Category Archives: Collaborators

Embroidered Testimonies of Salvadoran Civil War Refugees Accessible Online

By Albert A. Palacios, LLILAS Benson Digital Scholarship Coordinator

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Over the summer, LLILAS Benson and El Salvador’s Museum of the Word and the Image (often referred to by its acronym, MUPI, for Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen) added yet another digital initiative to their long-standing partnership. Since 2012, the two institutions have worked closely to digitize archival materials related to the Salvadoran Civil War (1980-1992), thanks to the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. While continuing these efforts, this time around the collaboration explored the potential of digital humanities tools to showcase one of MUPI’s most visually compelling collections—embroidered refugee accounts.

Embroidered piece remembering a Salvadoran refugee camp and the people and activities associated with it.

Testimonies of human rights violations come in different forms, and MUPI’s founder and current director, Carlos “Santiago” Henríquez Consalvi, has actively sought to preserve the diversity. Soon after the signing of the 1992 Chapultepec Peace Accords that ended the Salvadoran Civil War, Santiago directed a campaign to rescue cultural heritage created prior to, during, and after the armed conflict. This has included political propaganda, periodicals, and the Radio Venceremos station recordings. Since its formal foundation in 1999, MUPI has continued this preservation and expanded its collecting and educational scope to include various topics in Salvadoran culture and history.

Its most recent growing collection—and the focus of this newest collaboration—consists of remarkable embroidered testimonies created by refugee Salvadoran peasant women in Honduras during the civil war. These pieces were meant to communicate to the world the refugees’ lived experiences, with many of the textiles being sent to solidarity groups and organizations in Europe and Canada at the time. Thanks to a recent international campaign, over twenty artworks have been repatriated and sent to MUPI. Through community workshops in El Salvador’s countryside, MUPI has striven to renew appreciation for this cultural tradition, promoting the art form and subsequent collecting efforts through an exhibition titled Embroiderers of Memories in San Salvador.

Now that the testimonies are making their way back home, MUPI is using digital technologies to continue the advocacy work these women began in the 1980s. In an effort to educate a broader and international audience, specifically El Salvadoran-descendant youth in the United States, the Museum worked with LLILAS Benson Digital Scholarship (LBDS) staff to recreate Embroiderers of Memories online. This past June, the LBDS team went to San Salvador and trained MUPI exhibition designer Pedro Durán on how to create digital exhibitions in LLILAS Benson’s Omeka platform so that he could reconceive his design online using working scans of the embroidery. The LBDS team also took the opportunity to introduce MUPI staff to other open-source digital humanities tools that could enrich MUPI’s active engagement with local youth groups.

Digitization of an embroidery.

The visit also launched another post-custodial archival project for both institutions. The initiative required an entirely different approach to digitization and new equipment training, considering the size of some of these artworks; for example, the piece pictured at the beginning of this blog was over 8 feet long. Pre-trained by the Benson’s post-custodial (PC) staff, the LBDS team worked with MUPI staff to start the archival-quality digitization and item-level description of the embroidery collection. The PC team hopes to incorporate the collection into LLILAS Benson’s Latin American Digital Initiatives later this year, so stay tuned.

Members of LLILAS Benson’s Digital Initiatives team work with archivists at the Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen in El Salvador.

Project participants:

  • Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen
    • Carlos “Santiago” Henríquez Consalvi (MUPI Director)
    • Carlos Colorado (Digitization Coordinator)
    • Pedro Durán (Graphic Designer)
    • Jakelyn López (Archive Coordinator)
  • LLILAS Benson
    • Dr. Jennifer Isasi (CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow) 
    • Albert A. Palacios (Digital Scholarship Coordinator)
    • David Bliss (Digital Processing Archivist) 
    • Itza Carbajal (Latin American Metadata Librarian)
    • Theresa Polk (Benson Head of Digital Initiatives)

Pastorelas: Past and Present

“Illuminating Explorations” – This series of digital exhibits is designed to promote and celebrate UT Libraries collections in small-scale form. The exhibits will highlight unique materials to elevate awareness of a broad range of content. “Illuminating Explorations” will be created and released over time, with the intent of encouraging use of featured and related items, both digital and analog, in support of new inquiries, discoveries, enjoyment and further exploration.

Zayas, Manuel Antonio, El triunfo de Jesús contra la lengua del diablo : pastorela en cuatro actos. 1853.
Zayas, Manuel Antonio, El triunfo de Jesús contra la lengua del diablo : pastorela en cuatro actos. 1853.

As the holiday season quickly approaches, many in the Latinx community are gearing up to celebrate both Christmas as well as Las Posadas. A lesser known celebratory act performed during the holiday season are the plays known as pastorelas. Pastorelas can be traced back to the 16th Century when Franciscan monks leveraged the strong artistic culture of the Mexica people in Tenochtitlan to evangelize them by incorporating Christian ideals into their performance tradition.

Historically, pastorelas have told the story of how Satan attempted to thwart the travels of the shepherds following the Star of Bethlehem in search of the baby Jesus. While pastorelas have maintained the general premise of good vs. evil, the roles of what constitutes both the good and the evil have changed to encompass contemporary issues that have faced the Latinx communities. Immigration, racism, politics, and a plethora of other topics have been incorporated into pastorelas to transmit opinions and ideas to audiences, both religious and secular.

Fragment of Aztec manuscript, 1520, written in Spanish on native paper, is an illustrated account of the conquest of Mexico by Hernán Cortés. (G8 Ms.)
Fragment of Aztec manuscript, 1520, written in Spanish on native paper, is an illustrated account of the conquest of Mexico by Hernán Cortés. (G8 Ms.)

While pastorelas have typically been an oral tradition, some have been transcribed to paper. A beautiful example of this is Manuel Antono Zayas’ “El triunfo de Jesús contra la lengua del diablo: pastorela en cuatro actoswritten in 1853. This illustrated play, held in the Benson Rare Books and Manuscript Collection, includes multiple hand drawn illustrations of the costumes to be worn during performances, including those of the angel, San Miguel, and even Satan himself.

Please visit the digital exhibit to see the beautiful illustrations in “el Triunfo” as well as some of the other spectacular rare books available to view from the Benson Collection. Also, peruse Zayas’ entire book, which has been digitized and can be viewed at Texas ScholarWorks.

Gilbert Borrego is the Digital Repository Specialist for Texas ScholarWorks, UT’s institutional repository (IR).

Design Thinking (and Learning) in the Library

Once again the summer break has provided enough clearance for us to undertake a major renovation project, and mirroring last summer, that effort is occurring at the Fine Arts Library.

Dovetailing with last year’s completion of the Foundry — a creative maker space loaded with technology and production tools — the fourth floor of FAL has been cleared of physical resources in an effort to create space that blurs the line between classroom and library.

The reimagining of previous stack space will result in new classrooms and collaborative spaces to accommodate the Center for Integrated Design (CID), an interdisciplinary program administered in the College of Fine Arts that connects design, engineering, information, business, computer science and architecture programs from across the university to bring solution-focused design thinking to university curricula in a comprehensive way. The center seeks to provide all UT students the opportunity to study design methodology and apply it in creative and entrepreneurial scenarios.

Students in Jared Huke’s Intro to Design Thinking course work together on a problem. Photo credit: Jared Huke

Recent expansions of CoFA curricula into areas emphasizing innovation skills and design thinking are meant to better prepare students for a professional landscape that is ever-evolving in the face of technological development. But these programs have strained the college’s existing facilities, and partnerships with the Libraries — like the CID space and the Foundry — are helping to address the needs of current and future undergrads and graduates.

The 4th floor renovation includes the creation of two large classrooms — one of which will be equipped with active learning and creative technologies — a large seminar room, a medium seminar rooms that seats 12 and two small seminar rooms. The changes will also provide new office space for the faculty and staff in CID, as well as for faculty in the Center for Arts and Entertainment Technologies (CAET), a primary partner with the Libraries in the development of the Foundry.

Libraries staff moved more than 100,000 books, bound journals and scores to offsite storage facilities to accommodate the new construction, and moved the remaining 195,000 items to the stacks on the fifth floor of the building. Thanks to a robust delivery system developed over the last decade, the Libraries can provide campus access to any remote materials within 48-72 hours.

The renovation is on schedule and expected to be complete in time for the opening of classes this fall.

Six Months in with the Writing Center

University Writing Center reception area. Image courtesy Gensler.
University Writing Center reception area. Image courtesy Gensler.

When the Libraries began investigating the possibility of having the University Writing Center (UWC) become the first campus partner to inhabit the new Learning Commons at the Perry-Castañeda Library, there were high hopes that the marriage would reap significant benefits for library users, patrons of the writing center and the larger campus community. One of the primary goals of the effort was to co-locate complementary services and resources in a central location in order to facilitate greater success in referrals from the Libraries to UWC, and vice versa.

So how has the partnership worked so far? We sat down with UWC program coordinator Alice Batt to get her perspective on the first half-year of life at PCL.

What does the landscape look like for UWC six months into life at PCL? Have you settled in?

Alice Batt
Alice Batt

Alice Batt: Definitely. Right now there are 13 consultations happening outside my door—lots of energetic conversations! And our presentations team is making good use of the Learning Labs. About 10% of our writing presentations last semester were delivered in those labs. It’s great when that happens because, after the presentation, students can come right down to the UWC and make an appointment.

University Writing Center consultation area. Image courtesy Gensler.
University Writing Center consultation area. Image courtesy Gensler.

Any takeaways from what you’ve seen so far? 

AB: One of the things that strikes me most is what it’s like to be central again, and to be in a library. Collaboration with our library partners is easier, we’re much more convenient for students, joint workshops are easier to plan and put on, and we’ve been able to experiment with programs like Long Night Against Procrastination. We’re seeing more students, and we’re more confident that, when we refer them to a librarian, they’ll actually go.

What’s the most unexpected outcome?

AB: It took us a while to get used to seeing people on the consulting floor when we arrive in the morning—some of them have been here all night! Now we just tap them gently and send them on their way to class, breakfast, or home.

How has the integration with relevant Libraries staff and services worked? 

AB: Overall, it’s going beautifully. Trish (UWC Director Patricia Roberts-Miller) and I are part of the Learning Commons Steering Committee, which meets once a month to iron out wrinkles and make sure we’re all pursuing the same goals. Lately we’ve been talking about cross training: we had a well-attended workshop for our consultants conducted by two librarians that gave consultants some of the basics about the services, when to refer students to them, what sorts of resources are available. Since our consultants are students, it was helpful to them in both capacities–as students doing research, and as consultants working with students on researched writing.

University Writing Center consultation area. Image courtesy Gensler.
University Writing Center consultation area. Image courtesy Gensler.

Have you changed or adapted in some way you didn’t foresee?

AB: I haven’t checked the data to confirm this, but I get the sense we’re seeing a more diverse group of students coming to the UWC—more diverse ethnically, racially, linguistically, and also more diverse in their majors. We think it’s because this location is where students already are; they don’t have to make a special trip up to FAC.

What’s been the student response to the new space?

AB: Overwhelmingly positive. Everyone—our administrators, consulting staff, and the students we serve—loves working in a bright, cheery environment. And loads of students come here for private study after we close.

Are you considering any developments that you’d like people to know about? 

AB: Our first semester working with grad students in College of Liberal Arts has been a big success. Grad students particularly like the 6-week writing groups; nothing improves productivity like being held responsible by a group! We’d like to expand our services to support graduate students throughout the university. Grad students who would like us to support their writing should tell their deans.

Any other thoughts? 

AB: In the Learning Commons, we’re right in the path of students who need our services. We’ve always been a busy place, but now our numbers are up 4% from last year—and they’re rising!

University Writing Center work space. Image courtesy Gensler.
University Writing Center work space. Image courtesy Gensler.