Category Archives: Digital Scholarship

The John S. and Drucie R. Chase Building Archive

BY JEREMY THOMPSON

The Black Diaspora Archive (BDA) at The University of Texas at Austin documents the Black experience in the Americas and the Caribbean through the voices and stories of those who have championed the Black spaces that we use and benefit from today. Diaspora is defined as the “dispersion of any people from their original homeland,” and often when evoked with the Black experience in America, means the historical movement and displacement of Africans from their native homeland.

For the Black community in Austin, diaspora is a much more recent and closer-to-home event as its established Black communities are under threat of disappearing. Through the use of oral histories, the John S. and Drucie R. Chase Building Archive tells the story of the herding of the Black community into East Austin, the Black establishments and schools that grew during this time, and the subsequent displacement that has occurred in recent times. While much has changed for the Black community in East Austin, one building has stood in service of its community while enduring its own share of transformation. 

Line drawing of a one-story building facade in white on a solid orange background; white lettering says The John S. and Drucie R. Chase Building.
Image used to herald the opening of the newly renovated Chase Building

The building at 1191 Navasota Street in East Austin was built in 1952 to house what was then the Colored Teachers State Association of Texas (CTSAT). The CTSAT commissioned the building to serve as its headquarters and tapped John Saunders Chase as the architect to design the building. Chase was the first African American to graduate from the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Architecture and first to become a licensed architect in the state of Texas. The building that Chase designed would serve the CTSAT for 14 years before the association voluntarily dissolved in 1966 to merge with the Texas State Teachers Association. In 1968, the building was purchased by Dr. Ella Mae Pease and would become the House of Elegance. Now a beauty salon, the building served as a social hub for Black community in East Austin and a focal point for social events that Pease would facilitate. During its time as the House of Elegance, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Photograph of a one-story building with some brick on the facade. A small sign on the building reads House of Elegance in cursive writing.
The House of Elegance pictured at the end of its reign

After decades of service, the building was purchased in 2018 by the University of Texas at Austin and christened the John S. and Drucie R. Chase Building. Dr. Suchitra Gururaj, Assistant Vice President for Community and Economic Engagement, explains the decision to purchase the building:

“The idea for renovating the building came about in 2017, when House of Elegance owner, Pearl Cox, decided to sell the property. Former UT President Greg Fenves saw an opportunity to bring prominence to the university with the purchase of the first property designed by John S. Chase, the first Black/African American graduate of UT’s School of Architecture. When the purchase was made, we proposed that the space be repurposed as our next Center for Community Engagement (CCE) of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement (DDCE). We consider the CCE to be the ‘front porch’ of our university, inviting community members and residents to connect with a large, decentralized, and often intimidating university that has not always welcomed people from diverse communities. In re-creating the Chase Building, we were not only able to celebrate Mr. and Mrs. Chase’s legacy but also to create a new life for the building that represented the intersection of diversity and community engagement. Like successful community engagement practice, our process of renovation was also collaborative, drawing on the mentorship of Donna Carter and relying on the expertise of Dorothy Fojtik and Nathan Goodman at UT Project Management and Construction Services. Over the period of the renovation, the project transformed from a simple university construction project into a true labor of love.”

Donna Carter, the first African American woman to become a licensed architect in Austin, led the effort to renovate the Chase Building. In 2022, the Chase Building reopened as the base for the Center of Community Engagement (CCE). This department within UT’s Division of Diversity for Community Engagement works to deploy university resources to foster connections with the community and meet community needs. In an effort to document the change that the Chase Building and East Austin have undergone over the years, the CCE began to conduct interviews with community members in 2019 and 2020 centering around the Robertson Hill neighborhood, the area that was home to the building. This project was advocated for by the Robertson Hill Neighborhood Association, which also suggested community members to interview for this project. The product of these interviews is the collection of oral histories and photographs that make up the John S. and Drucie R. Chase Building Archive. Housed in the BDA’s archival collection, these oral histories cover a range of topics including education, churches, and race and the City of Austin.

A black-and-white photo of Black boys and girls of various ages, as well as a male and female adult, who are posed for a school photo.
Archival photograph depicting a class from Blackshear Elementary

The Chase Building Archive consists of nine interviews with members of the East Austin community who have witnessed the change in the area. In her oral history, Mrs. Patricia Calhoun reminisces about growing up in the Robertson Hill neighborhood. She speaks about the streets that she grew up on that still remain today and the establishments in the community that do not. When talking about the importance of Black stories, Calhoun states, “Our stories are important to us because we’ve been here for generations, and yet the community is changing so rapidly that we could be erased without a thought.” This sentiment about the transformation of East Austin and the diminishing presence of its original community is observed throughout the collection. Mr. Clifton Vandyke Sr. jokingly remarks during his interview that “if we aren’t careful, this will be just like visiting a museum where people will come and say this is where African Americans used to live.” These quotes can be found on one of the four curated vignettes, “Storytelling and History,”  that weave together common themes found throughout the assorted oral histories.

An older Black gentleman in a blue short-sleeved shirt, is seated on a comfortable living room chair. The photo is taken through the lens of a video camera, and the viewer of the camera is also visible.
Mr. Clifton Vandyke Sr. seen through the camera lens during his oral history interview

Another vignette that can be found in the collection revolves around education and its importance with the community. Memories of attending schools like Blackshear Elementary School, Kealing Middle School, and Huston-Tillotson University testify to the many outlets available for education and the community’s pursuit of it. Ms. Lydia Moore spoke about the opportunity to choose which school she could attend after desegregation: “We had been told we would be the first group to have that opportunity to go anywhere we wanted to, but that we’d be ready. We need not be afraid. We need not feel inferior. But we would be ready.” 

The thirst for education within the community sprouted from wanting not only to survive, but thrive in the world. The sentiment of wanting to thrive in East Austin is shared throughout the collection and can also be found in CCE’s efforts to collaborate with the community from the Chase Building. Stephanie Lang, Director for community-facing programs at CCE, expresses the aim of this collection: “As historic East Austin continues to change rapidly, the amazing legacy of these communities are at risk of erasure. This archive is but one of the many efforts being done to preserve these stories and provide a way for many generations to access, reflect on, and honor this important history.” 

Two women pose together in a home, with a kitchen in the background. On the left is a younger Black woman with long dreads, glasses, and red lipstick who is wearing a red-white-and-black scarf; on the right an older Black woman in a bright blue top and dark blue blazer. Both are smiling.
Mrs. Vonnye Rice Gardner (right) poses with Stephanie Lang, who worked as the interviewer for the project

Rachel Winston, Black Diaspora Archivist and steward of the BDA, states, “As we celebrate the legacies of John and Drucie Chase, the work of CCE, and the history of the Chase building, it is necessary to also recognize the local community that has made all of this possible. The interviews in this collection offer an incredible glimpse into the lives and experiences of Austinites from historic, Black East Austin.” 

The John S. and Drucie R. Chase Building Archive is stewarded by the Black Diaspora Archive and can be accessed through a variety of avenues. The oral histories and photographs can be accessed online via the University of Texas Libraries Collections portal, here. The analog artifacts of the collection have been described in the collection’s TARO finding aid and can be requested in the Benson Latin American Collection’s rare books and manuscripts reading room. For more in-depth history about the Chase Building, visit CCE’s showcase on it and their series of videos centered around the building and its surrounding communities. Collections like the Chase Building Archive provide us the opportunity to learn how Black communities and spaces come about, and warn us about the diaspora that looms with their absence. 


Jeremy Thompson is a Diversity Resident Librarian at the University of Texas Libraries.

Introducing Rozha: A Tool to Simplify Multilingual Natural Language Processing

In my role as European Studies Liaison, one of my priorities is to assist people in their digital humanities work.  In that work, I have found a glaring gap in tools that support multilingual and  non-English materials, particularly those that focus on natural language processing (NLP).  Much of the work that has been done using NLP has been focused on an Anglocentric model, using English texts in conjunction with tools and computer models that are primarily designed to work with the English language. I wanted to make it easier for people to begin engaging with non-English materials within the context of their NLP and digital humanities work, so I created Rozha.

Rozha, a Python package designed to simplify multilingual natural language processing (NLP) processes and pipelines, was recently released on GitHub and PyPI under the GNU General Public License, allowing users to use and contribute to the tool with minimal limitations. The package includes functions to perform a wide variety of NLP processes using over 70 languages, from stopword removal to sentiment analysis and many more, in addition to visualizations of the analyzed texts. It also allows users to choose from NLTK, spaCy, and Stanza for many of the processes it can perform, allowing for easy comparison of the output from each library. Examples of the code being used can be seen here.

While the project first grew out of the needs of researchers and graduate students working at UT-Austin who were interested in exploring NLP and the digital humanities using non-English languages but who did not have very much prior coding experience, its code also aims to streamline NLP work for those with more technical knowledge by simplifying and shortening the amount of code they need to write to accomplish tasks. Output from the package’s functions can be integrated into more complex and nuanced workflows, allowing users to use the tool to perform standard tasks like word tokenization and then use the response for their other work.

The package is written in Python for a variety of reasons. Python has a wide base of users that makes it easy to share with others, and which helps ensure that it will be used widely. It also helps ensure that people will contribute to the project, building upon its existing code. Fostering contributions for multilingual digital humanities and NLP can help broaden the community of scholars, coders and researchers working with these multilingual materials, which will broaden the community in general while also improving the package. Python is also very commonly used for NLP applications, and the packages integrated into Rozha all have robust communities of their own. This allows for users to connect with other communities as well, and to explore these technologies on their own for applications beyond what this package provides.

The Rozha package ultimately aims to make multilingual digital humanities and natural language processing more accessible and to simplify the work of those already working in the field–and perhaps open up new avenues to explore for newcomers and established NLP practitioners. My hope is that this tool will help encourage diversity in the NLP landscape, and that people who may have felt it too daunting to work with materials in non-English languages may now feel more comfortable through the ease of working with this package.  Beyond that, I hope the package will serve as a conduit for additional contributions and collaboration, and that the code will ultimately help strengthen the field and community of practitioners working with non-English materials.


UT GIS Day 22 Recap

For the 4th consecutive year, the UT community came together to celebrate geographic information systems and geospatial research at UT GIS Day 2022 on Wednesday 11/16.

The day’s events were organized by the UT Libraries in collaboration with other campus partners including Technical Resources, the Department of Geography and the Environment, and the Department of Statistics and Data Sciences. We also once again joined other GIS Day organizers from across the state of Texas in contributing to TxGIS Day – a joint effort to spread the word about and increase the impact of our individual GIS Day events.

Our events this year were dedicated to recognizing, discussing, and learning about GIS technology and all that it enables for UT Austin students, faculty, and staff. UT GIS Day 2022 was also notable for being our biggest GIS Day celebration yet and featured a full lineup of events including a career event, lightning talks, geospatial health research panel discussion, UAV demonstration, lidar visualization event, PCL Map Room tour, and more. Some of the highlights of the day’s events included the very interactive and well attended GIS poster session and the announcement of the student recipient of the 2022 UT Libraries Map & Geospatial Collections Explorer Fellowship which was awarded to graduate student, Stephanie Zeller.

Many of our events were held in and around the Perry-Castañeda Library which proved to be a fantastic venue for bringing members of the campus community together in a hybrid format that allowed us to enjoy the advantages of gathering in-person while also being able to stream and record many of our sessions using Zoom. These recordings can be accessed at https://guides.lib.utexas.edu/gis/past-event-info-and-downloads which will allow these events to continue to benefit the campus community moving forward.

Documenting the Cold War Site Launched

hero image from Document the Cold War website

The Libraries, in partnership with the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies (CREEES), recently launched the Documenting the Cold War site. The site serves as a hub for all digitized archival materials related to the Cold War from the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Archive, which are housed in the university’s online repository, Texas ScholarWorks.

This open access online archive was initiated by CREEES Director Mary Neuburger in an effort to digitize significant collections of primary documents from the the LBJ Presidential Library that enhance our understanding of the Cold War. Neuburger and her students coordinated with European Studies Librarian Ian Goodale to digitally-preserve identified materials. Goodale created the new site with Global Studies GRA Jyotsna Vempati, who crafted and implemented its design and user interface.

While select documents from the LBJ collection can already be found online, the project focused on the digitization of National Security country files from the former Eastern Bloc. Because these documents are open record, the LBJ Presidential Library has allowed unlimited scanning and open access presentation of such documents.

The site currently contains links to the Prague Spring Archive, to a site for newly-digitized files relating to Poland, to the complete collection of digitized documents in our institutional repository, to a site on documents relating to Yugoslavia, and to an additional site on English-language propaganda magazines published during the Cold War.

“We hope the site will further expand access to the amazing digital scholarship and digitized archival materials at UT,” says Goodale, “and that the resource will continue to be used as a research aid and pedagogical tool by users at UT and beyond.”

Read, Hot and Digitized: Disability COVID Chronicles

As the European Studies Librarian for the UT Austin Libraries, I am interested in exploring and encouraging connections between my subject areas and the broader global community. Understanding and advocating for disability is one way that this sense of global community can be fostered, as disability transcends national boundaries and affects people across the world.

Disabled people have consistently been marginalized and excluded from the historical record. Efforts to remedy this–and to reclaim the history and dignity of disabled people–are ongoing, and are burgeoned by digital studies and practice. Of especial interest at the moment is how the global pandemic has affected disabled people, and how their experience of the pandemic may differ from the non-disabled. The Disability Covid Chronicles from NYU aims to explore the stories of disabled people in NYC and let them tell, in their own words, how they experienced the COVID-19 pandemic.

Screenshot of the project's homepage.
The project’s homepage.

While the project is still ongoing, essays and interviews from research-in-progress are available to view on their website. The project team is preparing an edited volume based on its research during the pandemic, and is also “building a publicly-accessible archive to preserve memories, stories, artworks, and other materials in a range of accessible formats” in collaboration with community members. In the words of the project team members, they “are preserving conversations on social media, records of digital public meetings, and photographs of street art and actions that are otherwise ephemeral. [Their] goal is to chronicle not only vulnerabilities, but creative initiatives for survival under these new conditions that are structured by old inequalities.”

Screenshot of the project’s Essays & Interviews page
A couple of essays from the project’s Essays & Interviews page.

In addition to the essays and interviews linked above, the fieldnotes section of the site highlights notable ephemera and other media–from posters and artwork to social media campaigns and more–that the team has encountered during its research. This is a great way to explore the diverse content available on the site, as the content is reloaded in a random order each time the page is refreshed. Notable entries from the page include this post recapping a survey from Special Support Services, an advocacy group for disabled students and their families, this post preserving artwork by Jen White-Johnson created to amplify the #MyDisabledLifeIsWorthy hashtag, and this post preserving artwork from Roan Boucher/AORTA: Anti-Oppression Resource and Training Alliance. You can also share your own resources at this link.

Screenshot of a few essays displayed on the project’s Essays & Interviews page.
A few essays displayed on the project’s Essays & Interviews page.

The site was built using WordPress, a popular content management platform. While free and open-source, WordPress does charge for hosting plans through its website, which can be a barrier for access to some. It also offers a large number of plugins that can make constructing a website less of a burden for those with less technical knowledge—such as the Random Post on Refresh plugin, which allows users to accomplish a similar randomizing functionality to the site’s Fieldnotes section. The site makes  use of accessibility features, such as the “alt” tag in HTML, to ensure that those using screen readers or other assistive features can still access the site’s content. WordPress itself also makes a commitment to accessibility in its design and code.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a particularly strong impact on many disabled people, and having a site that documents and amplifies disabled perspectives and experiences is an important step toward creating a supportive and equitable culture for all. The site serves as a valuable resource related to the global pandemic, and its forthcoming edited volume and digital project will, I hope, further amplify and uplift disabled voices.

Related materials in the UT Libraries collection:

The Disability Studies LibGuide from UT Librarian Gina Bastone: https://guides.lib.utexas.edu/disabilitystudies

Albrecht, Gary L., Katherine D. Seelman, and Michael Bury. Handbook of Disability Studies. Sage Publications, 2001.

Disability Studies Quarterly.

Hall, Kim Q. Feminist Disability Studies. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2011.

Kapp, Steven K, ed. Autistic Community and the Neurodiversity Movement: Stories from the Frontline. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020.

The Benson’s Summer Texas Roadtrip

BY ALBERT A. PALACIOS, PhD

It was a doozy of a summer for the LLILAS Benson Digital Scholarship Office. Thanks to a Department of Education National Resource Center grant, we had the distinct opportunity to share some of the Benson Latin American Collection’s Spanish colonial treasures with a few communities outside of UT Austin. In a traveling exhibit titled A New Spain, 1521–1821, the reproduced materials demonstrated the cultural, social, and political evolution of colonial Mexico.

A New Spain exhibit at the University of Texas at El Paso Library, El Paso, Texas. The C.L. Sonnichsen Special Collections Department also showcased their Spanish colonial holdings in the exhibit.

We were fortunate to continue our longstanding partnership with the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). In collaboration with Claudia Rivers and Abbie Weiser at the C.L. Sonnichsen Special Collections Department, we put together an exhibit that highlighted Spanish colonial holdings from both libraries, providing both a hemispheric and local perspective. To broaden the impact of the collaborative effort, we also organized an accompanying series of workshops based on the materials for social studies teachers, colonialists, and archival professionals in the El Paso–Las Cruces (NM) region. 

Clockwise from left: 1. Social studies teachers play a loteria game, or Mexican bingo, based on the exhibit’s items; 2. curator’s tour of A New Spain, 1521–1821 (photor: Aide Cardoza); 3. screenshot of online teacher workshop (photo: Tiffany Guridy); 4. Mapping Mexican History exhibit at Horizon High School, Horizon City, Texas (photo: Erika Ruelas).

We kicked off the programming with a two-day intensive training for teachers from El Paso and Clint independent school districts. The workshops started onsite at UTEP’s library with a curator’s tour, a lunchtime loteria game based on the exhibit, and an in-depth look at Indigenous and Spanish maps from a previous traveling exhibition, Mapping Mexican History. By the end of the day, teachers were able to take home the facsimile Mapping items, some of which are on display this fall at Horizon High School.

The second day of workshops went fully online. One of our 2022 Digital Scholarship Fellows, Dr. Diego Luis, shared an interactive simulation he designed based on an inquisitorial case archived at the Benson to teach about Afro-descendant colonial experiences. We then showcased lesson plans we developed with UT Austin’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction on the navigation of gender roles in New Spain. To wrap things up, we provided the teachers with a survey of digital resources at UT Austin and digital humanities tools they can use to teach about colonial Mexico in their class.

Clockwise from left: 1. Payroll of soldiers, 1575, Genaro García Manuscript Collection; 2. depiction of Tlaxcalteca ruler, Xicoténcatl, meeting with Hernan Cortés and Malintzin, circa 1530–1540, Ex-Stendahl Collection; 3. Inquisition case against Ana de Herrera for witchcraft, 1584, Genaro García Manuscript Collection; 4. “Tracing Witchcraft Networks in Veracruz” workshop (photo: Abbie Weiser).

On the final day, we shifted gears and led a series of digital scholarship workshops for local scholars. Students, faculty, and cultural heritage staff from the University of Texas at El Paso and New Mexico State University Library powered through three sessions that provided them with practical training in the visualization and analysis of Spanish colonial materials using various digital tools. Attendees learned to annotate various colonial texts and images, map the origins of New Spain’s soldiers, and visualize the networks of Afro-descendant hechiceras, or women casting incantations, in Veracruz.

A New Spain exhibit at the Downs-Jones Library, Huston-Tillotson University, Austin, Texas (photo: Katie Ashton).

Upon our return to Austin, another one of our partners, Huston-Tillotson University, graciously agreed to host the traveling exhibit. Thanks to Technical Services & Systems Librarian Katie Ashton, the history of colonial Mexico we put together went up on the walls of the Downs-Jones Library, and will remain there throughout the fall. For those who are not able to visit either installation, you can explore the digital version through our UT Libraries Exhibits platform.

Acknowledgements

This initiative would not have been possible without the support of the following individuals and sponsorships:

C.L. Sonnichsen Special Collections Department, The University of Texas at El Paso

  • Claudia Rivers, Head
  • Abbie Weiser, Assistant Head

Huston-Tillotson University

  • Katie Ashton, Technical Services & Systems Librarian, Downs-Jones Library
  • Alaine Hutson, Associate Professor of History

Tufts University

  • Diego Javier Luis, Assistant Professor of History

Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education, UT Austin

  • Michael Joseph, Doctoral student
  • Katie Pekarske, Master’s student
  • Cinthia Salinas, Department Chair & Associate Dean for Equity and Inclusive Excellence

UT Libraries

  • Brittany Centeno, Preservation Librarian
  • Katherine Thornton, Digital Asset Delivery Coordinator

LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections

  • Jac Erengil, Administrative Manager
  • Tiffany Guridy, previous Public Engagement Coordinator (special thanks)
  • Melissa Guy, Director, Benson Latin American Collection
  • Ryan Lynch, Head of Special Collections
  • Jennifer Mailloux, Graphic Designer (special thanks)
  • Adela Pineda Franco, LLILAS Director & Lozano Long Endowed Professor
  • Theresa Polk, Head of Digital Initiatives
  • Megan Scarborough, previous Grants Manager
  • Susanna Sharpe, Communications Coordinator (special thanks)
  • Krissi Trumeter, previous Financial Analyst

Sponsors

  • U.S. Department of Education National Resource Center Title VI Grant
  • LLILAS Benson Collaborative Funds

Read, Hot and Digitized: Dasubhashitam – ‘An Uncommon App’ for Telugu Speakers

Read, hot & digitized: Librarians and the digital scholarship they love — In this series, librarians from UTL’s Arts, Humanities and Global Studies Engagement Team briefly present, explore and critique existing examples of digital scholarship.  Our hope is that these monthly reviews will inspire critical reflection of and future creative contributions to the growing fields of digital scholarship.

This post was written by Jyotsna Vempati, the Global Studies Digital Projects GRA at Perry-Castañeda Library and a current graduate student at the School of Information.


A Telugu (pronounced ˈteləˌɡo͞o) literature classic – Bāriṣṭaru Pārvatīśaṃ, is a novel that I brought along with me despite the strict luggage weight limits of international flights so that I have a piece of my childhood and home with me in a new country. But if I am honest, this was my way of ensuring that I don’t forget how to read and write in my mother tongue. Although the biggest of the Dravidian language family with over 80 million speakers and 4th most spoken language in India, the future of Telugu is in danger from the proliferation of English and other less-regional languages in Telugu speaking regions. 

Many believe it is time to take deliberate action to preserve a language that has a rich history and culture, and many compelling literary works that date back to 575 CE. While there is still a sizable reader base for Telugu literature, there is a rising need to make these texts more accessible and visible in today’s digital era. And in comes the first of its kind Telugu audiobook application – Dasubhashitam.

Founded by Konduru Tulasidas and his son Kiran Kumar, this ‘uncommon app’ draws its essence from multiple disciplines that include Literature, Behavioural Science, and Non-Dualism. It promotes personal, professional, and spiritual wellbeing through original content in a style that is simple and straightforward. The app contains free content as well as paid literature works, which can be accessed through subscription plans.I think this app fills the gap by providing an opportunity for those who speak Telugu but face difficulty in reading the script to reconnect with their roots, thus reviving the language from its slumber.

The Dasubhashitam app is paving the way to immortalize the works of both renowned and new authors by creating an ecosystem where people connect Telugu texts to audio content. It contains literary works in various digital formats such as audiobooks, ebooks, podcasts, interviews, and albums within categories like short stories, novels, poetry, wellbeing, and educational content. The audiobooks need a mention of their own due to the deep cultural context within which they’re recorded and presented. Not only is a book read out loud, but some audiobooks of play scripts also have accompanying musical notes that add a touch of the popular Telugu cinema experience, transporting one back to the age of black-and-white films. Another noteworthy aspect of this app is that it offers the opportunity for individuals to suggest a book to digitize, or submit their audiobooks to the app for hosting (after a strict copyright and quality check, of course).

As a student of User Experience Design here at UT, I cannot help but comment on opportunities for improvement when it comes to the user experience and usability aspect of the mobile application. I find that the app’s heuristics are yet to be optimized to make the content more accessible to their user base. Especially, ramping up the in-app search and filter options, standardizing the transliteration of the literary title to the English alphabet (romanization), having uniform navigation gestures across and refining the information architecture would surely minimize user pain points and add value to the overall experience.

This spectacular enterprise is carving out a presence for itself rapidly and, all-in-all, the kind of content and initiatives undertaken by the creators clearly reflects their intentions, namely,  to promote the wellbeing of their users. I look forward to witnessing the great potential of this piece of technology, especially as some of the notable names in the world of Telugu literature are available on the Dasubhashitam app.

I’m also delighted to discover that UT Libraries hold a great collection of Telugu literature. One might be encouraged to read one of UT’s print versions of these titles alongside the audio book on Dasubhashitam!  See for example the Telugu writings by:

P. V. Narasimha Rao, the former Prime Minister of India

Madhubabu,renowned Telugu detective novel writer

Gurajada Venkata Apparao, popular Indian playwright

Kandukuri Veeresalingam  (Vīrēśaliṅgaṃ), prominent social reformer and writer from the Madras Presidency, India.

Libraries Explorer Fellowship: Fast Fun Facts

Over the past five years, great strides have been made in enhancing access to the UT Libraries (UTL) maps and geospatial collections. The UT Libraries has for decades been committed to making copyright-free maps from its collections freely available online. This commitment has resulted in the scanning and sharing of tens of thousands of maps from the renowned Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection (PCLMC), which have been made available for download online for over 25 years. The Libraries’ focus on sharing its geospatial data has also more recently led to the development of the Texas GeoData portal in 2019, which has been a game-changer for enhancing discovery and use of geospatial data and maps from the UT Libraries’ collections. This portal enables access to a wide variety of geospatial data types available for download, including georeferenced scanned maps from the PCLMC and geospatial datasets developed from collections in the Alexander Architectural Archives and the Benson Latin American Collection.

The Texas GeoData portal allows you to download georeferenced maps, like this Sanborn Fire Insurance map of Austin from 1889.

In 2021, the UT Libraries Map & Geospatial Collections Explorer Fellowship was created to incentivize engagement with the Libraries’ geospatial materials like those shared through the PCLMC site, the Texas GeoData portal, the UT Libraries Collections portal. This Fellowship has been designed to both support the work of UT researchers and scholars who utilize UTL map and geospatial assets in their projects and to encourage further enrichment and promotion of the UT Libraries’ map and geospatial collections. The Explorer Fellowship is now offered annually, with two separate award categories: one for UT students of all levels and the other for faculty and post-docs.

On August 22, UTL launched the call for proposals for the 2022 Fellowship awards. Proposals are due October 3, and the Faculty and Student award winners will be announced on GIS Day, November 16, 2022.

Here are some fast fun facts about the Explorer Fellowship to pique your interest:

  • Fellowship awards are $1500 each, with half distributed upon announcement of Fellowship recipients and half distributed after completion of Fellowship requirements.
  • Two Fellowships are offered annually, one for active UT students and one for UT faculty and postdocs in current paid appointments.
  • Fellowship recipients will have their work featured and preserved in one or more UTL repositories, such as Texas ScholarWorks and the Texas Data Repository.
  • Maps and geospatial assets that are improved or enhanced by Fellowship awardees will be shared with others through the Texas GeoData portal.
  • Fellows will have the opportunity to meet and consult with UTL map collections and GIS experts Katherine Strickland and Michael Shensky for project insights and tool guidance.
  • Researchers selected for Fellowship support will join the nascent ranks of previous recipients doing impressive work whose projects are described below.

2021 Student Fellowship:

Bailey Ohlson

Bailey is studying critical watersheds in Puerto Rico (PR) and their downstream fresh-water reservoirs in order to quantify sediment accumulation rates and identify environmental controls on erosion. She is using maps from the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection to characterize past land use in PR and determine their influence on sediment accumulation. She plans on publishing a database of bathymetric data in the UTL repositories with pre-existing bathymetric data from government agencies as well as new data she will be collecting using a bathymetric hydro-drone.


headshot photo of Dr. Ginny Catania

2021 Faculty Fellowship:

Dr. Ginny Catania

The threat from sea-level rise to the Texas coast, which produces ~$400 billion in economic value, is increasingly visible with widespread impacts across human, built, and natural environments. This project plans to build a map of coastal change for the State of Texas to enable the detection of the regions of greatest change (hotspots). By studying hotspot locations in conjunction with environmental data, we can understand the processes responsible for change and how such regions might be impacted from future sea level rise. Map data will be superimposed with demographic data to determine the coastal populations most at risk from sea level and associated threats.


Curious to know more? Visit the UTL Map & Geospatial Collections Explorer Fellowship LibGuide.

Take a look at the Call for Proposals document for ideas about using geospatial collection items in research you’re planning. It’s possible your project could be elevated by these materials, and incorporating them would enable you to meet the Fellowship application requirements. Please also feel free to share this information about the Explorer Fellowship with any friends or colleagues that you think might be interested in this opportunity.

Latin American Digital Initiatives TEAM Visits Partners in Buenaventura, Colombia

[Español abajo]

Two members of the LLILAS Benson Digital Initiatives team recently visited Buenaventura, Colombia, to work with archivists and community leaders at Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN), a grassroots collective of organizations founded in 1993 that is working to transform the political, social, economic, and territorial reality of Colombia’s Black, Afro-descendant, Raizal, and Palenquera communities through the defense and revindication of their individual, collective, and ancestral rights.

View of Bahía de Buenaventura from hotel balcony in Buenaventura, Colombia. Photo: Karla Roig.

PCN participates as one of several sister archives with which LLILAS Benson has developed a partnership to support the digitization and description of archival materials. Funded by a succession of grants from the Mellon Foundation, this project emphasizes the post-custodial archiving model.* Digitized materials from PCN’s Colección Dinámicas Organizativas del Pueblo Negro en Colombia archive.

Alex Suarez, Digital Projects Archivist, and Karla Roig, former Post-Custodial and Digital Initiatives Graduate Research Assistant, spent a week in Buenaventura to assist PCN with organizing and processing their physical collection. By processing the physical collection, PCN will be able to digitize and create metadata more efficiently. Below, Suarez (AS) and Roig (KR) answer questions about this meaningful visit.

Please describe what you did while visiting Colombia.

AR: We conducted a series of trainings on archival processing, metadata creation, and digitization. We also had the opportunity to learn about the region as well as the city of Buenaventura. The first few days were spent getting to know the collection and to also understand how PCN works as an organization. 

Digital Projects Archivist Alex Suarez works with team members at PCN in Buenaventura, Colombia. Photo: Karla Roig.

Together with PCN, we brainstormed how to arrange the archive in a way that reflects how PCN operates and how they envisioned using the archive in the future. We also reviewed digitization and metadata best practices so that PCN materials can be accessible worldwide and researchers can learn about the organization and Buenaventura. 

We were also invited to attend throughout the week three talks titled “Diálogos ribereños,” organized by PCN and the Banco de la República, in which community leaders engaged in conversation with the community around topics of burial rites, economic practices and the environment, and the settlement of their rivers.

Diálogos ribereños meeting, Buenaventura, Colombia. Photo: Karla Roig.

Please share some of the highlights of the trip: the setting, activities, and accomplishments.

AR: I was blown away by the closeness of the community and the work they have accomplished over the last 30 years. Everybody knows each other and have been working toward the same goals. It was so interesting to see the community at work. 

One of the biggest accomplishments was PCN creating their archival processing plan and defining their arrangement plan. Some of my favorite moments were spent drinking freshly brewed coffee around [PCN leader] Marta’s dining room table talking about how to arrange the archive and how they envisioned future researchers using the archive. 

PCN leader Marta Inés Cuervo (l) examines archival material with Alex Suarez. Photo: Karla Roig.


Another favorite moment was attending an interactive exhibit titled Río la Verdad, by Bogotá-based artist Leonel Vásquez, who installed a swimming pool where guests could submerge themselves and hear the sound of the rivers and people singing songs about their history. It was a deeply powerful experience and one that I will never forget. 

Río la Verdad exhibit by Leonel Vásquez. Photo: Karla Roig.

KR: About the setting: On Sunday morning, we met with Marta and she showed us around Buenaventura for the first time. Our hotel was in front of the Malecón, their only public park, where people gather early in the morning to wait for the small boats that will connect them to other parts of the Colombian Pacific coast. Walking around the small coastal city, there were many local stores and street vendors displaying their goods—from fruits and vegetables, clothes and shoes, to home essentials. Right away we could sense the tight-knit community bonds. Everyone we passed greeted us with a “Buenos días” and Marta was often stopped by people she knew to have a small conversation.

View from the Faro – Mirador Turístico (lighthouse) at the malecón (pier) in Buenaventura. Photo: Karla Roig.

We stopped at a small coffee shop with the view of the Pacific Ocean to have a refreshing drink, where we talked about geography, how Colombia is divided into different departments, and how Buenaventura is the biggest municipality in the Valle del Cauca department. We were staying in the urban center of the municipality, which is where one of the major ports in the country that brings in a large percentage of imported goods is located. Seeing the large yellow container cranes was impressive, they spotted the skyline from our hotel view to the right, and to the left, on a clear day, we could see the mountains at a distance. 

One of my favorite memories from our visit was the cultural exchange that happened between us and the PCN team. They taught us about their colloquialisms and their native fruits such as maracuyá and borojó (we tried them too!) and we shared our own vernacular from Puerto Rican and Cuban Spanish. It was exciting to find the similarities between our cultures as well as learning about the uniqueness of their own: how their communities are based around their rivers and also how the marimba is one of their traditional music instruments. Definitely the highlight of the entire visit for me was how welcoming and friendly the PCN team was, and how excited they were to engage with us at a professional and personal level. Toward the end of the week, we had a team dinner to celebrate what we had accomplished and to thank them for hosting us. That night we talked at length about the week, and we all shared what we had learned and were grateful for. It was a beautiful moment interspersed with conversation centered on the archive, but also with laughter and familiarity. 

Farewell dinner with members of PCN. Photo: Karla Roig.

Any ongoing goals?

The main ongoing goal for LLILAS Benson’s Mellon-funded collaboration with PCN is to continue working on the physical archive and to arrange the materials in a way that reflects the organization. 

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


Lea este artículo en español:

Equipo de Iniciativas Digitales visita socios en Buenaventura, Colombia

Dos miembros del equipo de Iniciativas Digitales de LLILAS Benson viajaron recientemente a Buenaventura, Colombia, para trabajar con archivistas y líderes comunitarios de Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN), una colectiva de organizaciones fundada en 1993 que trabaja para transformar la realidad política, social, económica y territorial de las comunidades negras, afro-descendientes, raizal y palenqueras colombianas a través de la defensa y reivindicación de sus derechos individuales, colectivas y ancestrales.

Como archivo, PCN participa en una colaboración con LLILAS Benson para apoyar la digitalización y descripción de la Colección Dinámicas Organizativas del Pueblo Negro en Colombia. El proyecto, se está realizando a través del modelo de archivos pos-custodiales* y es apoyado por la Fundación Mellon.

Vista de la Bahía de Buenaventura desde el balcón del hotel enn Buenaventura, Colombia. Foto: Karla Roig.

Alex Suarez, Archivista para Proyectos Digitales, y Karla Roig, Asistente Posgrado de Investigaciones para Iniciativas Digitales, pasaron una semana en Buenaventura para ayudar a PCN a organizar y procesar su colección física. Al procesar la colección física, podrían digitalizar y crear metadatos de una manera más eficiente. Abajo, Suarez (AS) y Roig (KR) contestan algunas preguntas sobre la visita.

Expliquen, por favor, las actividades que realizaron durante su visita.

AS: Llevamos a cabo una serie de capacitaciones sobre el procesamiento de archivos, la creación de metadatos y la digitalización. También tuvimos la oportunidad de conocer sobre la región, así como la ciudad de Buenaventura. Los primeros días fueron dedicados a conocer la colección y también a comprender cómo funciona PCN como organización.

Junto con PCN, aportamos ideas sobre cómo organizar el archivo de una manera que reflejara cómo opera PCN y cómo imaginaban usar el archivo en el futuro. También revisamos las mejores prácticas de digitalización y metadatos para que los materiales de PCN puedan ser accesibles en todo el mundo y los investigadores puedan aprender sobre la organización y sobre Buenaventura.

Archivista para Proyectos Digitales Alex Suarez trabaja con miembros del equipo de PCN en Buenaventura, Colombia. Foto: Karla Roig.

También fuimos invitadas a asistir a lo largo de la semana a tres charlas tituladas “Diálogos ribereños”, organizadas por PCN y el Banco de la República, en las que líderes comunitarios conversaron con la comunidad en torno a temas de ritos fúnebres, prácticas económicas y medio ambiente, y del poblamiento de sus ríos.

Reunión “Diálogos ribereños” . Foto: Karla Roig.

¿Cuáles fueron los eventos más destacados del viaje en términos del lugar, las actividades, los logros?

AS: Quedé asombrada por la cercanía de la comunidad y el trabajo que han realizado durante los últimos 30 años. Todos se conocen unos a otros y han estado trabajando hacia unas metas en común y fue muy interesante ver a la comunidad haciendo ese trabajo.

Uno de los mayores logros fue PCN creando su plan de procesamiento de archivos y definiendo su plan de organización. Algunos de mis momentos favoritos fueron bebiendo café recién colado alrededor de la mesa del comedor de Marta hablando sobre cómo organizar el archivo y cómo imaginaban que los futuros investigadores usarían el archivo.

Marta Inés Cuervo (i) examina documentos con Alex Suarez. Foto: Karla Roig.

Otro de mis momentos favoritos fue asistir a una exhibición interactiva que fue instalada en el parque principal durante nuestra estadía. La exposición se tituló Río la Verdad del artista bogotano Leonel Vásquez, quien instaló una piscina donde los invitados podían sumergirse y escuchar el sonido de los ríos y la gente cantando canciones sobre su historia. Fue una experiencia profundamente poderosa y una que nunca olvidaré.

Exhibición Río la Verdad por Leonel Vásquez. Foto: Karla Roig.

KR: Sobre el lugar: El domingo por la mañana nos reunimos con Marta [una líder de PCN] y ella nos caminó por Buenaventura por primera vez. Nuestro hotel estaba frente al Malecón, el único parque público de la ciudad, donde la gente se reúne temprano en la mañana para esperar las pequeñas embarcaciones que los conectarán con otras partes de la costa pacífica colombiana. Caminando por la pequeña ciudad costera, había muchas tiendas locales y vendedores en la calle que mostraban sus productos, desde frutas y verduras, ropa y zapatos, hasta artículos para el hogar. Inmediatamente pudimos ver la cercanía de la comunidad, a todo el que pasábamos nos saludaba con un “Buenos días”, y Marta a menudo paraba a hablar con algún conocido u otro para tener una pequeña conversación.

Nos detuvimos en una pequeña cafetería con vistas al Océano Pacífico para tomar una bebida refrescante en donde conversamos sobre la geografía, cómo Colombia está dividido en diferentes departamentos, y cómo Buenaventura es el municipio más grande del departamento del Valle del Cauca. Nos estábamos quedando en el centro urbano del municipio, que es dónde se encuentra uno de los puertos más importantes del país que trae un gran porcentaje de mercancías importadas. Ver las grandes grúas amarillas de contenedores fue impresionante, se percibían hacia la derecha del horizonte desde la vista de nuestro hotel, y a la izquierda, en un día claro, podíamos ver las montañas a lo lejos.

Vista del Faro – Mirador Turístico en el Malecón. Buenaventura, Colombia. Foto: Karla Roig.

Uno de mis mejores recuerdos de nuestra visita fue el intercambio cultural que ocurrió entre nosotros y el equipo de PCN. Ellos nos enseñaron sobre sus coloquialismos y sus frutas nativas como el maracuyá y el borojó (¡también los probamos!) y compartimos nuestro vernáculo del español puertorriqueño y cubano. Fue emocionante encontrar las similitudes entre nuestras culturas, así como aprender sobre la singularidad de la de ellos: cómo sus comunidades se basan en sus ríos y también cómo la marimba es uno de sus instrumentos musicales tradicionales.

Definitivamente, lo que más se destacó de toda la visita para mí fue lo acogedor y amable que fue el equipo de PCN, y lo emocionados que estaban de interactuar con nosotros a nivel profesional y personal. Hacia el final de la semana, tuvimos una cena de equipo para celebrar lo que habíamos logrado y agradecerles por recibirnos. Esa noche hablamos sobre la semana y todos compartimos lo que habíamos aprendido y por lo que estábamos agradecidos. Fue un hermoso momento intercalado con conversación enfocada en el archivo, pero también con risas y familiaridad.

Cena de despedida con miembros de PCN. Foto: Karla Roig.

¿Objetivos para el futuro?

El principal objetivo de la subvención Mellon es continuar trabajando en el acervo físico y organizar los materiales de una manera que refleje la organización.


Nota: La práctica de archivos pos-custodiales tiene que ver con la preservación de archivos vulnerables en su lugar de origen, mientras se crea una versión digital del material para hacerlo disponible a nivel global.

Read, Hot, and Digitized: Acknowledging Indigenous Land with Native Land Digital

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.

“Join us as we Defend the Sacred” is the first thing you see when you visit the Tāp Pīlam Coahuiltecan Nation website. They are defending remains found under and around the Alamo in Yanaguana, commonly known as San Antonio, Texas. Despite being born and raised there, I did not learn about the Tāp Pīlam “People of this Earth” Nation growing up in San Antonio. Rather, I found out about them on Native Lands Digital, an ongoing project that puts those left off the map through colonization back on the map.

Native Land Digital is an interactive map of Indigenous territories, languages, and treaties that documents native lands across the globe but particularly in North & South America and in Australia. It is available on the web or as a smartphone app (iOS and Android). The app uses basic geolocation to retrieve information from the website.

The initial map, Native-Land.ca, was created in 2015 by Victor Temprano, a settler hailing from Okanagan territory in what most call Canada. Temprano writes that he began Native Land in late 2014 as a hobby project after attending pipeline protests and looking more into the traditional territories of different nations in relation to resource development. Cognizant of being a settler, Temprano reached out to the community of users for input and corrections to the map. Since, Native Land Digital has evolved into an Indigenous-led, not-for-profit organization that “strives to go beyond old ways of talking about Indigenous people and to develop a platform where Indigenous communities can represent themselves and their histories on their own terms.”

Native Land Digital webpage with a map centered on the Australian continent.
Native Land Digital shifts perspective each time you open it.

Before you are taken to the Native Land map, a pop-up disclaimer encourages further investigation and corrections. Once you click “Go To Map,” it loads without the clutter of borders and the labels we are used to seeing on political maps. Instead, layers of colorful polygons represent Indigenous territories over a basemap that emphasizes terrain. Type an address, zip code, or placename, and the map will show both present and historical Nations in the area. For example, type the address for the Perry‑Castañeda Library (PCL). You won’t see the unmistakable shape of the building with the labels you are accustomed to until you click the buttons on the bottom right-hand side of the map marked “Colors” and “Settler Labels.” The map shows that the PCL is on Jumanos, Tonkawa, Ndé Kónitsąąíí Gokíyaa (Lipan Apache), Coahuiltecan, and Nʉmʉnʉʉ Sookobitʉ (Comanche) land.

PCL obscured by polygon next to PCL with “Colors” off and “Settler Labels” on.

You can toggle or search territories, languages, and treaties on the left-hand side of the map. Also, there is an option to “Contact local nations to verify” with links to web pages for each Nation. You will find links to Nation’s website, related maps, images, sources, a changelog, and a form to share thoughts and corrections. This openness to improvements and amendments has led to many enhancements to the project and built a community of scholars and activists invested in the project. A former member of the Board of Directors began her relationship with the project by submitting a boundary correction, for example.

Native Land Digital goes beyond the map, territory, and treaty pages. Following a link that encourages you to “think critically about this map” takes you to the Teacher’s Guide page with a downloadable guide titled “The Land You Live On” and a Historical Primer written by Shauna Johnson, a member of the Board of Directors. The teaching guide introduces the project, explains how to use both the website and mobile application, introduces the concept of “Land as Pedagogy,” and provides exercises to engage students of all ages, including those that are intended for use outside the classroom. The Historical Primer is a concise essay that skillfully explains why this work is so important, namely colonization and the erasure of indigenous people and their relationship to land. 

As Land Acknowledgments, or Territory Acknowledgements, have become a more common practice here at UT, Native Land Digital is an excellent tool for researching a location. The Territory Acknowledgements page can also help you explain the importance of acknowledgments to skeptical people and help yourself think beyond Land acknowledgments. The Next Steps section explains, “Territory acknowledgements are one small part of disrupting and dismantling colonial structures. You may also want to get in touch with local Indigenous nations or organizations to build relationships and support their work. Use our tools to find some contacts!”

Native Lands Digital is updated daily using a combination of technologies. WordPress, an open-source platform for self-publishing, is used to update map data, media, and links for each individual nation, language, or treaty page. Geospatial updates are then pushed to Mapbox, a tool for creating custom online maps, to update the map and associated API. Native Lands Digital API are free of copyright (CCO 1.0). Learn more about Native Land APIs from their blog post, Our Wonderful, Wily API.

Further reading about counter-cartographies, decolonizing the map, and Land as Pedagogy from these resources:

Akerman, James R. Decolonizing the Map: Cartography from Colony to Nation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017.

André, Mesquita (translated by Victoria Esteves). “Counter-Cartography: Mapping Power as Collective Practice.The Routledge Companion to Media and Activism. 1st ed. Routledge, 2018. 259–267.

Betasamosake Simpson, Leanna. “Land as Pedagogy.As We Have Always Done. University of Minnesota Press, 2017. 145–174.

Smith, Linda Tuhiwai. Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. Third edition. London: Zed Books, 2021. 

Varga, Bretton A., Vonzell Agosto, and Julian Maguregui. “Material Counter-Cartographies: (Un)mapping (in)justice, Spatial Wounding, and Abstract Reticulations.International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 34.9 (2021): 830–842.

Wood, Denis, John Fels, and John Krygier. Rethinking the Power of Maps. New York: Guilford Press, 2010.