este año, así que estense atentos.

Miembros del equipo de Iniciativas Digitales de LLILAS Benson trabajan con personal del Museu de la Palabra y la Imagen en San Salvador, El Salvador.

Para aprender más sobre este proyecto, los invitamos a ver el especial de Retratos producido por FocosTV. Para obtener mayor información sobre el Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen, visite su sitio web https://museo.com.sv/. Explore las colecciones digitales de MUPI y de otros colaboradores por el portal Latin American Digital Initiatives de LLILAS Benson.

Participantes del proyecto:

  • Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen
    • Carlos “Santiago” Henríquez Consalvi (Director)
    • Carlos Colorado (Coordinador de Digitalización)
    • Pedro Durán (Diseñador Gráfico)
    • Jakelyn López (Coordinadora de Archivo)
  • LLILAS Benson
    • Dra. Jennifer Isasi (Becaria Postdoctoral de CLIR) 
    • Albert A. Palacios (Coordinador de Estudios Digitales)
    • David Bliss (Archivista de Ingestión Digital) 
    • Itza Carbajal (Bibliotecaria de Metadatos Latinoamericanos)
    • Theresa Polk (Jefa de Iniciativas Digitales)