Category Archives: Global Studies

Read, Hot and Digitized: “The Death of Ivan Ilich”: An Electronic Study Edition of the Russian Text

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.

The project “The Death of Ivan Ilich”: An Electronic Study Edition of the Russian Text, based at the University of Minnesota Libraries, is an openly published resource highlighting how digital media can supplement and enhance the close reading of literature. The project contains the text of Lev Tolstoy’s novella The Death of Ivan Ilich in multiple formats, including the original Russian with an English translation side-by-side, versions with hyperlinked  explanatory and interpretive annotations, contextual introductory remarks by the project’s author, and an extensive bibliography. This is an important resource for any serious study of Tolstoy’s work, and it being made available in an open and remixable format is a boon for students and instructors alike.

The project’s homepage, featuring a brief description, license information, and links to read and download the book.

Tolstoy’s novella is a seminal work of world literature, and is studied broadly both in translation and the original Russian. Useful as a tool for students both of the Russian language and of Russian literature, this bilingual edition bridges the gap between language pedagogy and general literary study. The original Russian text–published in 1886–is in the public domain, as is the English translation by Louise and Aylmer Maude. The introduction, annotations and selected bibliography by Gary R. Jahn, Professor of Russian Language and Literature at the University of Minnesota, are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license. This license allows users to share and adapt the text–that is, “copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format” and “remix, transform, and build upon the material” as long as the license terms are followed.

The main interface for the project was built in Pressbooks, a platform that allows users to create and share openly published digital editions of  books that can also be downloaded as PDFs. The edition includes its own identifying ISBN, allowing for easy citation, and is highly interactive. For example, the glossed version of the text, includes linked annotations that can be clicked on to read as you go through the text. Some of these annotations also include images illustrating elements of the text that may be opaque to contemporary readers; one, for example, includes an image of a funeral announcement from 19th-century Russia. These very helpful annotations can be viewed in both the English and the Russian versions of the text.

A portion of the book showing Russian and English text side by side.

This edition is an important contribution both to open scholarship and the study of Russian literature. Allowing students and researchers to easily compare and contrast the original Russian with the translation in an accessible digital format is very helpful, as are the many explanatory notes and annotations included in the project. Furthermore, the bibliographies of both primary and secondary sources in multiple categories allows both the casual reader and the more dedicated student or scholar to explore further. In short, this online edition is a valuable example of the extensive and interoperatible possibilities of digital scholarship and open publishing.

For more information, please consult the UTL resources below:

Danaher, David S. “A Cognitive Approach to Metaphor in Prose: Truth and Falsehood in Leo Tolstoy’s ‘The Death of Ivan Il’ich.’” Poetics today 24, no. 3 (2003): 439–469.

Jackson, Robert Louis., and Horst-Jürgen Gerigk. Close Encounters Essays on Russian Literature / Robert Louis Jackson. Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2013.

Jahn, Gary R. Tolstoy’s the Death of Ivan Ilʹich : a Critical Companion / Edited by Gary R. Jahn. Evanston, Ill: Northwestern University Press, 1999.

Tolstoy, Leo, and Michael R. Katz. Tolstoy’s Short Fiction : Revised Translations, Backgrounds and Sources, Criticism / Edited and with Revised Translations by Michael R.  Katz. 2nd ed. New York: Norton & Co., 2008.

Celebrating Ada

Ada Lovelace Day is an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Since 2009, its purpose has been to increase the profile of women in STEM and, in doing so, create new role models who will encourage more girls into STEM careers and support women already working in STEM. The day is named in honor of Ada Lovelace, an English mathematician and writer who is best known for creating the first computer algorithm.

UT Librarians Gina Bastone, Lydia Fletcher, and Hannah Chapman Tripp organized the 2021 Ada Lovelace Day Wiki Edit-A-Thon to build on the success of the 2019 event. The goals of the edit-a-thon were to improve the visibility of women in STEM fields, to teach first-time editors the quirks of Wikipedia editing, and to involve more gender and racial minorities and LGBTQ+ people in the Wikipedia editing process. Due to the continued uncertainty about COVID-19, we opted to make the event this year a hybrid one by offering both an in-person drop-in event where folks could learn something, grab some food, and edit in between classes as well as a Discord-based online version.

As with the 2019 event, we wanted this year’s to be largely self-guided. We emphasized starting the research process and identifying useful Wikipedia-friendly sources by offering a list of potential pages to edit, update, or create. We organized the day through a system of Google Drive links (for those engaging through Discord) and physical sticky notes (for those attending in person) to ensure that only one person would be editing one article at a time, while retaining the ability to have more than one contributor to each article on the day. For example, we had one person begin editing the article on Cora Sadosky’s research before passing it off to a graduate student in mathematics who could better understand and explain Sadosky’s works. We also worked on creating a Wikipedia page for the new Dean of the Jackson School, Claudia Mora.

Once again, we worked with student groups in the Colleges of Natural Sciences and Engineering to promote the event. Hosting the event in a hybrid format presented some new challenges, but ultimately taught us a lot about navigating engagement in the “new normal” and we look forward to the 2022 event!

Read, Hot and Digitized: The Texas Archive of the Moving Image

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.

Preserving audio visual materials is one of the biggest challenges for archivists and preservationists. The Texas Archive of the Moving Image (TAMI) has approached the preservation of Texas’ film history in innovative and unprecedented ways for the last 20 years. The non-profit organization solicits any kind of film – home movies, advertisements, local television programs, corporate productions, amateur films and even professional movie productions, and offers to digitize them in exchange for a donation of the digital copy. As a result, TAMI has a digital archive of over 50,000 films by Texans or about Texas. Created by Caroline Frick, currently the Associate Chair of Media Studies in the Radio, Television and Film department at UT Austin, TAMI’s stated goals are to “discover, preserve, provide access to, and educate the community about Texas’ film heritage.” Not only are they preserved for long-term historical and research purposes, but a huge number of those films are accessible online through TAMI’s website.

The casual user can enjoy this site by simply watching videos highlighted on their homepage. They feature a rotating selection of interesting films, with a ‘watch next’ feature and a ‘random video’ selector. I will admit to having fun reminiscing about places I’ve visited and lived in Texas, as well as getting sucked into the fascinating, the weird, and the sometimes inexplicable videos on the site (take, for instance, this baffling 1978 corporate wine industry video from Dallas).

More importantly, TAMI takes their educational mission seriously, with multiple sections that place films within their geographical, historical and social contexts. An education page provides lesson plans on topics from a Texas perspective such as The Cold War, The Dust Bowl and the Galveston Hurricane of 1900. Each lesson plan includes a curated selection of films accompanied by class conversation prompts, assignment ideas and how the themes fit within Texas’ TEKS and STAAR standardized testing requirements. 

The Education and Web Exhibits pages bring together digital technologies in creative ways to teach new understandings of Texas history. The Webs Exhibits section looks at different aspects of Texas. For instance, ‘La Frontera Fluida – The Fluid Border’ explores films of the Texas-Mexico borderlands. On the site you can view films depicting historical events from a historical chronology page, a subject page, and even geographically from a map of the border. These value-added aspects are great examples of a digital-humanities approach, but TAMI also makes these films available for researchers to use in their own projects. Each film has code that allows you to embed the film on your own page. This makes the content of the archive ripe for myriad digital humanities projects exploring every aspect of Texas.

The University of Texas Libraries owns or subscribes to an enormous collection of audio-visual materials originating from every corner of the globe. A simple search in the library catalog for video/film turns up over 75,000 results. While the majority of this material is not necessarily focused on Texas, the library  does have incredible collections of audio-visual materials that originate in the state.

At the Benson Latin American Collection, for instance, we have significant collections of film focused on the history and culture of Latinas/os in Texas, especially focusing on Mexican Americans and the Chicano movement. This includes large numbers of interviews with prominent activists,  documentaries and archival collections such as the Cine las Americas video collection and a collection of their festival materials, the Robert P. and Sugar C. Rodriguez collection of Tejano Music videos, and the Los del Valle project. All of these materials can be crucial primary and secondary source materials for research projects. Taken together with the materials found in TAMI, I can almost always find something useful for students doing research on Texas Latinas/os when they are looking for audio visual materials. No other state has a statewide digital film archive like TAMI, and we are privileged to have such as amazing resource at our fingertips.

All images from the Texas Archive of the Moving Image website and Instagram site.

Further resources:

Frick, Caroline. “An Interview With Caroline Frick of the Texas Archive of the Moving Image and the University of Texas at Austin Department of Radio-Television-Film” The Velvet light trap: 2013, Vol. 71 (1), p. 42-6.

National Film Preservation Foundation https://www.filmpreservation.org/.

Library of Congress Moving Image Research Center. Digital Moving Image Collections. https://www.loc.gov/rr/mopic/ndlmps.html

Read, Hot and Digitized: Documenting Judeo-Spanish

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.

Documenting Judeo-Spanish was launched in Spring 2020 under the leadership of Dr. Bryan Kirschen, a sociolinguist specializing in Hispanic languages at the Romance languages department at Binghamton University, NY (Twitter @LadinoLinguist).

“Ladino (also known as Judeo-Spanish or Judezmo) refers to the variety of Spanish that developed among Jewish populations who were expelled from Spain in 1492 and subsequently settled throughout Turkey and the Balkans, then of the Ottoman Empire. These Jews, known as Sephardim, preserved many features of Medieval Spanish, while incorporating linguistic elements from the languages spoken in their surroundings. As a Jewish language, Ladino has always been in contact with Hebrew. And while it may sound like other Romance languages, in writing, it would have traditionally appeared more similar to a Semitic language. This project deals with documents in Judeo-Spanish written in Solitreo. Solitreo refers to the Hebrew-based cursive script once used by Sephardim; it is the cursive variety of the Rashi (Rabbinic) script; it derived from Galician/Portuguese, meaning ‘to spell.’[1] This style of writing is distinct from the Ashkenazi-based alphabet used for cursive Hebrew today, making documents in Solitreo undecipherable to the untrained eye. Solitreo is now a nearly-extinct alphabet to an endangered language, as most writers of the language utilize Roman characters.”[2]

The Documenting Judeo-Spanish project contains a range of documents from journal entries and ledgers, to personal correspondence, prayers, poetry, and community minutes. The project currently presents 25 selected documents (out of 150 already collected from around the world). Beyond these fascinating digitized texts, the most compelling tool is one that allows users to engage with the paleographic endeavor of deciphering the script. Hovering one’s mouse over a word in Solitreo will reveal its Latin-character equivalent form in Judeo-Spanish, while clicking on that word would show a tooltip with the literal translation of the lexical term. Below each digitized object there is also downloadable PDF file, containing the parallel text in Romanization of Judeo-Spanish as well as English translation. Metadata about both the content of the item and its digital file is included as well. Some items include a short recording of the text (in WAV format) being read in Judeo-Spanish. See for example this postcard: https://documentingjudeospanish.com/explore/postcards/djs0075/

Additional tools are expected to be launched soon, including a fully-developed font in Solitreo which would include individual and final forms of letters, ligatures, numbers, punctuation, and diacritical marks.[3]

Kirschen’s project could be used both within and outside of academia. Its audience are educators, students, scholars, and the public. While it could be used as a pedagogical tool, introducing students to an extinct script, it could also be used by the community, allowing users to learn how to read personal items and re-connect to their heritage. What I really like about this project is that all 150 items that were processed for it were gathered from the public. As opposed to other projects that use existing collections, Documenting Judeo-Spanish is serving like an ‘aid force,’ connecting the academia with the community. 

Related resources (with annotations):

Aki Yerushalayim : revista de las emisiones de Israel en djudeo-espaniol. Jerusalem: s.n., 1979.

The UT Libraries hold a full run of this Ladino language journal, published in print 1979 to 2016 and resumed publication in digital in 2019. Many of its issues include a section dedicated to Solitreo and its transcription. See UTL catalog. Some issues are also available online.

Barocas, David N. A Study on the Meaning of Ladino, Judezmo, and the Spanish Jewish Dialect / by David N. Barocas ; with an Introductory Essay by Henry V. Besso on Judaeo-Spanish, Its Growth and Decline. New York: Foundation for the Advancement of Sephardic Studies and Culture, 1976. (see UTL catalog).

Bunis, D. A guide to reading and writing Judezmo. Brooklyn, N.Y.: The Judezmo Society, 1975. Downloadable from the author’s academia.edu page.

Bunis, D. Soletreo: Writing the Ladino Script with Prof. David Bunis. Stroum Center for Jewish Studies. University of Washington, 2015. In this video, Professor Bunis reviews and illustrates how to write each letter of Ladino in both the Rashi and Solitreo alphabets.


[1] For many Sephardim, Solitreo was simply known as ganchos, meaning ‘hooks,’ due to the ligatures that form between letters (https://documentingjudeospanish.com/solitreo/)

[2] Kirschen, Bryan. “Our Project.” Documenting Judeo-Spanish, 2020, www.documentingjudeospanish.com/project.

[3] https://documentingjudeospanish.com/tools/

Participatory Community Archiving: The South Asian American Digital Archive

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.

May marks Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Month and reminds us to celebrate the contributions of AAPI communities in the U.S. and to confront the ongoing trials experienced by members of the AAPI population.  AAPI Month also challenges us to learn more about the diversity of peoples and cultures enfolded under such a broad umbrella.  This post suggests that we unpack the complexity such a ubiquitous but ultimately masking label as “Asian American” by looking closely at just one community, South Asian Americans, through the lens of a digital project, the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA).

The core of SAADA is community building through documentation and action.  Documentation takes the form of an online repository of narratives, including the personal and private (oral histories, written correspondence, photographs) and the published (newspaper clippings, academic articles).  That archival core forms the foundational structure around and through which SAADA organizes and facilitates action (the process of documentation, educational events, community building).  Throughout, the intention is to represent the complexity of South Asian American experience in an effort to create a more inclusive society.  As their vision states, “We envision American and world histories that fully acknowledge the importance of immigrants and ethnic communities in the past, strengthen such communities in the present, and inspire discussion about their role in the future.”[1] 

Browsing the archive allows one to learn more about topics such as the histories of South Asian immigration or the intersectional engagement of the community, but also demands that one consider the continuity of those histories in the present.

SAADA exemplifies the power of the “community archive.”  Purposefully participatory rather than merely consumptive in practice, community archives encourage those described, presented and preserved in an archive to determine not only what is included and excluded but also how.  As such, SAADA offers an insider-driven alternative to colonial and colonialist libraries and archives, an alternative realized through action.  They are not alone in their efforts.  Other powerful examples of anti-colonial community archival practice include  platforms such as Mukurtu, an open source content management platform that empowers and operationalizes knowledge systems inherent to a community (as opposed to those from outside), and UT-affiliated initiatives such as the Human Rights Documentation Initiative which supports the Texas After Violence Project and the Genocide Archive of Rwanda

Learn more!

Caswell, Michelle, “Seeing yourself in history: community archives and the fight against symbolic annihilation,” The Public Historian 36: 4 (November 2014), pp 26-37. https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2014.36.4.26

Center for Asian American Studies, University of Texas, https://liberalarts.utexas.edu/aas/.

Desai, Manan. The United States of India: Anticolonial Literature and Transnational Refraction / Manan Desai. (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2020).

Mishra, Sangay K. Desis Divided: the Political Lives of South Asian Americans (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016).

Shams, Tahseen.  Here, There, and Elsewhere: the Making of Immigrant Identities in a Globalized World (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2020).

Sharma, Rashmi, and Roshni Rustomji-Kerns. Living in America: Poetry and Fiction by South Asian American Writers (New York, New York: Routledge, 2018).


[1] South Asian American Digital Archive, “Mission,” https://www.saada.org/mission, Accessed 9 May 2021.

plenty of fish in the sea: using dutch art to study historic biodiversity

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.

Fishing in the past” encourages us to explore the connections between artistic expression, scientific identification, and commercial practices. A crowdsourced metadata project, “Fishing in the past” asks volunteers to identify fish species represented in Dutch still life paintings from the early modern period to learn more about historical aquatic biodiversity and commercial uses of fish in Europe. The campaign is part of “A new history of fishes,” a project funded by the Dutch Research Council that includes researchers from Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society and Naturalis Biodiversity Centre. The artwork included in the “Fishing in the past” campaign comes from the Rijksmuseum and the RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History. The project was designed using Zooniverse, “the world’s largest and most popular platform for people-powered research.”[1] This crowdsourced approach to research has been termed “citizen science.”[2]

I discovered “Fishing in the past” while evaluating Zooniverse for possible use in the creation of a crowdsourced metadata campaign for photographs from the “Sajjad Zaheer Digital Archive.” I was intrigued by the project’s use of art to support scientific research. This is just one example of how digital scholarship tools and methods can facilitate interdisciplinary projects that propose creative solutions to existing research problems. “A new history of fishes” examines the relationship between ichthyology (the study of fish) and European history and culture, an area of inquiry that “has always been underexposed.”[3] Though quite different in subject matter, the “Sajjad Zaheer Photo Archive” and “Fishing in the past” share the objective of identifying beings (human and aquatic, respectively) in images, a belief in the value of opening up research projects to the general public, and a commitment to open access data and information. As such, “Fishing in the past” was a helpful model for my own project.

“Fishing in the past” asks members of the public to identify the species for every fish in an image. The research team provides tools to help, such as a list of common species that includes images and identifying features to assist classification. The species list can filtered by characteristic, such as color or pattern. After identifying the species, contributors are instructed to classify the commercial use of the fish, such as traded at a market or consumed on plate. They finally record the number of fish for a single species in the image. The process is repeated for each species pictured.

The “Fishing in the past” team has already shared some initial results and plans to publish further findings in an open access journal. Through crowdsourcing, this project has generated more data in a shorter period of time than could be achieved by the research team alone. Benefits for volunteers include engaging in their interests, interacting with artistic and scientific materials in new ways, and knowing that they are making a contribution to something bigger than themselves. For future researchers, crowdsourcing campaigns provide valuable data, including the ability to “read” materials with accessibility technologies.

All Zooniverse campaigns can be found here. Those interested in crowdsourced transcription work might also enjoy participating in FromThePage projects from University of Texas Libraries.

The Fine Arts Library holds catalogs that accompanied past Dutch and Flemish still life exhibitions.

Those interested in marine science should start with this LibGuide.

[1] https://www.zooniverse.org/about

[2] For an in-depth look at citizen science: Hecker, S., Haklay, M., Bowser, A., Makuch, Z., Vogel, J., & Bonn, A. (2018). Citizen Science: Innovation in Open Science, Society and Policy. University College London.

[3] https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/research/research-projects/humanities/new-history-of-fishes

Madeline Goebel is the Global Studies Digital Projects GRA at Perry-Castañeda Library and a current graduate student at the School of Information.

“IT IS DULL, SON OF ADAM, TO DRINK WITHOUT EATING:” ENGAGING A TURKISH DIGITAL TOOL FOR THE STUDY OF ISLAMIC THOUGHT


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.

Over the years of my involvement in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies (MEIS), I have become something of an advocate for learning modern Turkish. The necessity of facility with Turkish in order to conduct research in MEIS, and more importantly, to carry on scholarly communication in MEIS, grows clearer every year. I would not hesitate to argue that non-Turkish scholars ignore Turkish scholarship at their own peril—it is that central, plentiful, and informative. An excellent example of a scholarly development out of Turkish academe that would be quite useful for MEIS pedagogy and research is İslam Düşünce Atlası, or The Atlas of Islamic Thought. It also happens to be an incredible digital Islamic Studies scholarship initiative.

İslam Düşünce Atlası (İDA) is a project of the İlim Etüdler Derneği (İLEM)/Scientific Studies Association with the support of the Konya Metropolitan Municipality Culture Office. It is coordinated by İbrahim Halil Üçer, with the support of over a hundred researchers, design experts, software developers, and GIS/map experts. The goal of the project is to make the academic study of the history of Islamic thought easily accessible to scholars and laypeople alike through new (digital) techniques and within the logic of network relations. İDA has been conceived as an open-access website with interactive programs for a range of applications. Its developers intend it to contribute a digital perspective to historical writing on Islam: a reading of the history of Islamic thought from a digitally-visualized time-spatial perspective and context.

İDA features three conceptual maps that aim to visualize complex relationships and to establish a historical backbone for the larger project of the atlas: the Timeline (literally time “map,” which is a more signifying term for the tool, Zaman Haritası), the Books Map (Kitaplar Haritası), and the Person Map (Kişiler Haritası). It also proposes a new understanding of the periodization of Islamic history based on the development of schools of thought (broadly defined) and their geographic spread. İDA endeavors to answer several questions through these tools: by whom, when, where, how, in relation to which school traditions, through what kinds of interactions, and through which textual traditions was Islamic thought produced? Many of these questions can be summed up under the umbrella of prosopography, and in that arena, İDA has a few notable peer projects: the Mamluk Prosopography Project, Prosopographical Database for Indic Texts (PANDiT), and the Jerusalem Prosopography Project (with a focus on the period of Mongol rule), among others.

One of my favorite aspects of İDA is the book map and its accompanying introduction. The researchers behind İDA do their audience the great service of explaining the development and establishment of the various genres of writing in the Islamic sciences. Importantly, they also link the development of these genres to the periodization of Islamic history that they propose. The eight stages of genre development that are identified—collation/organization, translation, structured prose, commentary, gloss, annotation, evaluative or dialogic commentary, and excerpts/summaries—share with the larger İDA project their origin in scholarly networking and relationship building. By visualizing the networks of Muslim scholars, as well as the relationships among their scholarly production and the non-linear, multi-faceted time “map” of Islamic thought, İDA weaves together the disparate facets of a complex and oft willfully misunderstood intellectual tradition

I encourage readers not only to learn some modern Turkish in order to make full use of İDA (although Google translate will work in a pinch!), but also to explore threads throughout all of the visualizations: for example, trace al-Ghazālī’s scholarly network, and then look at that of his works. What similarities and differences do you notice? Is there a pattern to the links among works and scholars? Readers who are interested in the intellectual history of Islam should check out my Islamic Studies LibGuide, as well as searches in the UT Libraries’ catalog for some of their favorite authors (see here for al-Ghazālī/Ghazzālī, Ibn Sina/Avicenna, and Ibn al-Arabi).

Read, Hot and Digitized: Braceros Tell Their Stories

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. 

For those interested in oral history collections at the University of Texas Libraries, look no further than the Voces Oral History Project and Los del Valle Oral History Project, both housed at the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection. Similarly, collections related to farmworkers, and undoubtedly influenced by the legacies of the Bracero Program, include the Texas Farm Workers Union Collection and the María G. Flores Papers.  

Read, Hot & Digitized: Bulgarian Dialectology as Living Tradition

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.

Creating and publishing open access linguistic data is an invaluable way to support research in digital approaches to linguistics, and to lend support to making more scholarly research openly available to a broad audience. Bulgarian Dialectology as Living Tradition contributes to this body of open access data with its searchable and interactive database of oral speech in Bulgarian, representing a wide range of dialects recorded in 69 different Bulgarian villages. Data is presented in the oral recordings themselves and in the 184 transcriptions of those recordings, with a variety of features–such as tokens with associated tags for grammatical, lexical, and linguistic trait information–available for each text. This collection of Bulgarian linguistic materials is an important resource for studying the language, and the project will be of interest to anyone interested in computational linguistics, digital approaches to studying and analyzing languages, and, of course, in Slavic languages.

The website’s homepage.

The site breaks down its texts into lines, which are themselves comprised of associated tags for grammatical, lexical, and linguistic trait information. Each text can be viewed in three ways: the Glossed View, which shows tokens with grammatical information, English glosses, and Bulgarian lemmas; the Line Display, which shows a line of text and its English translation; and the Cyrillic Line Display, with the original Bulgarian lines in Cyrillic script. In addition to these views, there are five types of search available to users; from the website: the wordform search, lexeme search, linguistic trait search, thematic content search, and phrase search.

This project succeeds at its goal “to return the focus of dialectology to its source in living, natural speech, to provide a broad, representative covering of this speech throughout the chosen region, and to make this material accessible to a wide spectrum of users.” The use of field recordings not only makes these recordings broadly accessible in a way that may be difficult absent digital technologies, but allows users, whether casual browsers of the site or researchers in an academic setting, to hear the language and its many dialects as it is actually spoken. The foregrounding of this dialectal speech in its “natural village context” forwards forms of a language that are often markedly different from standardized, more urban ways of speech.

A map showing where interviews were recorded within Bulgaria.

The site’s creators took care to make the documentation of the site’s creation available publicly, so that others who might wish to create similar digital collections could draw on the work. The site was developed using the open source content management system Drupal, a framework that allows a greater ease of reproduction/repurposing of work and which  furthers the goals and values of open source software development by creating a healthier, more robust ecosystem of scholarship and digital humanities work using freely accessible technologies.

The wordform search interface.

The project serves as an important contribution to digital scholarship in Slavic Studies. The large volume and unique content of the recordings and texts make for a valuable corpus, and the creators’ commitment to supporting other projects by using open source software and making their documentation on the site’s creation publicly available is also very admirable. I hope to see it inspire other projects that likewise support open source within the digital humanities.

For more information on digital linguistic methods, open source projects, and the Bulgarian language, please consult the UTL resources below:

Blagoeva, Diana, Svetla, Koeva, Vladko, Murdarov, Georg Rehm, and Hans Uszkoreit. The Bulgarian Language in the Digital Age. Berlin : Springer, 2012.

Computational Linguistics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press Journals, 1984.

 Crompton, Lane. Doing More Digital Humanities: Open Approaches to Creation, Growth, and Development. Milton: Routledge, 2020.

Gold, Matthew. Debates in the Digital Humanities. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

Zoom In: LLILAS Benson’s Virtual Workshops with Latin American partners

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It was the Summer of Zoom. Anyone whose job quickly morphed from being in-person to being entirely online can relate to (a) isolation, (b) feeling overwhelmed, (c) video-conference overload, or (d) some or all of the above. Yet the ability to engage with other people on platforms such as Zoom has allowed some important work to move forward. Such was the case with the recent workshop series conducted with archival partners in Latin America by the LLILAS Benson Digital Initiatives team (LBDI).

The workshops were originally planned to occur in person during a week-long retreat in Antigua, Guatemala, with a group of Latin American partner archives. As an essential activity of the two-year Mellon Foundation grant titled Cultivating a Latin American Post-Custodial Archiving Community, the week would provide an opportunity for partners from Guatemala,  El Salvador, Colombia, and Brazil to come together for training, share resources and knowledge, exchange ideas, and discuss challenges they face in their work.

The Mellon grant, covering work between January 2020 and June 2022, provides funding to support post-custodial* archival work with five partner archives, some of whom are already represented in the Latin American Digital Initiatives repository, which emphasizes collections documenting human rights issues and underrepresented communities.

Embroidery from the Bordados collection, Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen (MUPI, San Salvador, El Salvador). This embroidery from Comunidad de Santa Marta, Honduras, depicts refugee life, including different kinds of labor. https://ladi.lib.utexas.edu/en/mupi03

The Covid-19 pandemic demanded that the digital initiatives team quickly pivot in order to keep the project moving forward on the grant timeline. For the resulting workshop series, offered via Zoom, members of the LBDI team prepared extensive training videos, designed Q&A sessions, and arranged for sessions with guest experts. Topics included grant writing, budgeting, archival processing, metadata, equipment selection, digital preservation, and digital scholarship, among others. 

Over the course of five weeks this past summer, workshop participants met twice a week with LBDI staff members Theresa Polk, David Bliss, Itza Carbajal, Albert Palacios, and Karla Roig, as well as LLILAS Benson grants manager Megan Scarborough. All sessions were conducted in Spanish with closed-caption translations into Portuguese (or vice versa) provided by Susanna Sharpe, the LLILAS Benson communications coordinator. Additional presenters included Carla Alvarez, the U.S. Latinx archivist at the Benson Latin American Collection, and photo preservation experts Diana Díaz (Metropolitan Museum of Art) and María Estibaliz Guzmán (Escuela Nacional de Conservación, Restauración y Museografía, ENCRyM, Mexico).

Cover, MOAB: A Saga de um Povo, by Maria Aparecida Mendes Pinto. The book is an account of the 25-year history of the movement against hydroelectric dams in the Vale do Ribeira region of São Paulo and Paraná states in Brazil. EACCONE, Quilombos do Vale do Ribeira SP/PR collection. https://ladi.lib.utexas.edu/en/eaacone01

Partner archives who were able to participate in the online workshop series included Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen (San Salvador, El Salvador), Oficina de Derechos Humanos del Arzobispado de Guatemala (ODHAG, Guatemala City, Guatemala), Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN, Buenaventura, Colombia), and Equipe de Articulação e Assessoria às Comunidades Negras do Vale do Ribeira (EAACONE, Vale do Ribeira, Brazil).

Despite the physical distance, workshop participants clearly valued the opportunity to come together and learn from one another, especially during the pandemic, which has had such profound effects on daily life as well as work. The increased isolation, repression, and attacks against communities that have accompanied the pandemic also underscored for partners the urgency of preserving their communities’ documentation to support current struggles for recognition and respect of basic human rights, and to prevent future efforts to erase or deny ongoing violence and injustice. This shared commitment fostered a sense of solidarity and mutual support among participants.

Photographs, Colección Dinámicas Organizativas del Pueblo Negro en Colombia, Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN, Buenaventura, Colombia). This photograph was taken at a meeting of the Yurumangí River community advisory general assembly. https://ladi.lib.utexas.edu/en/pcn01

“For our team, it was an enriching experience that allowed us to reflect, as part of a multinational group, on the achievements and expectations of the LLILAS Benson Mellon project,” reported Carlos Henríquez Consalvi (aka Santiago) of MUPI, who also remarked on the opportunity to get to know the work of partner archives, “and to learn of their challenges with conservation and diffusion of their respective collections.”

Carolina Rendón, one of two participants from ODHAG’s Centro de la Memoria Monseñor Juan Gerardi, expressed how the day-to-day burdens of the pandemic were lightened by the opportunity to meet with others: “It was very good to be in spaces with others who work in different archives across Latin America. The pandemic has been heavy. During the course of the workshops, we passed through several stages—lockdown, fear, horror at the deaths,  . . . . I appreciate getting to know, even virtually, people who work in archives in other countries.”

For the LLILAS Benson team, the positive comments, and the general feeling of gratitude for the solidarity of online gatherings, offset the heavy lifting of preparing multiple training videos per week in Spanish, with texts quickly and expertly translated to Portuguese by collaborator Tereza Braga. In words of David A. Bliss, digital processing archivist, “The biggest challenge was distilling a huge amount of technical information down to its most important elements and communicating these as clearly as possible in Spanish.”

PCN digitization project coordinator Marta and Latin American Metadata Librarian Itza work together during a 2018 visit to refolder and inventory PCN collection materials (Photo: Anthony Dest)

Bliss also alluded to the fact that the partners themselves are a diverse group with different backgrounds, needs, and types of archives: “Some of our partners have been running digitization programs for years, but for others the information was all new, so I worked hard to strike a balance between the two using visual aids and clear definitions for technical terms.”

One of the most rewarding aspects of the workshop series was knowing that archivists and activists who work to preserve important records of memory in the area of human rights were able to come together, albeit virtually, to share their work and their perspectives with one another. As Bliss put it, “Ordinarily, we work individually with each partner organization to help them manage their digitization project, with the goal of gathering all of their collections together in LADI. But many of our partners don’t just hold collections of historical documents; they’re engaged in ongoing struggles for their communities. They’re far more equipped to help one another strategize and succeed in that work than we are, so giving them the space to form those direct connections with one another is really important. It’s also very validating for us, because it’s been one of our goals for years now: we want to be just one part of a network of partners, not at the center of it.”


* Post-custodial archiving is a process whereby sometimes vulnerable archives are preserved digitally and the digital versions made accessible worldwide, thus increasing access to the materials while ensuring they remain in the custody and care of their community of origin. LLILAS Benson is a pioneer in this practice.