Category Archives: Digital Scholarship

Read, Hot and Digitized: Italian Poetry, Translated and Sonorized

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.


For most of human history, poetry has been an oral tradition, with poets singing their verses to an audience rather than writing them down and disseminating them in print. Italianpoetry.it, an independent digital humanities project without academic affiliation, aims to share the beauty and lyricism of recited Italian poetry with a wider audience, offering recordings of Italian poems alongside the original text and English translations.

The site, which is frequently updated with new poems, focuses on a simple but very effective content model. Poems are published in their entirety in the original Italian, with the English translation of the text beneath each line. An audio file containing the recording of the poem is embedded at the top of each page. When the audio file is played, the word being read is highlighted in both the Italian and the English translation, allowing users to follow along with the recording and to see how the word order and phrasing in the translation compares to the original text. This allows for a streamlined, user-friendly experience that facilitates appreciation and enjoyment of the original text—both for its sonority and its meaning—regardless of the user’s knowledge of Italian. Each poem also has a brief write-up by the site’s creator at the bottom of the page, providing additional context for the work. A guide to navigating the site is also provided to make it easy for new users to interact with its content.

Screenshot of a poem from the site.
The page for the poem “A una zanzara.”

The site is intentionally simple and, per the author, “unapologetically retro-looking” in its appearance, allowing users to focus on the site content without interference from unnecessary or distracting web elements. Focusing on simplicity is not only an aesthetic choice, though, as it helps make the site more accessible for users with slower or unstable internet connections who may have trouble browsing more complex webpages. The site uses the BAS Web Services set of tools to synchronize the poems’ texts with the audio recordings. The BAS Web Services are provided by the Bavarian Archive for Speech Signals, and provide a broad and valuable set of tools for speech sciences and technology.

Screenshot of a list of poem titles available on the site.
The selection of all poems available on the site, including options to sort by composition date, date added to the site, author, and title.

In addition to the main pages created for each poem, there is also an audio-only podcast version of the poems for those who would like to listen to the audio without the interactive elements of the main site. The site’s creator makes clear that the poems selected are in no way representative of Italian poetry as a whole, and that they were chosen at the author’s discretion. This adds a personal touch to the site sometimes absent from more comprehensive digital projects.

Screenshot of the site's podcast offerings.
The podcast audio files included on the site.

Italianpoetry.it is a valuable resource for those wishing to explore Italian poetry, regardless of their experience with the Italian language or knowledge of its history. While intentionally a personal selection rather than a wide-ranging survey of the Italian poetic tradition, its content offers a great introduction to that tradition that can spur further interest and exploration. It also provides a very interesting and accessible way to explore the relationships between written and spoken text, sonority and textual structure, and translation and original texts.


For more information, please consult the UTL resources below:

Picchione, John, Lawrence R. Smith, John Picchione, and Lawrence R. Smith. Twentieth-Century Italian Poetry : An Anthology. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2019.

Lind, L. R. (Levi Robert). Lyric Poetry of the Italian Renaissance; an Anthology with Verse Translations. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1954.

Lucchi, Lorna de’. An Anthology of Italian Poems, 13th-19th Century. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1922.

Bonaffini, Luigi, and Joseph Perricone, eds. Poets of the Italian Diaspora : A Bilingual Anthology. New York: Fordham University Press, 2014.

Scholars Lab Newsletter – February 2024

Digital Humanities Workshop Series

Digitization, Digital Projects, and Copyright Issues

When: Feb. 2, 2024, 12 pm – 1 pm 

Where: Perry-Castañeda Library Scholars Lab Project Room 6 (2.218)

Join us in-person for a discussion about some of the common copyright issues that pop up when digitizing materials or creating digital projects. We’ll have some scenarios to talk through as a group, but feel free to also bring your questions and we’ll try to discuss some of those scenarios as well.

In-Person Registration

Interactive Writing in Twine

When: Feb. 9, 2024, 12 pm – 1 pm

Where: Zoom 

Twine is an open-source application used to write interactive narratives ranging from fictional adventures to practical decision trees. This workshop will introduce the basics of Twine story creation: creating your first passage of text, linking passages, incorporating HTML and variables, and publishing a Twine project. The session will include a variety of example Twines of different complexity and purpose, and by the end, participants will have their skeleton decision tree that they can expand into a larger text. 

Zoom Registration

Getting Started with Scalar

When: Feb. 23, 2024, 12 pm – 1 pm

Where: Zoom 

Scalar is a free, open-source publishing platform designed for long-form, born-digital, and media-rich digital scholarship. This workshop will give an overview of Scalar and discuss what differentiates it from other content management systems, before demonstrating how to build your Scalar site.

Zoom Registration


Data & Donuts Workshop Series

 Research Data Management Best Practices

When: Feb 16, 2024, 12 pm – 1:15 pm

Where: Perry-Castañeda Library Scholars Lab Data Lab (2.202) and Zoom

This workshop will go over helpful strategies and techniques for effective research data management in all stages of the research lifecycle, from the drafting of comprehensive data management plans to successful publication of research data. Join this session to learn how to overcome data management challenges and stay in compliance with research data management regulations.

Zoom Registration


The Institute for Historical Studies in the Department Workshop

“Mapping Trauma: A Workshop on Space and Memory”

When:  Feb 19, 2024, 12 pm – 1:30 pm 

Where:  Perry-Castañeda Library Scholars Lab Data Lab (2.202) and Zoom 

Anne Kelly Knowles has been a leading figure in the Digital and Spatial Humanities, particularly in the methodologies of Historical GIS, for more than twenty years. She has written or edited five books, including Placing History: How Maps, Spatial Data, and GIS Are Changing Historical Scholarship (2008); Mastering Iron: The Struggle to Modernize an American Industry, 1800-1868 (2013); and Geographies of the Holocaust (2014). Anne’s pioneering work with historical GIS has been recognized by many fellowships and awards, including the American Ingenuity Award for Historical Scholarship (Smithsonian magazine, 2012), a Guggenheim Fellowship (2015), and three successive Digital Humanities Advancement grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities (2016-2022). She is a founding member of the Holocaust Geographies Collaborative, an international group of historians and geographers who explore the spatial aspects of the Holocaust through digital scholarship. She is currently developing a public website to share data on over 2,200 Holocaust camps and ghettos and nearly 1,000 survivor testimonies to enable students and scholars to map the historical geographies of named and unnamed Holocaust places.

Levi Westerveld is a geographer and award-winning cartographer with broad experience in spatial data gathering, analysis and visualization. He has 8 years of work experience in GIS and mapping for environmental modeling, impact assessments, community engagement and communication. Levi has international project management experience overseeing multidisciplinary teams with delivery in the Arctic and Pacific, and thematic knowledge in land and marine environmental issues, including climate change, waste and biodiversity. He is the lead editor of the forthcoming Arctic Permafrost Atlas. He is currently employed as senior engineer in the section for digitalization and innovation at the Norwegian Coastal Authority.

For In-person Registration email: cmeador@austin.utexas.edu

Zoom Registration


Digital Scholarship in Practice

Computational Approaches in the Study of History: The Case of People’s Daily

When: Feb 21, 2024, 12 pm to 1 pm 

Where: Perry-Castañeda Library Learning Lab 3

In this talk, we will explore what computational approach and methods may look like in historical studies. Alongside the potential advantages, the talk will also discuss the limitations and pitfalls in computational historical analysis. We will focus on a case study of the People’s Daily 人民日报, a prominent national newspaper of the PRC, to demonstrate the outcomes and limitations of applying computational methods in historical research.

Theory & Practice of Digitization Community Symposium: Projects & Reflections

Throughout fall semester 2023, a cohort of UT Austin graduate students worked overtime to examine the ethics of digitization and create frameworks for approaching their research in a digitizable environment. They took on the  “The Theory & Practice of Digitization Community Symposium” program (co-sponsored by the UT Libraries and the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship for Diversity, Inclusion & Cultural Heritage at the Rare Book School) in addition to their regular coursework and thesis/dissertation research and writing commitments. This program aimed to expand the graduate students’ researcher skill-sets and build reflective approaches to their future professions. The cohort’s efforts culminated in a community symposium that was held on November 9, 2023, in the PCL Scholars Lab, where students, faculty, staff, researchers, and Austin community members came together to learn more about the digitization of cultural heritage.

Each of the students presented on their research, experience in the program, and reflections on digitization of cultural heritage. We have collected their insights to share with you here in the hope that their observations will enlighten the work of others, too.

Saghar Bozorgi (PhD student, Department of Middle Eastern Studies)

I started the Theory & Practice of Digitization program thinking about ethical considerations when in/using archives, but mainly looking to get myself familiar with digital methods and whether they can help my project. By the end of the workshop, I learnt how emphasizing a researchers’ project over the archives can reproduce power relationships and hierarchies between different communities and people, especially between the researchers usually located in the “Global North” and the archives that are assumed to be “waiting” for digitization in the “Global South.” As a result, I am now thinking about going beyond my own project and broadening my horizons and considerations when approaching an archive.

In my letter of interest to attend the workshop I wrote about my near-frustration with “the laborious nature” of data collection and its initial analysis, which for my project translates to an infinite period of data collection, leaving little time for writing. This problem “brought me to the idea of digitization and processing texts using digital methods to speed up the process and broaden opportunities for what can be done.” Using digital methods proved to be way more complicated for a Windows user working with primary sources in Farsi. I learnt that OCR programs work with images rather than pdf, so I changed my approach to using Google Docs, which I had tried before in unsuccessful attempts.

While digitizing parts of Ittila’at Mahiyaneh, I was able to recognize some aspects of archival processes and a tiny bit of “what gets to be archived” or “heard” in my own thought process and decision-making. When selecting samples to show during my presentation, I was conscious about the reason why each piece is important. I was hoping to give voice and power to the material that is less visible or invisible in today’s academic and public discourses. One of the pages that I wanted to show was a page in a 1948 issue dedicated to “Palestine” which was continued in several issues. Nevertheless, I persuaded myself to go with other material in order to protect myself and those around me from possible “trouble” and funding cuts, especially because of a recent scary border-crossing experience and the fact that I was not sure about the costs and benefits in a room with a relatively small (and probably sympathetic to Palestinian cause) audience. I remember a point raised in the very first session of the workshop regarding how the archival process has to be considerate of the communities it is serving today so as to not hurt them by using hurtful descriptions. Thus, I have learnt that digitization is not just about scanning material and making them available, but it is also about how archival material, now empowered with a digitized medium, can be talked about. The contrast between my own self-censorship to show the name of Palestine and the keynote speaker’s powerful discussion of the silencing of archives in Israel makes me wonder not only about “what gets digitized and how it gets digitized,” but also who can digitize.

Marcus Golding (PhD student, Department of History)

The Community Symposium on the Theory and Practice of Digitization has provided a valuable hands-on experience for graduate students in digitizing historical records while fostering critical reflection on these processes. Throughout the four sessions, we learned about the best practices in handling cultural heritage materials and digital tools to explore the materiality of these objects. Our interactions with archivists, librarians, and scholars also delved into the politics behind digitization, power imbalances, access to sources, and the significance of community involvement in such initiatives.

For me, the Symposium offered a chance to delve deeper into the issue of privacy within archival collections. Specifically, the complexities arising from balancing open access to materials from historically marginalized groups with the issues of consent regarding the publication of historical documents originating from these communities. Often, the resolution to this issue is complex. The potential to restore the voices of minority groups can sometimes clash with a community’s desire to shield certain aspects of its history from external viewers. Additionally, the Symposium broadened my understanding of digitization best practices and digital tools. I found the insights into setting up camera stands particularly relevant due to the ongoing digitization projects undertaken by my non-profit organization, the Venezuela History Network, in Venezuela.

During the Symposium, I worked with two annual reports (1973) from a Venezuelan oil company, Mito Juan Company, and an American firm, The Creole Petroleum Corporation, both of which operated in Venezuela during the twentieth century. I applied OCR to these texts to facilitate textual analysis, identifying silences and points of convergence between these enterprises in the context of the impending state-takeover of the national industry scheduled for 1976. Through this hands-on experience with digitization equipment, digital tool literacy, and critical reflection on historical documents, the Symposium underscored principles that I firmly uphold. These principles revolve around democratizing access to historical knowledge and community engagement in digitization projects. The end result is to help build collections that safeguard the cultural identity and historical memory of various groups or institutions for posterity.

These are the same guiding principles driving our initiatives with the Venezuela History Network. Our organization is currently involved in at least six ongoing or upcoming projects in collaboration with public institutions, private individuals, and NGOs. The Community Symposium on the Theory and Practice of Digitization has highlighted the importance, as well as the nuances, of making historical knowledge openly accessible. This experience will continue to shape my dedication to the preservation of cultural heritage in the years ahead.

Junika Hawker-Thompson (PhD student, Department of African and African Diaspora Studies)

This archival manuscript is from an 1822 court trial titled “Trail of a Slave in Berbice for the Crime of Obeah and Murder” from the Black Diaspora Archive here at the University of Texas at Austin. Broadly, my dissertation project explores how colonial violence shapes race and gender relations within the Demerara region—which is another river region not too far from the Berbice region where this incident takes place. So, when I came across this document, I was interested in thinking through how this colonial document––which is well preserved, clear in its text (meaning, it was instantly machine readable post-digitization), and was bound tightly before my digitization process––plays a role in how law, criminality, and blackness interact within colonial British Guyana.

This case is invested in convicting an indigenous, or Black man, Williem, of murder and “obeah.” The court documents oscillate between calling Willem, “negro” or “native.” For further context, obeah is understood as an African root working, herbal, and spell-casting practice that can impact physical illnesses and metaphysical situations that may require assistance. This practice can be traced back to maroon societies and enslaved people enacting care of each other, themselves, and their larger communities. Obeah can be understood as a practice of agency, liberation, resistance, or care. When considering this brief history, what does it mean for “obeah” to be in a relationship with murder—the worst offense based on Christian morals and law?

I focus on this document because I am interested in how the colonial gaze of this case constructed law and criminality in colonial British Guyana and post-colonial Guyana. I am also interested in what isn’t documented–the dance that allegedly led to the murder of another enslaved woman, the embodied routine of this obeah practice, and obeah being synonymous with murder. While I am not attempting to suggest that murder is correct or should be overlooked, I am more interested in this process of equating a spiritual practice established in maroon societies to murder. I am interested in a practice of witnessing—beyond the colonial gaze—that might highlight the depth of this practice and the presence of ritual.

The future implication of this project is a continued witnessing to honor the complexities of spiritual practice and criminality under colonial regimes.  I also wonder about the limits of digitization. Is it possible to make clear this witnessing of ritual and practice in this technological space? I plan to continue to work with this document with the hope and goal that this manuscript will assist in understanding the intimacies of race and gender formation in Guyana.

Raymond Hyser (PhD student, Department of History)

Pierre Joseph Laborie, a French coffee planter in colonial Haiti, fled the island during the throes of the Haitian Revolution and took up residence in nearby British Jamaica. As a thank you, Laborie used his expertise and experience as a coffee planter to write a book to benefit Jamaica’s British coffee planters. Published in 1798, Laborie’s The Coffee Planter of Saint Domingo provides an intimate look at the cultivation and manufacture of coffee in colonial Haiti prior to 1789. Although Laborie’s target audience was the British coffee planters of Jamaica, his work quickly went global. It found its way to Brazil, where its Portuguese translation significantly influenced Brazil’s coffee culture. Laborie’s book also reached Cuba, where a publisher there translated it into Spanish. As the nineteenth century progressed, Laborie’s book spread as far as the British colonies of Ceylon and India. Laborie had written the equivalent of an eighteenth-century New York Times Best Seller.

Because of its fame and widespread distribution, Laborie’s book is readily accessible online and at many libraries. A quick WorldCat search reveals dozens of libraries across the world have physical copies, and most of the editions are fully digitized. However, the 1845 edition, printed in Ceylon, does not share the accessibility of the other editions. There is no digitized version, and I have only been able to find two physical copies. One of them is, coincidentally, at the Perry-Castañeda Library. Boasting torn pages, damaged bindings, and held together with several pieces of Scotch tape, UT’s edition looked every bit like a 175-year-old book that had, quite literally, traveled around the world. After I first discovered the book in the fall of 2019, my form of preservation work was keeping it locked away in my desk drawer, where even I rarely consulted its contents. It was not until the Theory & Practice of Digitization Community Symposium that I gained the knowledge, and the courage, to take concrete steps for the book’s preservation through digitization.

Along with being exceedingly rare, this particular edition perfectly lends itself to digitization because it provides a fascinating window into a globalized network of knowledge circulation from the late eighteenth to the late nineteenth century. The number of editions and their geographical spread allow for a comparative study to trace how Laborie’s work changed, or did not, over time and in different geographical contexts. Using OCR (optical character recognition) and text mining methods on the newly digitized 1845 edition, I uncover the genealogy of knowledge contained within Laborie’s work. I highlight how little that knowledge changed in the approximately 50 years that separated the original from the Ceylon edition. Besides a new three-page preface, three short appendices, and different formatting, the Ceylon edition is identical to the original. Even Laborie’s footnotes from his 1798 edition persist within the 1848 edition. The digitization of the Ceylon edition of The Coffee Planter of Saint Domingo increases the accessibility for an otherwise nearly inaccessible work. It also provides a means for scholars to apply digital methods to uncover a global network of knowledge development and dissemination.

Mercedes Morris (Dual master’s degree student, iSchool & Center for Middle Eastern Studies)

 

I am a student in Middle Eastern Studies and Information Sciences, with a focus on paper preservation. During this symposium program, I worked on digitizing al-Waraq wa al-Waraqun fi al-Asr al-Abbasi, a book on paper in the Abbasid Era. The Abbasid Era is an important era in Middle Eastern history for the rapid increase in written works due to the new technology of paper. There are many myths attested to explain the transfer of papermaking technology from China to Iraq, but these are not verified, and papermakers of the Abbasid Era quickly made this technology their own and quickly built on it, with improvements from these papermakers making their way back to China.

While digitizing this book and reading through it about the history of paper and papermakers in the Abbasid Era, the parallels between the new technology of the Abbasid Era–paper, in this case—and the digitization technology of the present day became clear to me. Paper, like digitization, allowed for increased access and production. Paper, even as a new technology, was cheaper and less labor-intensive to produce than papyrus and parchment, allowing more works to be produced and disseminated. Digitization also allows for greater access for people around the world to physical, written materials today, including rare documents and documents too fragile to be handled.

While written history, recordkeeping, and literary works have been around for several millennia, paper offered both the lightweight quality of papyrus and parchment with the permanence of clay tablets, all of which had been used in the area between modern-day Iraq and Samarkand that became known for paper technology and manufacturing. Clay tablets, while more permanent and also less sensitive to humidity than papyrus and parchment, were cumbersome and heavy. Ink could be easily erased by scraping it from papyrus and parchment, allowing for contemporaneous and much later changes to be made to documents almost invisibly and allowing for the erasure of certain histories. 

Paper often has sizings applied, which are substances applied to paper to change the absorbency. Even with sizings applied to prevent too much ink being absorbed, paper would tear before the ink could be successfully removed, leaving evidence of attempted manipulation. This is because paper, even with sizings, absorbs ink; whereas ink sits on the surface of papyrus and parchment.

Now materials like papyrus, parchment, paper, and anything else that anyone would want digitized, can be subjected to sophisticated digital manipulations that cannot be discerned easily, bringing the issues of papyrus and parchment back to paper. On physical paper, even with the use of graphite, erasures and changes are still often visible. I suggest that perhaps the future of digitization lies in the metaphorical properties of paper that allow changes to be made visible to better track history.

Miriam Santana (PhD student, Department of English)

For this semester, my project has focused on recovering the presence of black people and characters in early Mexican American literature by placing them in critical conversation with colonial archival manuscripts. This was my attempt to imagine Black life as more than what these novels give us access to. Now that’s not to say that these colonial archives don’t come with their own silences and omissions, but my goal is to supplement these novels with other written texts. Where is black life in a Mexican colonial context? Voice? Body? Name? And location? 

I chose manuscripts from the Black Diaspora Miscellaneous folder for their content, but also because they make a reasonably-sized collection. The selected manuscripts are documents by the Spanish crown that required all free people of African descent in colonial Mexico to pay a tax based on their African ancestry. It was the first time I worked with archival material that had yet to be digitized. I wanted, in the span of the semester, to choose something that was feasible and that wasn’t overwhelming. My research process following the following steps:

  1. Digitize the selected manuscripts using a flatbed scanner. The scanner turned the manuscripts into PDF files.
  2. I used Transkribus to apply optical character recognition (OCR) to the PDF. I used a model, created by LLILAS Benson digital scholarship coordinator, Albert Palacios, to perform this OCR.
  3. I took the text and inserted it into a Word document. In that Word document, I removed numbers and corrected for dashes, so that I was only left with the bare text.
  4. I used NameTag. NameTag is an open-source tool for named entity recognition (NER). NameTag identifies proper names in text and classifies them into predefined categories, such as names of persons, locations, organizations, etc.
  5. I took that table of information and entered it into an Excel spreadsheet, which resulted in a dataset of names and locations of people rendered in the manuscripts.

In a future project, I aim to follow the same process, with all of the manuscripts in this collection. I hope that it will result in a large dataset of names and places spanning the 18th and 19th century. I plan to create metadata for this collection and use the dataset to create a StoryMap.  My hope is that this map represents the lasting and enduring presence of black life in these Mexican colonial archives. Below are some lingering questions that I will continue to think deeply and critically about:

  • What are the ethical ways of working with these colonial documents?
  • How do we then think about representation in a way that is ethical?
  • How do I make sense of my own bias and desire to represent?
  • How do I think about consent when the people who are in these collections are not alive to give consent?

Natalya Stanke (Dual master’s degree student, iSchool & Center for Middle Eastern Studies)

In our first symposium session as a cohort, we unpacked the term “digitization” to understand the various facets of the digitization process. Taking an iPhone snapshot or scanning a document in a flatbed scanner can be useful; however, it’s ultimately only one step in the entire process of digitization. It’s important to keep in mind the many layers of labor involved from physical examination, image capturing, file processing, metadata description, repository ingestion, and more. It’s also important to continually learn about how to approach workflows of digitization both thoughtfully and equitably.

For this symposium, I chose one book from UT’s library collections and imagined how I would approach this item in a professional setting for digitization. My book is titled Quitábuca or “Your Book” from the original Arabic. It was written by a Syrian priest living in an Arab diaspora community in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The book is written in Arabic and consists of a collection of personal essays, published articles, letter correspondence, and opinion pieces from a variety of publications around the world. It contains biting commentary on French colonialism in the Levant, personal stories about immediate family members, guest author pieces discussing politics, organizing documentation for civic diaspora groups, and more.

  • First, current American/English-language standards for describing diverse materials with global interconnectedness are insufficient at capturing the richness of the material reflected.
  • Second, multilingual metadata is the future! Multilingual English/Arabic description (or Arabic/English/Portuguese, in this case) for materials like this book need to be prioritized for institutions seeking to maximize equity of digital dissemination when publishing collections online. I understand this is massively labor-intensive, but limiting the vast majority of rich metadata to the English-speaking world limits the discoverability and accessibility of many relevant materials.

In particular, the interconnectedness of different geographic and cultural regions sparked my curiosity about how to describe this book with useful metadata. When contemplating the description portion of digitization, I ended up with two major (and related) takeaways:

There are organizations building digital collections that serve as great examples of how to approach incorporating multilingual metadata. Two examples that inspired me in particular are the Digitization Project of the Memory of Arab Immigration in Brazil from the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik and the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies at NC State.

Overall, this was a fun exploration for thinking through professional challenges in digitization and how labor-intensive, but important, it will be to include multilingual and multicultural approaches to my future work in librarianship.

Scholars Lab Celebrates Grand Opening

The much-anticipated grand opening of the new Scholars’ Lab at the University of Texas at Austin’s Perry-Castañeda Library (PCL) officially launched the new space on Thursday, October 5, with more than 100 members of the campus community and beyond in attendance. This event marked a significant milestone in the university’s commitment to fostering innovation, collaboration, and research excellence.

The Lab is a dynamic space designed to support interdisciplinary research, collaboration, and digital scholarship, welcomed scholars, researchers, students, and community members to its beautifully designed premises. The event was a celebration of the university’s dedication to providing cutting-edge resources for its academic community.

The grand opening event featured from university administrators and experts in libraries, who highlighted the importance of the Scholars’ Lab in advancing research and scholarship at UT Austin. Attendees were then given an opportunity to explore the state-of-the-art facilities, including dedicated workstations equipped with the latest technology, collaborative spaces for group projects, and a vast collection of digital resources.

As the Scholars’ Lab officially opens its doors, it is poised to become a vibrant center for academic inquiry and collaboration. The university’s investment in this cutting-edge facility reaffirms its commitment to fostering innovation and excellence in research.

In the coming months and years, we can expect to see exciting developments and groundbreaking research emerge from the Scholars’ Lab at UT Austin. The grand opening event was just the beginning of what promises to be a transformative journey for the academic community and the university as a whole.

Read, Hot and Digitized: Katherine Dunham and the Data of Dance

Read, hot & digitized: Librarians and the digital scholarship they love — In this series, librarians from the UT Libraries 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.


How does a dance move? Where might a dancer go? Such questions most likely evoke images of choreography, references to physical steps performed or patterns made across the floor. But dance scholars Kate Elswit and Harmony Bench are tracking movement from a different perspective, following the touring and travel routes of groundbreaking choreographer Katherine Dunham and her dance company from 1930-1960. Their project, Dunham’s Data: Katherine Dunham and Digital Methods for Dance Historical Inquiry, funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, documents not only Dunham’s own itineraries, but also accounts for “the over 300 dancers, drummers, and singers who appeared with her; and the shifting configurations of the nearly 300 repertory entities they performed.”

The Katherine Dunham Dance Company was the first African American modern dance company, touring extensively both internationally and across the United States, often disrupting the imposed structures of racial segregation. Dunham was also an anthropologist, author, and social activist, challenging the limited roles and opportunities available to Black women artists.

Dunham’s Data features three core datasets paired with both interactive and static visualizations and contextualized through accompanying essays and related media. Taken together, the materials “provide new means to understand the relationships between thousands of locations, and hundreds of performers and pieces across decades of Dunham’s performing career, and ultimately elaborate how movement moves across bodies and geographies.”

The Everyday Itinerary Dataset spans the years 1947-1960, logging Dunham’s daily whereabouts during a period of consistent international touring, including accommodations, modes of transport, and venues visited. Users can access and mobilize this dataset through an Interactive Timeline of Travel, tracing the global and durational scope of Dunham’s artistic reach. There is also a Well-being Timeline Collage, which I am particularly drawn to, that sequences clippings from personal correspondence, evidencing the emotional labor that undergirded Dunham’s career.

Interactive Timeline of Katherine Dunham’s Travel 1947-60, from Dunham’s Data
Interactive Timeline of Katherine Dunham’s Travel 1947-60, from Dunham’s Data

The Personnel Check-In Dataset encompasses the “comings and goings” of company members over time. The visualizations derived from this dataset, for example, the Interactive Chord Diagram, illustrate “who shared space and time together,” offering “a sense of the transmission of embodied knowledge across hundreds of performers.”

Interactive Chord Diagram of Katherine Dunham’s Dancers, Drummers, and Singers, 1947-60, from Dunham’s Data
Interactive Chord Diagram of Katherine Dunham’s Dancers, Drummers, and Singers, 1947-60, from Dunham’s Data

I find the visualizations related to the Repertory Dataset to be especially compelling. The Interactive Inspiration Map depicts locations that Dunham identified as sites of inspiration for choreographic works, enlivened by quotations from her program notes; and The Interactive Network of Dunham Company Repertory highlights connections across pieces and performances. These visualizations prompt me to consider the citational and iterative dynamics of choreography and creative process.

Interactive Network of Dunham Company Repertory, from Dunham’s Data
Interactive Network of Dunham Company Repertory, from Dunham’s Data

Elswit and Bench, along with a team of postdoctoral research assistants, manually curated the datasets from previously undigitized primary source materials held in seven different archives. User Guides explain the organization and decision-making processes behind each dataset, making clear that all data is inherently interpretive. Code and tutorials are available in Github repositories for a few of the visualizations, which were largely created by Antonio Jimenez Mavillard using Python and Javascript libraries and a range of other tools. Instructional resources and a preliminary Teaching Toolkit offer helpful ideas for engagement and entry points into what, for some audiences, might feel like dense material to dive into.

Overall, the project gives us a multi-faceted lens to explore how attention to moving bodies can expand and enrich historical inquiry.


Want to know more about Katherine Dunham? Check out these UT Libraries resources:

Dunham, Katherine., Vèvè A. Clark, and Sarah East. Johnson. Kaiso! : Writings by and About Katherine Dunham. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2005. Print.

 Dee Das, Joanna. Katherine Dunham : Dance and the African Diaspora. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2017. Print.

Dunham, Katherine, and Paul Bieschke. The HistoryMakers Video Oral History with Katherine Dunham. Chicago, Illinois: The HistoryMakers, 2016. Film.

READ HOT AND DIGITIZED: An atlas of redlining, “urban renewal,” and environmental racism.

Read, hot & digitized: Librarians and the digital scholarship they love — In this series, librarians from the UT Libraries 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.


Segregation By Design is a compelling personal project by Adam Paul Susaneck, an architect based in New York City. Through spatial analysis, demographic data, historical photos, and extensive research, Susaneck effectively illustrates “how the American city was methodically hollowed out based on race.” It offers an insightful perspective on an important issue that has shaped the country’s history and continues to impact its present. The project’s goal is threefold: to create a print “Atlas of Urban Renewal,” to create digital materials for local groups opposing ongoing freeway expansion, and to raise awareness through social media.

screenshot of the Chicago, Illinois page on Segregation By Design. The top says Chicago and the three images. One of an aerial photo with the highway highlighted yellow, it says Dan Ryan Expressway. Next to it is an image of two maps side by side with neighborhoods indicated, it says Freeway and Unban Renewal. The third in the row is a detail of two photographs of building with a pond in the foreground for 1938 and part of an photograph of an empty lot where the building stood in 2022.
Screenshot of the Chicago, Illinois page on Segregation By Design.

The website offers a preview of what the print atlas will look like. 180 municipalities that received federal funding from the 1956 Federal Highway Act have been analyzed, and so far, there are 14 cities profiled. Each city has multiple sections, such as “Freeways & Urban Renewal,” “Redlining,” and “Transit.” Focus is given to specific highways, neighborhoods, environmental impacts, or buildings.

For example, the “Chicago: Dan Ryan Expressway (I-90)” section includes an animated swipe map juxtaposing aerial photos from 1938 and 1984 illustrating the “path of destruction” and displacement when the I-90 highway was built in the 1960s. It explains that over 81,000 people, many of whom were BIPOC or recent immigrants, were displaced.

Still screenshot from a video juxtaposing black and white, aerial photographs of Chicago from 1938 and 1984. There is a yellow line over the 1984 image indicating freeways that were built between 1938 and 1984.
Video still from Chicago: Dan Ryan Expressway by Segregation By Design.

Likewise, the “Chicago: Bronzeville” section profiles a neighborhood decimated by “urban renewal.” Before and after photos of buildings are combined with Susaneck’s transposed line drawings of buildings over present-day photos, masterfully visualizing and mapping redlining of the area.

side by side comparison of a photo from 1938 and 2022. The 1938 photograph shows an apartment building with a pond in front and the 2022 image shows outline of the building over an empty field.

Redlining is a discriminatory practice that systematically denies services such as mortgages, insurance loans, and other financial services to specific area residents based on race or ethnicity.

A redlining map of Chicago with annotations explaining language used in the notes that were provided with the original map.
Redlining map of Chicago with selected comments from the redlinign notes from Segregation By Design.

Yet another section, “Chicago: Pekin Theater,” focuses on the first black-owned theater in the United States, which was appropriated by the city through eminent domain, a process that left large swaths of the neighborhood cleared for “urban renewal.” The lot has been vacant since 1940. 

Photograph of the inside of Pekin Theater from 1905. There is decorative red border around an image of a large room with a balcony. There's a marching band in the foreground and hundreds of spectators. Everyone is facing the camera.
Established in 1905, the Pekin Theater was the first Black-owned musical theater in the country from Segregation By Design.

The project’s second goal is to create digital materials for local groups opposing ongoing freeway expansion. Susaneck states, “As state governments continue to mindlessly widen freeways, community groups in cities across the country have formed in opposition. This project aims to support these groups by creating easily digestible graphics to spread awareness.” One such project is Stop TxDOT I-45 in Houston, Texas. Their mission is “to challenge the status quo of transportation policy and to fight for all people in Houston to be able to participate in the decisions that affect health, safety, and mobility in their communities.” Similarly, the “Houston: Flooding” section of Segregation By Design discusses the environmental impact of highways and urban sprawl and how nonwhite residents are disproportionately affected by natural disasters.

aerial photograph of Houston Texas with highway I-45 highlighted in yellow and proposed highway expansion highlighted in red. Annotations note the names of neighborhoods to be demolished and how many people will be displaced.
Houston, Texas, proposed I-45 expansion from Segregation By Design.

Susaneck is accomplishing his third project objective of raising awareness through social media. In fact, Segregation By Design first caught my eye with an Instagram post that highlighted a striking map of Atlanta followed by bird’s-eye images of highway construction clearance from 1956 to 1990. The caption is lengthy for Instagram but is engaging. Susaneck describes the images in it: “The first image shows the freeway right of way overlaid on the 1936 HOLC redlining map and a 1960 aerial photo. The subsequent images show the destruction wrought by freeway construction.” Susaneck then explains who was affected by the highway construction, gives the names of neighborhoods decimated, and expounds on the history of redlining. Instagram lends itself to the graphic nature of his work, the dynamic swipe maps (often used to illustrate before and after destructive events), then-and-now comparisons, and augmented photos highlighting the significance of buildings as well as homes and communities that have been demolished.

A 1960 aerial photo with a 1936 redlining map and freeway right of way overlayed, Segregation By Design.
A 1960 aerial photo with a 1936 redlining map and freeway right of way overlayed, Segregation By Design.

For readers not on Instagram who still want updates, you can sign up to receive new entries via email, including high-resolution images and maps. Supporters can contribute to this largely self-funded project through the subscription-based platform Patreon.

Segregation By Design uses engaging infographics and directness to help explain the complicated policies contributing to systemic racism in our country. It’s invaluable in making these issues more manageable and understandable. I look forward to adding the Atlas of Urban Renewal print version to the Perry-Castañeda Library (PCL) Map Collection.


Books highlighted on Segregation By Design:

Rothstein, Richard. The Color of Law: a Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2017.

McGhee, Heather. The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together. One World, 2021.

Seo, Sarah A. Policing the Open Road: How Cars Transformed American Freedom. Harvard University Press, 2019.

Fullilove, Mindy Thompson. Root Shock: How Tearing up City Neighborhoods Hurts America, and What We Can Do About It. New Village Press, 2016.

Connolly, N. D. B. A World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Remaking of Jim Crow South Florida. The University of Chicago Press, 2014.

Other suggested reading:

American Panorama: An Atlas of United States History – Susaneck cites this digital project from the Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond throughout his works.

Red, Hot, and Digitized: New Website Maps Discriminatory Redlining Practices – an earlier Read, Hot, and Digitized post about Mapping Inequity from the American Panorama.

AILLA Road Trip: Teaching about the Indigenous Language Archive in Rural Oaxaca

BY EDEN EWING

When I arrived in San Marcos Zacatepec in rural Oaxaca, it was dark outside. A kind Chatino-speaking woman cooked me food: chicken soup with homemade tortillas. Dr. Anthony Woodbury from the UT Department of Linguistics and I had been traveling since early that morning, first arriving in Mexico City from Austin and then Puerto Escondido after a several-hour layover. We had to take a bus for several more hours to get to San Marcos Zacatepec, a town in the Sierra Madre de Oaxaca mountains and the first I would visit during my trek. This was the setting for the community outreach and research work I would be undertaking during spring break.

The Chatino-speaking region of Oaxaca is breathtakingly beautiful. All three communities that I visited are nestled in the Sierra Madre del Sur mountain range. Zacatepec is at the lowest altitude of all the Chatino-speaking communities that I visited, so it can get fairly hot during the day. However, San Juan Quiahije, another Chatino community, is several thousand feet higher up the mountain—cooler during the day and quite cold at night.

A sweeping line of mountains brownish-green, clouds of white, blue, and gray, with blue sky in the distance.
Although it wasn’t as lush as San Marcos Zacatepec, there was a beautiful view of the mountains from my balcony in San Juan Quiahije.

I am a dual-degree master’s student in Latin American Studies and Information Studies at The University of Texas at Austin, working to become an academic librarian with a subject specialty in Latin American and Indigenous Studies. I had come to Oaxaca with a clear goal in mind: to teach several workshops on archival access and navigation for the Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America (AILLA), a digital archive at the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection. Dr. Susan Kung, AILLA’s coordinator, invited me to take part in a project with Dr. Emiliana Cruz, professor of anthropology at CIESAS–Mexico, and Dr. Anthony Woodbury, professor of linguistics at UT Austin. As part of the project, I spent my spring break in three Chatino-speaking villages: San Marcos Zacatepec, San Juan Quiahije, and San Miguel Panixtlahuaca. Several local language activists and teachers in the community wanted to be able to use the materials in AILLA to learn Chatino and listen to oral histories and stories in the language.

I agreed to go without hesitation, thrilled to participate in a project that brings together archivists, academics, and Indigenous community members around cultural materials represented in AILLA’s collections. I had hoped that, by getting access to these materials, Indigenous communities might be able to use them for projects related to the revitalization of their language and traditional cultural practices.


The Chatino Language Documentation Project is the subject of this 2015 article in Life & Letters magazine, which features reflections from several linguist researchers.


I soon learned that each town experienced different issues regarding their fluency in the Chatino language and ability to access AILLA. The vast majority of the population speaks a variant of Eastern Chatino, a language represented by several collections in the archive. San Marcos Zacatepec, however, differed significantly from the other two towns: For one, it is a very small village with poor internet access. Secondly, most of the community members no longer speak Chatino. There are only about 300 speakers left in the town and all of them are elderly. In contrast, the language proficiency is strong in both San Juan Quiahije and San Miguel Panixtlahuaca. While the primary issue in Zacatepec was access to the internet, there did appear to be a connection between a lack of ability to speak Chatino and the teachers having less interest in accessing the archive to find materials to use with schoolchildren.

A pale-gray wall is in the foreground. Painted on the wall is a simple rainbow with dark-gray clouds at each end. On either side of the rainbow, small blocks of different colors are painted, each with a word next to it in black lettering. In the background there is a red brick building with black wrought-iron gates in an archway. A few people are also visible in the background.
San Miguel Panixtlahuaca has educational murals in the center of town. This one shows a rainbow with the names of different colors in Chatino.

Community Workshops & the Technology Gap

In total, I taught five workshops on how to access and navigate AILLA in various spaces for different audiences: one small-group workshop at a community member’s house and another at a middle school in San Marcos Zacatepec; one each at a middle and a high school in San Juan Quiahije; and a final one at a public library in San Miguel Panixtlahuaca. Two of the workshops were conducted by myself and the other three were conducted with Dr. Cruz.

Each workshop had its own dynamic. For the first workshop we conducted in San Marcos Zacatepec, we played a game during which an older speaker would say a word in Spanish and the children had to say the word in Chatino. Some of the kids actually knew more Chatino than I thought they did, but it still felt like older members of the community were more invested in what was happening than the children were. In addition, without an internet connection or access to a space for our projector, it was not possible to demonstrate the use of the archive.

The second workshop in San Marcos Zacatepec was held at a private home with a small group of people. This session included Christian, a ten-year-old who brought his Chatino de Panixtlahuaca writing workbooks with him. Everyone was serious about learning how to use the archive and engaged throughout the session. I even saw one person making a PowerPoint with AILLA instructions as I walked the group through how to register for an account and navigate the Chatino language collections.

A boy looks at a cell phone. To his right, the author stands, pointing at something on the phone's screen. In the background there are visible two men, trees, and part of a red house.
I taught Christian how to look at the AILLA collections of many different languages across Latin America.

Unexpectedly, the experience gave me insight on how to effectively organize workshops that connect communities to information resources, a key skill for any academic librarian. Although Dr. Cruz was with me at the middle school in San Juan Quiahije, I taught the workshop at the high school there by myself. This meant coordinating a session with around 40 high school students by myself. This was the first time I had taught a workshop to such a large group of people. It was challenging and I was a little nervous, but the experience was exactly what I needed to become a better information professional.

One issue that became glaringly clear was that technological requirements can be a huge barrier to access for rural Global South communities. In the middle school in San Marcos Zacatepec, there was no internet, so we were not able to actively demonstrate the archive. Although San Juan Quiahije and San Miguel Panixtlahuaca had much better internet, we still experienced technological problems. For example, in San Juan Quiahije, we quickly found out that a majority of the middle school students did not have email addresses, so we had to spend part of the workshop teaching them how to make Gmail accounts. At the high school in San Juan Quiahije, there were issues with power outlets not working. I learned that archivists need to be prepared for anything, be creative, and really reflect on the sort of technology that a community might have access to.

Exterior wall of a building with a brightly painted mural on one part. The mural shows a scene with fruits, vegetables, and trees on green land, with darker-green mountains in the background and a blue sky beyond it. Objects on the mural have white numbers painted near them. Below the painting there is a list of numbers with words, painted in black. Each word is the Chatino term for its corresponding image in the painting.
Murals with the names of fruits and vegetables were on the walls at the Chatino Culture Museum in San Miguel Panixtlahuaca.

The Need for Continuity

Despite the numerous technological problems, this project provides us with a positive example of how archives can engage with communities whose materials are represented in AILLA’s collections. As I reflected on my experience, I realized that this cannot be the end of our relationship with the Chatino-speaking community. Rather, to ensure that these efforts are successful, this should be seen as the beginning of many more projects along these lines. The experience vindicated my belief that communities whose materials are represented in archives must have access to them, and that we should do whatever we can to facilitate that access.

LLILAS Benson is a proponent of projects that emphasize horizontal relationships with the communities and organizations represented in its archives and collections. As such, LLILAS Benson’s digital resources and digital initiatives hold a great deal of promise for future collaboration of this kind.


Eden Ewing is a dual-degree master’s student at LLILAS and the iSchool.


Related Links

Making Books and Tools Speak Chatino: Interview with Hilaria Cruz*

How Languages Get Writing Systems: An Interview with Hilaria Cruz

* Dr. Hilaria Cruz a Chatino-speaking linguist, is the sister of Dr. Emiliana Cruz and a UT Austin alumna.

READ HOT AND DIGITIZED: I Know We Will Meet Again, Japanese Canadians’ Letters, 1942–1948

Read, hot & digitized: Librarians and the digital scholarship they love — In this series, librarians from the UT Libraries 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.

One day when I was familiarizing myself with the history of Japanese Canadians, I encountered this lovely, small online exhibition. It is built on 36 PDF files of digitized letters selected from the Joan Gillis fonds, housed at the University of British Columbia Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections. The exhibition, beautifully titled “I know we will meet again,” tells a dark and brutal episode in Japanese Canadian history from 1942 to 1948. 

The letters were written by young Japanese Canadians to Joan Gillis (1928–2019, more info on Gillis), a white teenage girl they shared elementary and middle school years with before being forcefully removed from their homes in British Columbia to various locations in interior Canada during WWII. Immediately after Pearl Harbor, the Canadian government seized fishing boats and confiscated cameras and shortwave radios owned by Japanese Canadians. In January 1942, the Canadian federal government passed an order to remove Japanese Canadians from coastal British Columbia. By March 1942, about 22,000 Japanese Canadians were dispersed to areas east of the Rocky Mountains and were not granted freedom until 1949. During their forced removal, the Canadian government also seized, confiscated, and sold Japanese Canadian properties left in BC, including lands, houses, farms, etc. 

The letters detail the harsh childhood and teenage years that Gillis’ Japanese Canadian friends had to endure. All the letters in this exhibition have been scanned, transcribed, annotated, and geo-coded, thereby making it easy to explore the letters’ content by author, theme, location, and time.

For example, when we choose to browse by subject, we are directed to a beautiful and effective visualization of the subjects discussed. 

Figure 1. Color-coded subject visualization

As a person with mild color vision deficiency, I have to commend the curators’ apparent thoughtfulness in making the spectrum easier to see. Click on the little colored circles, then the associated subject will be highlighted in each letter.

Likewise, one can open up a transcript and see every sentence’s annotated subject on the right. 

Figure 2. Annotated letter transcript.

Maps help users grasp the extent of the dispersal of the letter writers as each letter is encoded with coordinates. One can zoom in and out to see the physical distance between the letter writers. One suggestion I would have is to mark Gillis’ location as well, just to give viewers a sharper sense of how far they have been dispersed. 

Figure 3. An overview of the letters’ locations.

Figure 4. A zoomed-in and city-level view of the letters’ original locations.

The curators have enhanced the exhibition through suggested themes which include essays that reference snippets from the letters. These essays give historical contexts in which the letters were produced. For example, in the essay on “Communications,” the curators discuss how the correspondence between Gillis and her friends was censored by the Canadian authorities. Under “Labour,” one will find more information about sugar beets farming that many letter writers’ families “volunteered” to engage in, although the letters make clear this “volunteering” was the only option other than labor camps and the splitting up of families. 

Last but not least, I love the notes under “About the Collection.” The Land Acknowledgement is specific and lists all Indigenous lands that are mentioned in the collection. There is also a deep reflection of publicizing materials that were meant to be private and intimate. In particular, how the wartime censorship adds another layer of complexity to the nature of this correspondence. The curators’ own personal reflections communicated their own positionality towards the project and personal growth in a profound and touching way. 

The project is built with open-source tools. The content management tool, CollectionBuilder is a set of static web templates for online collections created and maintained by librarians at the University of Idaho. The transcriptions are prepared with Oral History as Data, also a static web tool based on Github Pages and Jekyll to analyze and visualize transcripts, also by the same group at the University of Idaho. 

I love the collection not only in the sense it teaches me about a dark episode in history effectively but also demonstrates how such a project can help each of us grow by reflecting on our own positions in relation to the history documented in the project. 

Yi Shan is East Asian Studies Librarian at the University of Texas Libraries.


Further reading

  1. UT Libraries Asian Americans Studies Guide
  2. Fonds RBSC-ARC-1786 – Joan Gillis fonds at UBC Rare Books and Special Collections, UBC Library. https://rbscarchives.library.ubc.ca/joan-gillis-fonds
  3. Matthew McRae, “Japanese Canadian internment and the struggle for redress,” Canadian Museum for Human Rights. https://tinyurl.com/2xzujnhr?t=1687387156.
  4. Maryka Omatsu. Bittersweet Passage: Redress and the Japanese Canadian Experience. Toronto : Between The Lines, 1992.
  5. Mona Oikawa. Cartographies of Violence: Japanese Canadian Women, Memory, and the Subjects of the Internment. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2018.

Libraries Partners in Exhibition Celebrating Black Classicists

The University of Texas Libraries is collaborating with other local heritage institutions to highlight the contributions of Black historians to the study of antiquity.

“Black Classicists in Texas” is a free public exhibition, celebrating the life and work of classicists of color in Austin and Central Texas. In 1900, Reuben Shannon Lovinggood, the Chair of the Greek and Latin Department at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, made an impassioned argument against those who minimized the value of liberal education, especially Classics, for Black people. In the same year, Lovinggood became the first president of Samuel Huston College (now Huston-Tillotson University), and a pillar of the Austin Black community.

But he was not the only one.

The exhibition tells the story of Central Texas’ early educators of color and their passion for the study of antiquity. Explore images, archival materials, interviews, and current scholarship to find out more about Lovinggood, L.C. Anderson, H.T. Kealing and their vibrant community of scholars, students and public intellectuals. Learn about Classics and its place in historic debates on Black self-determination, and find out more about classical education in Austin today.

This exhibition is a collaboration between the Department of Classics at the University of Texas at Austin, University of Texas Libraries, the Black Diaspora Archive at the LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections, the Downs-Jones Library at Huston-Tillotson University, and the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center.Visit the three exhibition sites at the Benson Collection at the University of Texas at Austin, Huston-Tillotson University, and the Carver Museum.

For more information on the exhibitions, including a self-guided tour and additional resources, visit the Black Classicists in Texas website at https://bcatx.org/.

“Black Classicists in Texas” will be on view through December 22, 2023.


Over the past year, Adriana Cásarez, U.S. Studies and African Studies Librarian, played a key role in coordinating the “Black Classicists in Texas” exhibition project, and worked in partnership with Libraries’ colleagues Rachel E. Winston, Dr. D Ryan Lynch, Dr. Lorraine J. Haricombe, Shiela Winchester, Mary Rader, and Aaron Choate.

Casarez was interviewed about the exhibit on the Texas Standard, which you can listen to here.

Los del Valle Oral Histories Available at Libraries’ Collections Portal

The Benson Latin American Collection at The University of Texas at Austin has made a significant oral history archive featuring voices of the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas and Northern Mexico available online through the Libraries’ Collections Portal.

University of Texas Rio Grande Valley history professor Manuel F. Medrano launched the Los del Valle Oral History Project in 1993 with the goal of collecting and preserving historical memories in the Rio Grande Valley, a region that has been historically underrepresented in archival and published research. Many of the original interviews were broadcast in edited form on local public access television. The collection of nearly 300 videos was transferred to the Benson Latin American Collection in 2015.

Raw footage of an interview with Dr. Américo Paredes, 1995. Dr. Paredes discusses how his parents came to Brownsville, his advice for writers, and the publication of his dissertation \With a Pistol in His Hand.

“By making the Los del Valle Oral History Project fully available online, the Benson highlights the immense intellectual and cultural contributions of the people of the lower Rio Grande Valley to the state of Texas,” says John Morán González, J. Frank Dobie Regents Professor of American and English Literature and former director of the university’s Center for Mexican American Studies. “Scholars, students, and the general public now have access to key figures and ideas that will surely enrich our understanding of this unique borderlands region.”

Los del Valle (Spanish for “those of the Valley”) is a term used to describe Mexican Americans who live in the rural South Texas, especially those in Hidalgo, Starr and Cameron Counties. These predominantly Mexican American communities, some of which predate the modern border between Mexico and the United States, represent a vibrant culture along this historically fluid border. Interviewees come from both sides of the modern border, and include writers Rolando Hinojosa-Smith, Carmen Tafolla and Oscar Cásares; scholar and folklorist Américo Paredes; educator Juliet Garcia; artist Carmen Lomas Garza; and accordionist Narciso Martínez. Other subjects include shrimp boat workers, Charro Days participants, World War II veterans and filmmaker Gregory Nava. These interviews cover a wide range of topics, from the early days of settlement in the region to the Chicano Movement and beyond.

An interview with Carmen Lomas Garza, a Chicana artist born in Kingsville, Texas, who talks about her art career. Lomas Garza talks about racial discrimination toward Mexican American families, and shares the influence and involvement of the Chicano movement in her life.

“Professor Manuel Medrano and his team have gifted us with an important resource that helps us understand the history of the Rio Grande Valley. By doing so, it places the RGV in the context of Texas and, more broadly, the U.S.,” says Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, director of the Voces Oral History Center and the Center for Mexican American Studies.

“Oral history is key in documenting the perspective of the Latino community—too few Latinos/as will leave diaries, letters, and other records to a publicly accessible archive,” says Rivas-Rodriguez. “But even in the case of people like Américo Paredes, who did in fact leave his papers at the Benson, oral history provides context that would otherwise be unattainable.”

Interviews with Members of the 124th Cavalry Regiment at the 30th Annual Reunion. Interviews with members of the 124th Cavalry Regiment and their wives about their background, their memories of World War II, and what the reunion means to them.

Learn more about the specific holdings in the Los del Valle Oral History Project at Texas Archival Resources Online, or browse the online collection in the Libraries’ Collections Portal.

Los del Valle Oral History Project Archive was digitized with funds from the Latin American Materials Project (LAMP), Center for Research Libraries.