Category Archives: Features

Behind the Numbers: UX

This post will focus on how the Assessment Team has begun officially dipping our toes into User Experience (UX) research by conducting a usability test focused on part of the main navigation of the UT Libraires website. Why, you might ask, is this assessment-focused column talking about UX?

In many ways, my assessment practice has always incorporated a good bit of user experience work, though I haven’t typically labeled it as such. Past endeavors such as dot poster surveys (used to learn how students were using new library spaces) and a branch observation project (that was interrupted by the pandemic) employed user experience methodologies, and I see user experience and assessment as complementary and overlapping approaches to asking and answering questions aimed at improving what we do.

When the Libraries redesigned our website a few years ago (which was a huge accomplishment involving many of my talented colleagues), the site redesign process incorporated user feedback by conducting A/B tests, usability tests, focus groups, and more. Now that the site has moved out of development and into sustainment, there are fewer resources devoted to conducting user tests. My colleagues have been busy producing great new tools like portals for our digital exhibits, our digitized and born-digital items, and geospatial data, but we were not sure how to best incorporate them into our site navigation. Members of the Web Steering CFT have conducted user tests as needed/possible, and the Assessment Team decided to help in the effort and take on a UX project this spring to help answer questions we had about our navigation menu choices.

A screenshot of the "Find, Borrow, Request" menu that includes links to Library Catalog, Articles, Databases, Journals, Course Materials, Collections Showcase, Digital Collections, Digital Exhibits, Maps, and Geospatial Data.

Along with a small team of other colleagues, we designed a series of questions and tasks focused on the “Find, Borrow, Request” portion of our website and recruited 10 students to participate in brief UX tests conducted through Zoom. While the pandemic has made many aspects of user research more difficult, we were easily able to recruit students through an email invitation, and were overwhelmed with the volume of interest we garnered. We just finished conducting tests earlier this week and haven’t analyzed the results yet, but I already learned through my role in conducting tests that terms like “Collections Showcase” and “Digital Exhibits” are not self-explanatory to the majority of our students. Most surprisingly, the label “Maps” (which we did not expect to be confusing) was misleading to most of the students I conducted or observed tests with. Students generally expected to find a map of library locations or library floorplans at the link, but the link actually leads to our collection of digitized maps of places all over the world. This underscores the importance of conducting frequent user testing. We never would have learned that “Maps” was confusing if we hadn’t been testing adjacent links! Clearly we need to rethink our labels.

I’m excited to analyze the full results and turn them into recommendations for improving the site. I’ve even more excited about expanding our team to include a librarian focused on UX so we can increase our ability to conduct tests like this. We just posted a position for a UX Librarian to join the Assessment and Communication Team to help us ensure that our spaces and services (both web and physical) are welcoming and functional for our users. The eventual end of the pandemic provides ample opportunity for rethinking how we have always done things, and we hope that a UX Librarian will help ensure that the changes we make help our users have great experiences at the UT Libraries.

WHIT’S PICKS: TAKE 9 – GEMS FROM THE HMRC

Resident poet and rock and roll star Harold Whit Williams is in the midst of a project to catalog the KUT Collection, obtained a few years ago and inhabiting a sizable portion of the Historical Music Recordings Collection (HMRC).

Being that he has a refined sense of both words and music, Whit seems like a good candidate for exploring and discovering some overlooked gems in the trove, and so in this occasional series, he’ll be presenting some of his noteworthy finds.

Earlier installments: Take 1Take 2Take 3Take 4Take 5Take 6, Take 7, Take 8

Acetone / Cindy

Available at Fine Arts L​ibrary Onsite Storage

Criminally-overlooked and ultimately doomed L.A. stoner garage-roots trio Acetone droned away in near obscurity during the 1990’s “alternative” heyday, but one can hear their influence on today’s wealth of indie pop and Americana music. Cindy, their first full-length, rocks hard throughout and is built upon overdriven guitars rather than the mellow Gram Parsons-esque atmospherics that would color their subsequent psych-country records. Here’s that time-travelling, road-tripping, couch-surfing soundtrack you’ve long been waiting for. 

Conrad Herwig Nonet / Sketches of Spain y mas

Available at Fine Arts Library Onsite Storage

Trombonist and bandleader Conrad Herwig takes mucho Latin Jazz liberties with this classic Miles Davis work, plus three other pieces (y mas). His New York-based nonet parties hearty in an Afro-Cuban style live at the Blue Note on Davis’ Solar, Seven Steps to Heaven, and Petits Machins, but it’s the majestic 25 minute-long epic Sketches of Spain that stands out admirably here. With highlights from trumpeter Brian Lynch, saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera, and especially the shock-and-awe back and forth between drummer Robby Ameen and conguero/percussionist Richies Flores. 

Amadou & Mariam / Wati

Available at Fine Arts Library Onsite Storage

Stretching the boundaries of traditional north African music, Amadou & Mariam unabashedly mix in healthy doses of rock, blues, pop, and funk into their full band’s hypnotic groove. Having met as students at Mali’s Institute for the Young Blind, the two became a couple, and musically involved as well. Wati leans more in a Western direction – production and instrumentation-wise – but the heart and the soul of the record comes straight from Bamako. A mesmerizing and exuberant Afro pop celebration. 

Britta Phillips & Dean Wareham / Sonic Souvenirs

Available at Fine Arts Library Onsite Storage

Another musical couple here (Britta Phillips and Dean Wareham of indie rock royalty Luna) spices things up nicely with this short and sweet six-track EP. Enlisting famed Bowie producer Tony Visconti for these revamped versions from an earlier album, the duo grooves in a downtown underground style a la Velvet Underground & Nico. Warehams’ low energy slacker vibe is baked in, but it’s Phillips’ coy and coquettish vocals icing this delightful dream pop cake. 

Shirley Scott / Memorial Album

Available at Fine Arts Library Onsite Storage

Always somewhat in the shadows of other Philadelphia B3 organ legends (Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff), Shirley Scott’s exquisite soul jazz chops were nevertheless second to none. The subtitle to this collection, “Queen of the Organ” is no hyperbole, as any experienced hepcat listener can attest to. Culled from her Prestige (and other labels) recordings, these tracks showcase Scott’s solo artist virtuosity as well as her steady grooving backup session work with the likes of Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, and her husband at the time, Stanley Turrentine. Talk about Philly soul? Then you’ve got to be talking about Shirley Scott.

[Harold Whit Williams is a Content Management Specialist in Music & Multimedia Resources. He writes poetry, is guitarist for the critically acclaimed rock band Cotton Mather, and releases lo-fi guitar-heavy indie pop as DAILY WORKER.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those interested in marine science should start with this LibGuide.

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

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

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

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

Behind the numbers: pandemic metrics

When I tell people that my job is to do assessment for an academic library, it’s not uncommon to see a brief blank stare, followed by a story about a library that made an impact on them. People know and love libraries. Assessment? Not so much. This new blog series, Behind the Numbers, will show examples and tell stories about how we use assessment at the UT Libraries to help give our users those impactful library moments.

Because it’s at the forefront of everything at the moment, I will use this inaugural post of Behind the Numbers to delve into how we’ve used assessment to help navigate the disruption to our spaces and services caused by the pandemic. When the University moved all operations online in March 2020 and we quickly changed all of our service models to a fully remote configuration, we needed a way to monitor how students, faculty, and staff were using online library services. As the pandemic continued into the Fall semester, we needed to make difficult decisions that involved limiting access to physical materials in order to retain special emergency access to those materials in digital formats through a partnership with other academic libraries called HathiTrust.

Faced with a difficult balancing act between the need to provide access to materials, spaces, and in-person support, and the need to keep our staff and community safe, we turned to available data to inform our planning. We built a basic dashboard with monthly metrics on the use of a few services that we thought might be helpful for making decisions about our physical spaces, in come cases comparing use in 2020 to use before the pandemic. The dashboard is not comprehensive of all of our services, or even our most popular services. We chose to include data points that were quickly attainable and might help us make decisions about “re-opening” physical spaces in Fall 2020.

Of note here is the line chart in the top right that compares daily usage of physical items and the digital items we’re receiving through the special HathiTrust agreement. It shows us that in general, use of the HathiTrust digital items has been on par with usage of physical library materials.

After a period of operating as an online only library, we reopened the main library with limited services and spaces and serious COVID precautions in place. We needed a way to measure safe capacity in our space to allow for adequate social distancing, so we implemented a people counter and a swipe to enter system. The people counter has software built in that allows us to monitor occupancy at any moment and look for patterns of occupancy. We have used this to make decisions about how much of the main library to make available. Through the fall semester, we learned that the main floor of PCL is large enough to safely hold all library visitors even at peak usage times.

Beyond occupancy, we wanted to know about the people who were using the physical library space. Were they students? Faculty? Were they coming often to study, or just occasionally to borrow materials? As part of a mixed methods study, we used swipe data to create visualizations that tell us how many times each unique visitor entered PCL. As you can see below, over half of the people who have visited since we reopened in Fall 2020 have only visited one or two times, suggesting that they were there to fulfill a specific need, not to study or attend classes online. We also monitor the university affiliations of our visitors, showing that the vast majority are students.

We also invited everyone who visited PCL during the Fall semester to respond to a survey with questions about perceived safety and suggestions for the Spring. We were thrilled to learn that almost 90% of survey respondents reported feeling very safe or extremely safe at PCL. This gave us further confidence that our occupancy data was helping us make good decisions.

The Assessment Team had been thinking before the pandemic about what data we might include in dynamic dashboards to help our colleagues make data-driven decisions, but COVID-19 pushed us in that direction more quickly than we planned. Stay tuned for more dashboards (and info about other methods) in posts to come.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Hidden in Plain Sight: Seeking Out Forgotten Treasures with The Public Domain Review

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.

As we enter a more digital workspace, the copyright of content we reuse in presentations or projects has become a more pressing question in our public facing work. While there are ways to search for resources by their Creative Commons licenses or by digging through the public domain, the results are not always satisfying. Enter The Public Domain Review, an online journal of scholarly essays and curated collections of material from the public domain.

Front page of The Public Domain Review.

The public domain refers to creative content in the United States that is no longer protected under copyright law. Every January 1st, works published before a certain year are released from copyright protection. 2021 welcomed material published in 1925 into the public domain. The first day of 2021 also saw The Public Domain Review celebrate its 10th anniversary of curating and publicizing interesting and obscured content from the public domain, related to history, art and literature. The digitized items and collections are gathered from 134 cultural heritage institutions and platforms across the internet, including the Smithsonian, Wikimedia and the Library of Congress. What separates The Public Domain Review from just another list of curious findings on the internet is the academic commentary on the relics by scholars, archivists and creatives in its Essays section. The collections on the site are mostly western-centric with a few global works included and are organized by theme, time period and medium. The pieces featured in the Review are not just images but also include film, books and audio. The level of organization and tagging make the unique compilations and essays easy to delve into on the site through its Explore page.

The project was developed ten years ago by history scholars and archives enthusiasts Adam Green and Jonathan Grey. The goal of The Public Domain Review has been to inform and highlight relics often forgotten or buried so deep that it would be difficult to come across serendipitously. The projects’ keen eye for the intriguing, supplemented by its expert commentary are what keeps me coming back to the site, either through the Review’s monthly mailing list or when I need an image for a presentation. The project’s editorial board selects collections and welcomes contributors to submit proposals that feature hidden cultural heritage materials.

The Public Domain Review is teeming with potential for digital scholarship endeavors and while there is no active portion of the project engaging with those scholarly methods, there are traces. The project site itself was built by UT Austin graduate, Brian Jones, a historian and web developer. In the retired series, Curator’s Choice, a guest writer from the GLAM sector (galleries, libraries, archives, museums), would spotlight digital collections or digital scholarship projects from their own institutions. See notable digital humanist, Miriam Posner on anatomical filmmaking here and read how scholars at The British Library are using digital technology to recreate a medieval Italian illuminated manuscript from fragments here.

The site also encourages reuse and remixing through its PD Remix section, holding caption competitions or gif creation challenges using works from their public domain highlights. Although a not-for-profit, they do have a Shop, selling prints, mugs, bound collections of Selected Essays, with the profits used to keep the lights on in this scholastic and engaging corner of the internet.

The public domain itself is a treasure trove of cultural artefacts often hidden by the complexities and rules in copyright law. Luckily, The Public Domain Review exists to spotlight these relics and even shows you how to find your own out-of-copyright gems. Below are some of my favorite exhibits and essays from The Public Domain Review.

Collection: Japanese Depictions of North Americans (1860s).

Collection: W. E. B. Du Bois’ Hand-Drawn Infographics of African-American Life (1900).

Collection: Hopi Drawings of Kachinas (1903).

Essays: Emma Willard’s Maps of Time.

Collections: The Surreal Art of Alchemical Diagrams.

Find out more about the public domain in UT Libraries collections and guides:

-Still not sure what the public domain is or want to know more about copyright and fair use? See the library’s Copyright Crash Course guide.

-Take a look at the list of works that entered the public domain in 2021 on UT Austin’s Open Access blog here.  

-Fire insurance has never been more exciting than when depicted in the colorful, aesthetically pleasing Sanborn Fire Maps from the PCL Map Collection.

Read, Hot & Digitized: Bulgarian Dialectology as Living Tradition

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

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

The website’s homepage.

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

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

A map showing where interviews were recorded within Bulgaria.

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

The wordform search interface.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Portal Magazine Presents Benson Centennial Edition

LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections is pleased to announce the publication of Portal magazine’s Benson Centennial edition, available online at llilasbensonmagazine.org.

In anticipation of the centennial of the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection in 2021, this issue features articles by faculty, students, scholars, and staff that highlight a wide array of collections in areas as diverse as art history, feminist theory, Black diaspora, Indigenous studies, Mexican film, and more. A special selection of Staff Picks surveys items in the collection chosen and written about by staff in short feature pieces. Truly, this issue has something for everyone, including information on how to support the Benson Centennial Endowment.

Annotated contents of Portal‘s Benson Centennial issue follow below.

Portal 2019–2020, Benson Centennial Edition 

From the Director

FEATURES

Diego Godoy, Inside the Agrasánchez Collection of Mexican Cinema—An entertaining and engaging look at a collection of historical Mexican cinema materials that will make you want to watch a bunch of these movies.

Still from the Agrasánchez Collection of Mexican Cinema, Benson Latin American Collection

Matthew Butler and John Erard, The Hijuelas Books: Digitizing Indigenous Archives in Mexico—A history professor and a first-year student teamed up to write this article on what is being learned by digitizing important historical records in Michoacán, Mexico.

Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Decolonial Feminists Unite! Dorothy Schons and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz—Award-winning Chicana feminist author Alicia Gaspar de Alba explores the fascinating yet tragic story of UT scholar Dorothy Schons (1890–1961), whose groundbreaking research on the Mexican poet, intellectual, and nun Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1648–1695) was dismissed by her colleagues at the time. 

Miguel Cabrera, Portrait of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, c. 1750

Julia Detchon, To and From the “Real” World: Concrete Art and Poetry in Latin America—This piece, by an Art and Art History PhD candidate, explores the Concrete art and poetry movement and its artistic and intellectual foundations.

Voices of Black Brazilian Feminism: Conversations with Rosana Paulino and Sueli Carneiro—Rosana Paulino is a visual artist and Black Brazilian feminist; Sueli Carneiro is an author and one of the foremost feminist intellectuals in Brazil. Both were keynote speakers at the February 2020 Lozano Long Conference on Black women’s intellectual contributions to the Americas. Interviewed here by UT faculty members Christen A. Smith (Anthropology, AADS, LLILAS, dir. of Center for Women’s and Gender Studies) and Lorraine Leu (LLILAS / Spanish & Portuguese).

Daniel Arbino, (Self)Love in the Time of COVID—Reflections from Benson head of special collections on themes of self-care and solitude in the Benson’s Latino zine collection. 

David A. Bliss, Selections from the LADI Repository—Bliss, digital processing archivist at the Benson, highlights collections in the Latin American Digital Initiatives repository. These are vulnerable archival collections that are now available online due to Mellon grant–funded collaborations between LLILAS Benson and Latin American archival partners. 

STAFF PICKS: FAVORITES FROM THE BENSON COLLECTION 

Brooke Womack, Catalina de Erauso o sea la monja de alferes, a 19th-century text on a 16th-century nun who was born a woman and obtained permission to dress as a man in the Spanish army.

Susanna Sharpe, La Inocencia acrisolada de los pacientes jesuanos, 1816, on a stunningly illustrated rare book in the collection. 

Joshua G. Ortiz Baco, Arbol cronologico del descubrimiento de las Americas, 1864, on a map of the Americas in which the continent is depicted as a tree. 

Arbol cronologico geografico del descubrimiento de las Americas, 1864

Albert A. Palacios, Student Activism in the Archives, 1969, 1970. Items from Texas and Uruguay are but two of the many examples of student activism in the Benson’s archives. 

Dylan Joy, Ernesto Cardenal in Solentiname, 1970s, explores the spiritual artists’ community of Solentiname founded by the lateNicaraguan poet, priest, and politician Ernesto Cardenal (1925–2020), whose archive is at the Benson.   

Zaria El-Fil, Black Freedom Struggle and the University, 1977, focused on the John L. Warfield Papers and written by fourth-year student Zaria El-Fil, the 2019–20 AKA Scholars Black Diaspora Archive intern.   

Blackprint, Monthly Black Culture and Feature Supplement to The Daily Texan, March 30, 1977. John L. Warfield Papers

Ryan Lynch, Manifesto ao povo nordestino, 1982, discusses a Brazilian political archive and showcases how political themes are discussed in cordel literature, cheap chapbooks popular in Brazil.  

Susanna Sharpe, Camas para Sueños by Carmen Lomas Garza, 1985. The Benson is the repository for the archive of artist Carmen Lomas Garza, a native of Kingsville, Texas, whose highly popular and well-known artworks evoke many aspects of Chicano life and culture in the Rio Grande Valley and elsewhere. 

Daniel Arbino, Tecuichpoch / Doña Isabel de Moctezuma—Madre del Mestizaje, 2016, showcases the artwork of Catalina Delgado-Trunk, inspired by Mexican papel picado (paper cutouts).

CENTENNIAL 

Celebrating a Century A brief history of the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection)  

Message from the Benson Collection Director A message from Melissa Guy

The Power of Giving Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long, The Castañeda Legacy, Benson Centennial Fund

Read, Hot & Digitized: Translatio

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

Digitization Project “Translatio” website header, featuring an image of al-Fukāha magazine.

“Translatio” at the University of Bonn—a project of the Department of Islamic Studies and Middle Eastern Languages—seeks to make Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Turkish periodicals published between 1860 and 1945 available online for free. The periodicals are selected from a number of partner institutions and digitized at the University of Bonn. The digital surrogates are then made available in a readable and downloadable version through the University’s digital collections website. “Translatio” strives, in its first phase, to focus on digitizing complete or mostly complete runs of periodicals (although it is evident that some of the titles are not nearly complete; UT Austin has acquired and is processing a complete set of al-Ḥurriyya, although there is only one volume extant in the “Translatio” database). The next phase will likely turn to less complete and single issues of periodicals that still bear cultural, historical, and research significance. The current collaborators include Bamberg University Library, Oriental Seminar of the University of Freiburg, Mainz University Library, Bavarian State Library Munich, Tübingen University Library, and the University of Bonn. Although “Translatio” is not a digital scholarship project in the conventional sense, it is still a novel gathering of digitized Middle Eastern periodicals that offers tantalizing opportunities for researchers engaged with traditional and digital methods.

A view of the short description (in German) and bibliography for the journal Ṣaḥīfat Dār al-ʿUlūm.

Access to the digitized periodicals is quite user-friendly: they are organized by language group, and then alphabetically by title. Each title expands into a brief description of the periodical (in German), a short bibliography when available, and a link to the digital images. Transliteration follows the German standard, and metadata fields are indicated in German. Some understanding of German, therefore, is helpful for navigating the site and the contents of the periodicals (Google Translate, alone or via the Chrome browser, works well in this case). The metadata for each periodical is given at the title level, and users can click through individual issues to see issue-level metadata. The metadata does not include information on editors and authors, which would be desirable for researchers, but would also take an incredible amount of labor on the side of the project workers. This could be an area for future development.

Landing page for access to the digitized issues of Ṣaḥīfat Dār al-ʿUlūm, including metadata for the journal, a list of PDF files, and a thumbnail of the opening page of the publication.

As for the digital images of the periodicals: they can be downloaded in PDF or JPEG format and saved directly to the user’s device. The images are of adequate quality for researchers who wish to use them much like they would a microform newspaper, by scanning, browsing, and reading. However, the quality of many of the titles is not high enough to capture physical details of the ink or paper, and would not lend itself to optical character recognition (OCR). That is perhaps both the primary frustration and the arena of greatest possibility with this project: all of these digitized periodicals are begging to be put through OCR so that they may be full-text searchable and instrumentalized as a corpus for distant reading. That would certainly be a groundbreaking development for the field of Middle Eastern Studies.

A screenshot of the international digital projects and collections that “Translatio” links on their website.

It is, nevertheless, significant that researchers have access to all of these excellent and important Middle Eastern periodicals in one place. Additionally—and this librarian’s favorite aspect of the project—the project website includes a clearinghouse of digital Middle Eastern periodicals collections from institutions around the world. Thus, Bonn’s digitized periodicals do not live in complete isolation from similar efforts on the web; rather, one can use the “Translatio” website as a starting place for research across a number of related collections. Researchers using UT Libraries’ print collections have the opportunity to interact with some of these titles in person as well, including al-Balāgh al-ʿUsbūʿī, al-Bayān, and Sharq, among others. The next step in the evolution of the relationships among these collections would be a federated search across all of them simultaneously—and this librarian would love to see a digital reading interface that observes the right-to-left directionality of all three languages in this project—but let’s take this one step at a time. The “Translatio” team at Bonn has much to celebrate.

WHIT’S PICKS: TAKE 8 – GEMS FROM THE HMRC

Resident poet and rock and roll star Harold Whit Williams is in the midst of a project to catalog the KUT Collection, obtained a few years ago and inhabiting a sizable portion of the Historical Music Recordings Collection (HMRC).

Being that he has a refined sense of both words and music, Whit seems like a good candidate for exploring and discovering some overlooked gems in the trove, and so in this occasional series, he’ll be presenting some of his noteworthy finds.

Earlier installments: Take 1Take 2Take 3Take 4Take 5Take 6, Take 7

Deidre Rodman / Sun is Us

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

University of North Texas jazz alum and pianist/composer Rodman takes the high road (compositionally and performance-wise) on this impressive debut album. The songs suggest a bittersweet maturity beyond her years, all the while digging on a film noir/back-alley ambiance courtesy of NYC instrumentalists. One detects masterful moments of Mingus or McCoy, but turns out it’s Ahmad Jamal and Herbie Hancock to whom Rodman mostly nods. A moody, mysterious, thematically cohesive collection.

Mark Insley/ Tucson

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

Bare-boned and gritty country rock from the longtime SoCal troubadour Mark Insley. Think of that Bakersfield sound gone cowpunk. Insley co-produces – this, his second album – along with Paul du Gre (Los Lobos, Sheryl Crow, Dave Alvin), and the result is pure Americana gold. Bad bruising kickers give way to end-of-the-bar sad ballads, while those introspective and hard-luck lyrics weave everything together into a Southwestern storyteller’s sarape. A late-night soundtrack for the road-weary heart.  

Wide Hive Players / Wide Hive Players

Availabe at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

This Bay Area soul/jazz collective brings some serious souped-up grooveon their self-titled debut album. Wide Hive Records label founder and organist Gregory Howe leads the winding way along with songwriting accomplice Matt Montgomery on piano and bass. Apart from one track featuring the incredible jazz diva Faye Carol on vocals, the album is stripped-down, instrumental, and righteously funky. Head-nodding, hip-shaking, mood-enhancing aural medicine. The base elements of R&B – good for what ails you.

Bingo Trappers / Juanita Ave.

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

Lo-fi masterminds Waldemar Noë and Wim Elzinga wear an affinity for raw Sixties-era music like a badge upon their faded denim sleeves. With equal parts Velvet Underground, The Byrds, and (gone electric) Dylan, this Amsterdam retro-rock duo revels in lazy breezy jingle-jangle pop songs. Add in analog-recorded warmth to their sunshiny living room vibe, and the album just melds together like some dear old summer friend’s mixtape. Truly, truly groovy.

Sam Moore / Plenty Good Lovin’

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

Released over thirty years after its capture at NYC’s Atlantic Studios, this Sam Moore (of Sam & Dave fame) solo debut album celebrates the singer’s supremely soulful voice with a mixed gift bag of mostly covers. Showcasing classic production by tenor sax legend King Curtis, big-boned R&B backbeats by Bernard Purdie, and even Aretha Franklin sitting in on keyboards(!), Moore dazzles and thrills on each track. The finest of Fine Art, the highest of a higher calling, and truly essential American music.

[Harold Whit Williams is a Content Management Specialist in Music & Multimedia Resources. He writes poetry, is guitarist for the critically acclaimed rock band Cotton Mather, and releases lo-fi guitar-heavy indie pop as DAILY WORKER.]