Category Archives: Humanities & Liberal Arts

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

The Possibilities of Other Worlds: the UT Libraries’ Science Fiction Ebook Collection

By Katy Tuck

Katy Tuck is a graduate student at the School of Information and currently serves as an Ask A Librarian Graduate Research Assistant at the Perry-Castañeda Library.

One defining hallmark of the science fiction genre is its atmospheric world-building. Against the backdrop of a fictitious future, past, or present, set in realities distinct from, yet eerily similar to our own, Sci-Fi plots grapple with the big ideas pressing humanity. Though the setting or the characters may be unfamiliar to us, the underlying exploration of political and social themes in Sci-Fi are universally apropos and fitting for a strange time such as the current moment. While we continue to work and study from home, contemplating the uncertainties and possibilities of the future, now is an opportune time to be transported to these other worlds and dimensions through the PCL’s robust and ever-expanding Sci-Fi collection.

Former UT Library Director Harold W. Billings had a penchant for the Sci-Fi genre and amassed a sizable personal collection over the years. He generously donated this collection to the UT Libraries some time ago, and many of these volumes are still in circulation. In keeping with his mission to expand the Sci-Fi holdings of the PCL, librarians have continued curating and developing this collection over the years. Notably, Humanities Librarian Gina Bastone has expanded the collection to further reflect the diversity of authors and themes across the genre and recently added multiple ebooks to the PCL Sci-Fi Collection. 

If you are looking for a place to  delve into this reading, I  recommend you check out the Science Fiction Library Guide, created by former Ask a Librarian GRAs Adriana Casarez and Victoria Pena in 2018 under the guidance of Gina Bastone, and updated in 2020 to include a fantastic list of Sci-Fi titles now available as ebooks. Included in this ecollection are several complete series to keep you engaged and transfixed by literature all summer. If you enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale, I recommend Margaret Atwood’s relevant MaddAddam Trilogy, which includes the Oryx and Crake (1st in series), The Year of the Flood (2nd in series), and MaddAddam (3rd in series) books. After a pandemic sweeps the earth, dramatically altering known reality, survivors must band together and relearn how to navigate life. 

Cover of Margaret Atwood’s speculative, dystopian novel MaddAddam.

I also recommend award-winning author Octavia Butler’s Earthseed: The Complete Series, which explores themes related to social inequality, adaptability, and survival in a dystopian future. The series includes her works Parable of the Sower (1st in series) and Parable of the Talents (2nd in series). Butler was the recipient of several Hugo and Nebula Awards for her writing.

Image of Octavia Butler’s landmark Earthseed series.

From Proto-Sci-Fi to Cli-Fi (climate fiction) to Afro-Futurism to Cyberpunk, there is something for everyone, all accessible from the comfort of home (or beyond!) until we can resume our normal library activities. We welcome any suggested purchases to help us build our collection–just fill out this Suggest a Purchase form. Happy reading everyone.

Find the full list of science fiction ebooks on the Science Fiction library guide.

Read, Hot and Digitized: Get in the Midst for National Poetry Month

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.

A poem in its printed form can feel complete and final. What I have learned, though, about poetry as both a reader and writer is that it is never linear. I don’t usually read a book of poems from start to finish – I jump around the book, pull phrases here and there. Writing poetry is even more complicated. A poem may start on a scrap of paper or in the Notes app on my phone. I may rewrite it by hand, then type it out again on my laptop. Drafting is never done in one sitting.

While every writer has their own process, I suspect many poets will admit to a similarly messy approach to drafting. And what if you could witness that process in real time? Poet, artist, and UT MFA student Annelyse Gelman and her collaborator, software programmer Jason Gillis-Grier, seek to answer that question through their delightful new poetry journal Midst.

Midst, which launched its inaugural issue in December 2019, provides readers a time-lapse view of a poem’s drafting process. Readers can watch the entire process from start to finish, or move around the timeline by rewinding or fast-forwarding. Each version of the poem is time-stamped, demonstrating that poems do not just magically appear but rather are the product of weeks, or even months, of work. This peek into the lengthy process of editing is intentional. Gelman and Gillis-Grier state on the journal’s website that they hope that Midst will demystify poetry and make it more accessible by showing the reader the writing process.

An early draft of Jenny Qi’s “When This Is All Over” in the Midst time-lapse web player (top). Compare it to Qi’s final draft (bottom). The Midst web player allows you to move along the timeline of a poem’s drafting process, so you can compare early drafts to the final poem.

Gelman and Gillis-Grier have plans to expand the project with the Midst app, which will allow poets to capture their drafting process and then submit their time-lapse poem to the journal. Right now, featured writers are nominated and invited to submit versions, but with the app, they can open up the journal to a wider audience of writers and readers directly.

And Gelman and Gillis-Grier haven’t limited their creative poetry projects to just Midst. They also recently debuted the web app Relineator, in collaboration with UT English graduate student Zoe Bursztajn-Illingworth and the UT Digital Writing & Research Lab. Relineator allows poets and students to enter poems and see them reformatted with new line breaks.

A fun re-interpretation of William Carlos Williams’ “The Red Wheelbarrow,” reformatted in the Relineator app.

April is National Poetry Month. While this year’s celebration is marked with a more somber tone due to the global pandemic, it also feels fitting to enjoy poetry from home through experimental, interactive projects like Midst and Relineator. If this has inspired you to further explore poetry, April is the best time of year to do it! Take a look at this curated selection of poetry ebooks on the UT Poetry Center’s guide. Once our print collections open again, you can find Annelyse Gelman’s book Everyone I Love is a Stranger to Someone and many other great collections of contemporary poetry at the Poetry Center’s physical location in the Perry-Castañeda Library.

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.

Discovering the Texas Small Press

Ask A Librarian GRA Mitch Cota curated an exciting exhibit for the PCL Scholars Commons and Poetry Center called “Lone Star ImPRESSions: A History of Small Press in Texas.” This exhibit is the fruit of many months’ labor and the culmination of Mitch’s iSchool Capstone project, and features books published by small presses in Austin, Houston and San Antonio.

When I began my degree in information studies, one of the many reasons that drove my decision was the tension between libraries and the corporate publishing and copyright model. I do not believe that anyone really enjoys having materials chosen for them or having materials withheld from them while pursuing research and education. While literature has its own unique set of complications between authors rights and non-traditional content, it too is affected by this tension. My project to examine small press was an exploration into the individuals who are fighting for the right to publish content they view as valuable and different. Texas small press is born out of a denial by large publishing houses to acknowledge underrepresented voices and content that defies easy categorization.

Lone Star imPRESSions: A History of Small Press in Texas

We are getting ahead of ourselves though. Small press is a term that often inspires a multitude of definitions in everyone’s mind. For the exhibit, small press was defined as a press that is truly home grown. Some of these presses began in Texas, while others started somewhere else and now call Texas home. There are presses in the exhibit with a more historical presence and others that have begun in the last five years. They all share one core goal, to publish content that is different and voices they believe deserve to be heard.

Group discussion at Slough Press.

Historically, presses like Wings, Thorp Springs, and Slough were created in an effort to publish content that each saw as pushing against the large publishing house model. Many of the materials utilized in the research of the exhibit are located right here on campus. The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History has a portion of the archival collection of Joanne Whitebird, the original owner of Wings press. The Harry Ransom Center has the entire archival collection of Thorp Springs press. While Slough and Wings are still currently publishing work, Thorp Springs has now gone defunct with the loss of their original creator and editor John Paul Foreman. Each of these presses were created in order to publish specific work, whether that be female authors, Southwest/Texas authors, or authors of color. The small presses of today have broadened their approach to include voices from queer and trans authors. Without someone focusing on producing this type of content, there would be far less work to represent these different communities.

Wings press books.

The PCL collections serve to preserve these materials for generations to come. One of the largest hurdles small publishing faces are financial constraints. In conducting interviews and combing through archives, I found that many of the papers and materials from different presses were never preserved. Work was lost in time. The University of Texas Poetry Center and the general collection here at the PCL now serve as a medium to protect these small presses from fading into history. Not only do these materials represent unique voices, they also serve our students in critical theory research in literature. Whether they are looking through a historic, feminist, racial, or queer lens, these collections here at the PCL serve to not only preserve the presses, but provide examples for beliefs and ideologies of the times in which they are situated.

The exhibit — Lone Star imPRESSions: A History of Small Press in Texas — also examines different authors situated throughout the history of small press. One of these authors, a poet actually, worked right here at the PCL and has work that speaks to his time while employed here. Some voices like Jim Trainer and Andrew Hilbert represent fresh voices from today who refuse to play by the rules. A few of these authors own their own small presses while publishing their work through other small presses. The content produced by authors and presses alike includes multiple different genres, mediums, and formats. Many of the items are handcrafted with hand sewn bindings. When you purchase an item from a small press, you are getting an item that is one of a kind.

Lone Star imPRESSions: A History of Small Press in Texas

So, come visit! The exhibit has been extended into January, and we have items in both the Scholars Commons and University of Texas Poetry Center.

Besides what is on display, there are items in the PCL collection to read and check out. I have also taken the liberty of producing an exhibit catalog that has a more extensive examination of each press and author. One of the other great services this exhibit provides is a link in the catalog to each small press that is accepting open submissions. Students and faculty looking to publish work can review each press and see which one would best suit the content they have to offer.

Texas small press is home grown from the sweat and tears of the hard-working editors that believed in the content they were producing. Come visit the PCL and see the fruits of their hard work, support small press but furthermore support the idea that large publishing houses do not have the right to choose content for everyone.

 

 

 

Read Like A Librarian: Staff Poetry Recommendations

Sarah Brandt, Librarian for First-Year Programs, shows off her selection (including the creepy illustrations), The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe from 1945.
Sarah Brandt, Librarian for First-Year Programs, shows off her selection (including the creepy illustrations), The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe from 1945.

Poetry can be intimidating – it can be vague, filled with too many metaphors, caught up in form. We’ve tried to de-mystify poetry with our latest display at the UT Poetry Center, Read Like A Librarian: Staff Poetry Recommendations. Library staff found a great range of selections, including 19th century classics by Edgar Allan Poe and Elizabeth Barrett Browning and recently published volumes by poets like Alexis Pauline Gumbs and Peter Macuck.

Here’s a selection of staff recommendations and what they had to say about these books:

Fat Girl Finishing School by Rachel Wiley
Selected by Stephanie Lopez, Weekend & Evening Desk Supervisor

“Fat Girl Finishing School pulled me in with its cheeky cover, and once I started reading I was hooked! Wiley’s words are so powerful and thought-provoking that I found myself looking around to see if anyone else felt the earth shift under them. Before long, I was chasing down everyone I saw so that they, too, could read the words that caused such a visceral reaction in me. Do yourself and favor and read this. Your heart will thank you.”

Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Selected by Sarah Morris, Learning & Assessment Librarian

“Barrett Browning is best known for two things: Marrying Robert Browning and writing Sonnets from the Portuguese. But she’s also the author of Aurora Leigh, a feminist epic that explores issues of class, gender, art, and the challenges women face in finding opportunities for work, and respect for their work, in a restrictive society. Groundbreaking at the time, it’s still a great read today.”

Come visit the UT Poetry Center in PCL 2.500 to see more staff picks and read the books in person!

Home is Where the Art Is

The Tiger’s Eye

There’s a certain honorable quality of humility that is seemingly characteristic to bibliophiles.

The book, being inherently sacred as some see it, belongs to the world — especially those that are part of a library’s collections and meant to be shared across time. So when a former UT teaching fellow recently rediscovered a borrowed volume that he had inadvertently packed away during a move some 60 years ago, he did what any guilt-ridden lover of books would do: he returned it along with a confessional (see below).

Thus a partner volume to the bound collection of an abstract art journal came home again — be it on a slightly lengthened extension of the normal lending period.

The Tiger’s Eye — its title a clever reference to Blake’s masterwork — was an important abstract expressionist journal published for a two-year run from October 1947-October 1949. The format of the journal emphasized the artistic process with poetry, fiction, drawings and reproductions of works being directly accompanied by the artist’s writings, criticism and essays. Internationally distributed, the quarterly journal was printed in editions of 3,000-5,000, with full-color covers and quality heavyweight stock that featured the occasional color plate, making it one of the more urbane publications of the era.

The journal was published by painter John Stephan and his wife, poet Ruth Stephan, in whose name the Libraries also maintains the large collection of poetry volumes that compose the bulk of the University of Texas Poetry Center.

The publication was seen as important enough to the abstract expressionist movement that it warranted an entire book dedicated to its history, The Tiger’s Eye: The Art of a Magazine (Yale University Press, 2002) of by Pamela Franks the Yale University Art Gallery.

To the great benefit of present and future users of the Libraries, The Tiger’s Eye, Volume 1, Numbers 1-4 (1947-8) has now rejoined its companion Volume 1, Numbers 5-9 (1947-8) after over a half-century apart thanks to an unexpected act by devoted patron of the written word.

A Poet in the Science Library

“Backmasking” by Harold Whit Williams.

One wouldn’t necessarily expect to find a poet in the stacks of a science library, but then again, creativity often occurs in the least anticipated of places.

The Life Science Library boasts among its staff a prize-winning poet, as Library Specialist Harold Whit Williams has garnered praise for his work, which is both a catalog of his experience as a musician, and reflective of his southern heritage. His most recent collection of poems, Backmasking, earned Williams the 2013 Robert Phillips Chapman Poetry Chapbook Prize from Texas Review Press, and his poem “Blues Dreams,” received the 2014 Mississippi Review Poetry Prize.

In some ways, it would seem to make perfect sense that Williams would understand the finer points of cadence and pentameter  — he’s also the guitarist for notable Austin pop band Cotton Mather.

Williams’ first collection of poetry, Waiting For The Fire To Go Out, was published by Finishing Line Press, and his work has appeared in numerous literary journals.

Whit kindly indulged a line of questioning about his poetry, his music and his life at the Libraries. 

When did you start writing poetry? Was it an outcropping of your music?

Harold Whit Williams: I’ve been writing poetry off and on since college days, but started giving serious attention to it, and publishing, now for about seven years.

Strange, but poetry is a totally separate thing to me from songwriting. As a guitarist first, my songs, or the guitar parts I play in Cotton Mather, happen musically first. Then lyrics come later. But with poetry, it’s all wordplay from the get-go, and the musicality in the words themselves tend to direct where I go in a poem.

Does the inspiration for poetry and music come from the same place, even though the jumping off point is different? Or are they driven by different urges? 

HWW: Good question. What makes me plug in an electric guitar and make loud horrendous noise has to come from a much different urge than the one making me get to a quiet place, alone, to jot down a poem. Continue reading A Poet in the Science Library