Category Archives: Read Hot and Digitized

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.

Read, Hot and Digitized: Digital Resources from the Arab Latin American Diaspora

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.

Katie L. Coldiron is the Global Studies Digital Projects GRA at Perry-Castañeda Library and a current graduate student at the School of Information. She also has an M.A. in Latin American Studies. 

Arab migration to the Americas is a unique phenomenon, particularly in the context of northern South America. While Arabs came to the Americas fleeing such events as the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the Armenian Genocide, they mainly went to the countries of the Southern Cone and Brazil, which are known for welcoming more immigrants than their other Latin American counterparts. Colombia and Venezuela, which are referred to as sister countries, tend to be portrayed outside their borders in a negative light, rather than for that which makes up their rich and diverse cultures. This post is an effort to highlight a group of migrants that came to Colombia and Venezuela and remain there today, both assimilating into their respective countries while also keeping their traditions alive. Furthermore, the existence of these digital primary resources provides a necessary means of continuing academic research in the midst of a global pandemic. The ability to have first-hand accounts readily available of a particular diaspora is a privilege of the digital age, and a mechanism of democratization for the cultural record.

Instituto de Cultura Árabe de Colombia

Through my research into the Arab-Colombian diaspora and conversations with prominent scholars on the subject, I was put in touch with Odette Yidi David of Barranquilla. The city of Barranquilla became a hub for Arab migration to Colombia in the early 20th century due to its proximity to the Port Colombia. Yidi David is a fourth generation Palestinian barranquillera and a scholar on the subject of Arabs in Latin America and the Caribbean. Currently she divides her time teaching at Barranquilla’s Universidad del Norte and serving as executive director of the Colombian Institute of Arab Culture.

Yidi David founded the Colombian Institute of Arab Culture with the intention of constructing bridges between Colombia and the Arab world, as well as generating and sharing responsible knowledge about the Arab world in Colombia.  The organization has offered Arabic language classes and talks on a variety of subjects pertaining to the Arab world, and even hosted an Arab culture festival in Barranquilla.  With the advent of social distancing, I have noticed an uptick in content they are sharing about digital events, as well as resources and other activities to pass the time of quarantine. Many Zoom panels have also been shared through their social media outlets, including ones that feature Yidi David herself. The Institute also regularly hosts talks on Arab dance and even virtual dance classes. These posts not only provide means of diversion in a time in which not many exist, but also create larger awareness of the existence of the Arab diaspora in Colombia. While prominent families, beauty queens, and even the singer Shakira have brought notoriety to the diaspora, the Institute goes beyond a few notable faces to show that Arab culture is alive in the Colombian Caribbean. Their social media includes Instagram and Facebook.

Los libaneses en Venezuela

My research also led me to the blog “Los libaneses en Venezuela,” or “The Lebanese in Venezuela.” This blog is the product of Venezuelan-Lebanese journalist Tony Frangie Mawad, who regularly contributes to outlets like Caracas Chronicles. To create this blog, Frangie Mawad did recorded interviews with multiple Lebanese immigrants to Venezuela who arrived from the 1940s to 1960s, and chronicled their stories individually. Due to his familial ties to the Lebanese diaspora of Caracas, finding the individuals to interview was, in the words of Frangie Mawad, “only a question of picking up the phone and telling them or their kids about the project.” A photographer friend also helped Frangie Mawad with photographing the featured individuals. The accounts are very personal and are contextualized within the atmospheres of Lebanon and Venezuela at the time. The blog can be found here.

For more information on UT’s and other Open Access materials on the Arab Diaspora in Latin America, check out this research guide: https://guides.lib.utexas.edu/ArabsinLatAm

Read, Hot and Digitized: Recursos digitales de la diáspora árabe latinoamericana

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.

Katie L. Coldiron is the Global Studies Digital Projects GRA at Perry-Castañeda Library and a current graduate student at the School of Information. She also has an M.A. in Latin American Studies. 

La inmigración árabe a las Américas es un fenómeno único, particularmente en el contexto del norte de Sudamérica.  Aunque es verdad que los árabes llegaron a las Américas huyendo de eventos como la caída del Imperio Otomano y el Genocidio Armenio, la mayoría fueron a los países del Cono Sur, los cuales son conocidos como mayores receptores de inmigrantes en América Latina. Colombia y Venezuela, los cuales se conocen como países hermanos, tienden a padecer de una imagen negativa en el extranjero, menos por sus culturas ricas y diversas. Este blog es un esfuerzo para mostrar un grupo de inmigrantes que llegaron a Colombia y Venezuela y hoy siguen allá, que igualmente se asimilaron en sus países respectivos, pero preservaron sus propias tradiciones. Además, la existencia de estos recursos digitales primarios provee una manera necesaria para la propagación de investigaciones académicas durante una pandemia mundial. El acceso a los recursos primarios de una diáspora específica es un privilegio de la época digital, y un mecanismo de democratización del archivo cultural.

Instituto de Cultura Árabe de Colombia

A través de mi investigación sobre la diáspora árabe-colombiana y conversaciones con eruditas conocidas de este tema, me puse en contacto con Odette Yidi David de Barranquilla, Colombia. La ciudad de Barranquilla se volvió un centro de migración árabe por su proximidad a Puerto Colombia. Yidi David es una palestina barranquillera de cuarta generación y experta del tema de los árabes en América Latina y el Caribe. Actualmente, ella divide su tiempo entre labores en la Universidad del Norte de Barranquilla y como directora ejecutiva del Instituto de Cultura Árabe de Colombia.

Yidi David fundó el Instituto de Cultura Árabe de Colombia con el propósito de “construir puentes de diálogo entre Colombia y el mundo árabe” y también “generar y compartir conocimiento responsable sobre el mundo árabe en Colombia.” La organización ha ofrecido clases del idioma árabe y charlas sobre una variedad de temas del mundo árabe. Además, hicieron un festival de cultura árabe en Barranquilla. Con el arranco del distanciamiento social, he notado que el Instituto comparte más sobre eventos virtuales, y también recursos y otras actividades para pasar el tiempo en cuarentena. Se comparten muchos paneles de Zoom en sus redes sociales, que incluyen a la misma Yidi David. El Instituto también tiene charlas de danza árabe y hasta clases virtuales de danza. Estas publicaciones no solo proveen una manera de divertirse cuando no hay otras opciones, sino también crean más conocimiento sobre la existencia de la diáspora árabe en Colombia. A pesar de que ciertas familias conocidas, reinas de belleza, y la cantante Shakira han traído fama a la diáspora, el Instituto va más allá que unas pocas caras conocidas para mostrar que la cultura árabe está viva en el Caribe colombiano. Sus redes sociales incluyen Instagram y Facebook.

Los libaneses en Venezuela

Mi investigación también me llevó al blog “Los libaneses en Venezuela.” Este blog es el producto del periodista venezolano libanés Tony Frangie Mawad, quien contribuye regularmente a medios como Caracas Chronicles. Para crear este blog, Frangie Mawad entrevistó a inmigrantes libaneses que llegaron a Venezuela desde los 40 hasta los 60, y registró sus historias individualmente. Por sus lazos familiares a la diáspora libanesa de Caracas, encontrar dichos individuos fue, en las palabras de Frangie Mawad “solo cuestión de levantar el teléfono y contarles sobre el proyecto o a sus hijos.” Un amigo fotógrafo también le ayudó a tomar las fotos de los personajes incluidos. Los testimonios son muy personales y se contextualizan dentro de los ambientes del Líbano y Venezuela de la época. El blog se encuentra aquí.

Para más información sobre los recursos de UT y acceso abierto de la diáspora árabe en América Latina, vea esta guía de investigación: https://guides.lib.utexas.edu/ArabsinLatAm

Read, Hot and Digitized: Maritime Asia: War and Trade

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.

Maritime Asia: War and Trade is a multi-media Drupal site which introduces viewers to the complexities of 17th century war and trade in East and Southeast Asia. The open educational resource (OER) is a collaboration among UT History Professor Adam Clulow, Professor Xing Hang at Brandeis University, and the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University (RRCHNM). This open educational resource can be used effectively for outreach and teaching.

In the historical documents presented and examined on the site, six power contenders are involved: two armed maritime powers, the Zheng family of China & Taiwan and the Dutch East India Company (VOC), two major land agrarian powers, Qing China and Tokugawa Japan, and two continental trade powers, Siam (now Thailand) and Cambodia who took advantages in this global trade and diplomacy competition among major powers. It is interesting to note that the main actors involved were all extensively global.

The website for Maritime Asia: War and Trade has five main themes through which the viewer can explore this multifaceted history:

  • Maritime Exercise. This part of the website functions as an open educational resource (OER) classroom simulation exercise targeted to 11th and 12th graders and post-secondary students. An instructor’s packet of lesson plans and interesting and inspiring questions for student debate can be downloaded.  
  • Exhibits. Included here are exhibitions of documents that highlight the history of the Zheng family and the Dutch VOC. For example, the first generation of the Zheng family, Zheng Zhilong of southeast China, was globally successful in both piracy and trade from Japan to Siam (now Thailand).  As a player in the Ming Dynasty, Zheng Zhilong was appointed “Admiral of the Coastal Seas.” His son, Zheng Chenggong (Koxinga), was born in Japan to a Japanese mother. Koxinga continued his father’s powerful maritime trade and military pursuits after his father’s had surrendered to Qing China in 1644 (and was executed in 1661). Koxinga defeated the Dutch in 1662, forcing out their colonial powers from Taiwan, and he shifted the Zheng family stronghold from China to Taiwan. Another exhibit from the website displays Dutch VOC highlighting their ships and the fort they built in Taiwan.

  • Timeline.  This portion of the website graphically documents major events among the 6 powers throughout the 17th century, from 1600 to 1683.     
  • Key actors.  Exploring individual personalities is one of the most compelling ways to dive into history.  Included here are presentations of individuals such as Zheng Zhilong, the founding patriarch of the Zheng family, Joan Maetsuycker, a governor-general from the VOC, Tokugawa Ietsuna of Japan, Kangxi Emperor of China, King Paramaraja VIII of Cambodia and King Narai of Siam (now Thailand).
  • Archive.  The Maritime Asia website highlights and provides contextualized access to primary source documents.  While the physical artefacts are housed in the Nationaal Archief of the Netherlands and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, users can access the digital surrogates through the website. 

Further readings on related subjects:

大航海時代與17世紀台灣 Age of exploration and the 17th century Taiwan)
鄭成功來臺 (Zheng Chenggong came to Taiwan)
Two open source Chinese learning websites created by the Research Center for Digital Humanities, National Taiwan University.

Pillaging the Empire Global Piracy on the High Seas, 1500-1750. / Kris Lane. 2016.

Sea rovers, silver, and samurai: Maritime East Asia in global history, 1550-1700 / edited by Tonio Andrade and Xing Hang. 2016.

Encounters: the meeting of Asia and Europe, 1500-1800 / Edited by Anna Jackson & Amin Jaffer. 2004.

Maritime Taiwan: historical encounters with the East and the West / Shih-shan Henry Tsai. 2009.

The colonial ‘civilizing process’ in Dutch Formosa, 1624-1662 / Chiu Hsin-hui, 2008

Formosa under the Dutch: described from the contemporary records / by Rev. Wm. Campbell. 2019.

Lost colony: the untold story of China’ first great victory over the West / Tonio Andrade. 2011.

How Taiwan became Chinese: Dutch, Spanish, and Han colonization in the seventeenth century / Tonio Andrade. 2008.

The Dutch impact on Japan (1640-1853) / Goodman, Grant Kohn. Leiden, E.J. Brill, 1967.

Japan and the Dutch, 1600-1853 /  Grant Kohn Goodman. 2000.

The quest for civilization: encounters with Dutch jurisprudence, political economy, and statistics at the dawn of modern Japan / Okubo Takeharu. 2014. 

Jan Compagnie in Japan, 1600-1817; an essay on the cultural, artistic and scientific influence exercised by the Hollanders in Japan from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries / C.R. Boxer. 1936.

Dawn of Western science in Japan. Rangaku kotohajime / Genpaku Sugita.  1969

Mapping Access

Read, hot & digitized: Librarians and the digital scholarship they love — In this series, librarians from the Libraries’ Arts, Humanities and Global Studies Engagement Team briefly present, explore and critique existing examples of digital scholarship to encourage and inspire critical reflection of and future creative contributions to the growing fields of digital scholarship.

Mapping Access is a crowdsourced mapping and data visualization project started at Vanderbilt University through their Critical Design Lab that examines physical and social barriers on the Vanderbilt campus. Professor Aimi Hamraie began the project as a Dean’s Fellowship in 2016 with a small $2500 grant from the National Humanities Alliance and in partnership with the Nashville Feminist Collective.  Vanderbilt University Library Fellow Leah Samples was charged with planning and execution of the project.  The initial goal was to assess and map the accessibility of spaces around Vanderbilt and Nashville in order to provide necessary information to disabled users for navigating around campus but also more generally to gain insights and to look critically into the accessibility of built environments.  The project’s website explains that Mapping Access was informed and influenced by methods and theories from disability justice, the environmental humanities, intersectionality, and critical GIS to look beyond code compliance and satisfying legal standards to create a more human centered approach to accessibility.   As such, it exemplifies one of the key principles of the Universal Design movement, namely that features that help disabled users will also yield benefits to non-disabled users.  

Leah Samples used geospatial data, participatory research, urban cartography and mobile technologies to achieve the aims of the project. Through the use of focus groups, project members were able to build and refine a survey that was ultimately managed in REDcap, a survey and data collection app created at Vanderbilt.  Project members organized a one day Map-A-Thon where volunteers could add relevant data to a map of the University. In the Map-A-Thon, 120 participants surveyed the campus for accessible features and barriers and updated a live map with images and descriptive text so all participants could view the project’s progress and see which buildings were being mapped.  .  A live Twitter stream also allowed the team to track progress in real-time. The event featured panel discussions and speakers throughout the day highlighting the intersectional nature of disability studies. 

After gathering data from the live mapping event, team members reviewed and cleaned the data, they visualized the GIS data using R and Shiny, and they created JSON drafts that were edited in Atom.  The resulting Campus Access Amenities Map examines not only accessible features such as automatic doors, ramps, and sidewalk obstructions (permanent and impermanent); it also highlights inclusive features such as all-gender bathrooms, lactation rooms, prayer and meditation spaces, showers and Blue Light Security stations.  

In her article, “Mapping Access: Digital Humanities, Disability Justice, and Sociospatial Practice,“ project founder Aimi Hamrae analyzes the impact and  impetus of projects like Mapping Access and their communitarian aims:

“New digital projects use geographic information systems (GIS) and crowdsourcing applications to gather data about the accessibility of public spaces for disabled people. While these projects offer useful tools, their approach to technology and disability is often depoliticized. Compliance-based maps take disability for granted as medical impairment and do not consider mapping as a humanistic and activist practice. This essay draws on digital humanities theories of “thick mapping” and critical disability theories of public citizenship to offer critical accessibility mapping as an alternative to compliance-focused mapping. Using Mapping Access as a case study, I frame digital mapping as a question-generating device, a site of narrative praxis, rather than mere data visualization. I argue that critical accessibility mapping offers a digital humanities-informed model of “sociospatial practice,” with several distinct benefits: it recognizes marginalized experts; redefines the concepts of data, crowdsourcing, and public participation; offers new stories about disability and public belonging; and materializes the principles of disability justice, an early twentieth-century movement emphasizing intersectionality and collective access.”

Digital accessibility maps are becoming more commonplace either through commercial apps or crowdsourced digital humanities projects like Mapping Access.    These kinds of initiatives can not only yield direct and tangible results to help people with disabilities get around but more importantly, they offer critical insights into the built environment that can influence architects and policy makers to make meaningful changes to create accessible spaces for all. 

citations

Elwood, S., Schuurman, N. & Wilson, W. (2011). Critical gis. In T. L. Nyerges H. Couclelis & R. McMaster The SAGE handbook of GIS and society(pp. 87-106). London: SAGE Publications Ltd doi: 10.4135/9781446201046.n5

Hamraie, Aimi. “Mapping Access: Digital Humanities, Disability Justice, and Sociospatial Practice.” American Quarterly, vol. 70 no. 3, 2018, p. 455-482. Project MUSE, https://muse.jhu.edu/article/704333

Hamraie, Aimi. Building Access : Universal Design and the Politics of Disability / Aimi Hamraie. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017. Print.

https://search.lib.utexas.edu/permalink/01UTAU_INST/be14ds/alma991046135289706011

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

Read, hot & digitized: Librarians and the digital scholarship they love — In this series, librarians from the Libraries’ Arts, Humanities and Global Studies Engagement Team briefly present, explore and critique existing examples of digital scholarship to encourage and inspire critical reflection of and future creative contributions to the growing fields of digital scholarship.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Red, Hot and Digitized: Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies

Read, hot & digitized: Librarians and the digital scholarship they love — In this series, librarians from the Libraries’ Arts, Humanities and Global Studies Engagement Team briefly present, explore and critique existing examples of digital scholarship to encourage and inspire critical reflection of and future creative contributions to the growing fields of digital scholarship.

Together with diaries and memoirs in print, audio-visual testimonies are primary sources that shed light on the lived experience of people who experienced the Holocaust.  There are a few institutions around the world that produce, curate, and publish such testimonies;[1] one of them is the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale university. The mission of the Fortunoff archive is to “record and project the stories of those who were there.” Established in 1981, and based on a donation of testimonies previously videotaped since 1979 by The Holocaust Survivors Film Project, the archive works to record, collect, and preserve Holocaust witness testimonies, and to make its collection available to researchers, educators, and the general public.[2]

Fred Alford, professor emeritus of the university of Maryland, researches the way trauma becomes embedded in nations, societies, and groups[3]; upon his research in the Fortunoff archive, he asserted that “testimonies are important [because they] make a historical abstraction real.”[4] Witnesses remind us that the Holocaust was made of people, victims, and executioners. He argues that a proper psychoanalytic interpretation can help us understand not merely the suffering of survivors, but can remind us of an equally important fact: “…. that for every torment there was a tormenter, for every degradation a degrader, for every humiliation one who inflicted it. For every death a murderer……”

He goes on to say that “We listen to witnesses in order to understand their suffering, and we seek to understand their suffering in order to understand better regimes of organized terror and the role they play in our lives……We listen to witnesses in order to remember better that their suffering comes at the hands of regimes that are made of people.”[5]

The Fortunoff archive currently holds more than 4,400 testimonies, which are comprised of over 12,000 recorded hours. Testimonies were produced in cooperation with 36 affiliated projects across North America, South America, Europe, and Israel. The archive and its affiliates recorded the testimonies of willing individuals with first-hand experience of the Nazi persecutions, including those who were in hiding, survivors, bystanders, resistants, and liberators. Testimonies were recorded in whatever language the witness preferred, and range in length from 30 minutes to over 40 hours (recorded over several sessions).

While the database allows for various searching, sorting, and limiting options – using the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) as a form of a common controlled vocabulary – it also has more advanced Digital Humanities tools which were developed together with the Yale DHLab.

Let them speak (LTS) is a digital anthology of testimonies from three different collections – United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), the Shoah Foundation at the University of Southern California (USC VA), and the Fortunoff archive. The anthology includes a search tool that employs corpus query language which allows for more sophisticated searches like Lemma searches. The goal is to demonstrate the value of these linguistics tools for exploring large numbers of audiovisual materials, as well as make a first attempt to bring collections of testimonies into the same digital space. The LTS tool is slated to go live by December 2020.

The Collection metadata dashboard is a visual representation of the collection descriptions, as it allows filtering by various parameters, such as date (birth year and recording year), birth place, subject, gender, language of testimony, and affiliate programs from which testimonies were received. One could access each testimony directly from the dashboard. A useful functionality is the ability to search for subject headings in the dashboard and limit the results further by additional parameters. For example, a search for the term “childbirth” would reveal five subject headings related to the term; clicking on “childbirth in concentration camps” would bring up 98 testimonies.

The Testimony citation database shows data on cited testimonies, publications that cited them, and the authors of those publications. Some authors’ names are linked to the author’s website, their page on the OCLC WorldCat Identities database, or their authority file on the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF) database. Searching for Fred Alford, the scholar cited above, one would realize that he has made 60 citations to 26 testimonies in 5 publications. These testimonies and publications are linked from the results page.

The Fortunoff archive is open to any student or researcher either on site, or online through an ‘access site.’ Currently there are 84 access sites around the world in academic libraries, museums, and research centers. The University of Texas Libraries has joined the project as an access site in summer 2019. The archive is accessible to UT affiliates both on and off campus, as well as to non-UT walk-in visitors on campus. All users would need to create an account with Yale’s Aviary, the archive’s digital access system. Searching and browsing is done through that personal account. There is no cost involved. UT affiliates could also access their Aviary account, and the archive, through a proxy connection to UT and/or a VPN.

The UT Libraries holds 390 items (in print and online) that deal with personal narratives and testimonies of holocaust survivors. Most of these items are autobiographies or diaries, while others are audiovisual materials, research and analysis of personal narratives, and collections of individual testimonies. The Fortunoff database itself is also accessible through the library catalog.


[1] The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), The Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem, The British Library (London), and The University of Southern California (USC) Shoah Foundation.

[2] https://fortunoff.library.yale.edu/about-us/our-story/

[3] https://gvpt.umd.edu/facultyprofile/alford/c-fred

[4] Alford, C. Why Holocaust Testimony is Important, and how Psychoanalytic Interpretation can Help…but only to a Point. Psychoanal Cult Soc 13, 221–239 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1057/pcs.2008.16

[5] Ibid.


Read, Hot and Digitized: Wish you were here! Early Postcards from India

Read, hot & digitized: Librarians and the digital scholarship they love — In this series, librarians from the Libraries’ Arts, Humanities and Global Studies Engagement Team briefly present, explore and critique existing examples of digital scholarship to encourage and inspire critical reflection of and future creative contributions to the growing fields of digital scholarship.

The Indian subcontinent gained independence from Britain in 1947, ending centuries of colonial influence and rule, thereby creating the nation states of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh (Bangladesh was East Pakistan until 1971).  Like elsewhere, the “colonial project” in India took many forms and could be readily observed through examples such as the built environment, changes in civil infrastructure, and ultimately in ways of documenting and “knowing.”  Contemporaries in the colonial period noted (and in some cases celebrated) these changes in many ways too, leaving traces such as official documents and reports, personal narratives including diaries, and even ephemera.  As students of history, we desperately need these primary sources to nuance our awareness of what happened in the colonial period and of how people understood the events at the time.   We need documentary mnemonics.   In this post, I highlight a social media project that encourages us to look closely at postcards as sources to inform our understandings of both what was considered as important (the visuals on the cards themselves) as well as how information traveled and gained collective traction (the sending and receiving of the cards, not to mention what might be written on them). 

As I write this from a scenic spot in Austin on a lovely spring day, I see many folks with their cell phones out, ready to take pictures.  I’m not sure why they’re feeling compelled to take the pictures—maybe to help them remember this pleasant day, maybe to document things they haven’t seen before, maybe to share with friends and family later, inviting them to imagine Austin along with them.  Whatever the reason, this now ubiquitous phenomenon of quick, easy and cheap photo sharing feels simultaneously both very “natural” and very “21st century.”

Hindu Woman on a Bike

Delightful digital projects such as the “Early Postcards from India,” however, challenge my assumption that an ephemeral capturing and sharing images is a particularly “contemporary” activity.  As School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) visual anthropologists Stephen Hughes and Emily Stevenson explain,

“For anyone who has lived through the recent emergence of the Internet, social media, camera phones, and digital-printing technologies, it is perhaps all too easy to assume that the rapid and large-scale circulation of photographic images is a uniquely twenty-first-century phenomenon… A growing body of literature demonstrates that since its invention, in the mid-nineteenth century, photography has always circulated, moving among different spaces, discourses, and material forms.. Of the various nineteenth-century photographic innovations, the humble picture postcard was the most widely traveled of them all.”(1)

In “Early Postcards from India,” Hughes and Stevenson build on the success of their earlier physical exhibits of postcards as historical documents.  They creatively exploit Instagram’s social media platform to reintroduce and redistribute the visual memories captured in and on early postcards from India.  The chosen platform is unpretentious in layout, openly accessible to anyone with an Instagram account, and constantly growing–they have a new image and related provocative or didactic post daily.  Their use of Instagram, one of the most widely adopted and therefore “traveled” image innovations, to continue the circulation and consumption of these images, is a simple but highly effective stroke of genius.   

Metro Cinema, Kolkata

The content in “Early Postcards” is wide-ranging: it includes images of monuments, of municipal infrastructures, of “anthropological types.”  As such, the images evoke feelings of nostalgia, of curiosity, of unease, and perhaps, of collective regret.  Thanks to Hughes and Stevenson for sharing these images so we can all collectively participate in the critiques and (re)writings of history.

Those interested in further exploring the history of postcards, of visual representation(s) and of colonial India might find these helpful starting points:

Akbar, Sohail, “An Exploration of the Early History of the Nation through Personal Photographs.” photographies 6:1 (2013): 7–15.

Jhingan, Madhukar, Post Card Catalogue of India and Native States (New Delhi: We Philatelists, 1979).

Khan, Omar, Paper Jewels: postcards from the Raj (Ahmedabad, India: Mapin Publishing, 2018).

Mathur, Saloni, India by Design : Colonial History and Cultural Display (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007.

Nenadic, Stana, “Exhibiting India in Nineteenth-Century Scotland and the Impact on Commerce, Industry and Popular Culture” Journal of Scottish Historical Studies 34.1 (2014): 67–89.

Pinney, Christopher, Camera Indica : the Social Life of Indian Photographs (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997).

Ponsford, Megan, “Photographic Reportage and the Colonial Imaginary,” Sport in Society 22:1 (2019): 160–184.

Seth, Vijay, and J. R. Nanda. Centenary of Indian Airmails, 1911-2014 (New Delhi: Indian Aviation Research Foundation, 2014).

Notes:

(1) Hughes, Stephen and Emily Stevenson, “South India Addresses the World: Postcards, Circulation, and EmpireCirculation 9:2 (2019).

Quantitative Criticism Lab, or What Happens When a Classicist and a Computational Biologist Walk into a Bar

Read, hot & digitized: Librarians and the digital scholarship they love — In this series, librarians from the Libraries’ Arts, Humanities and Global Studies Engagement Team briefly present, explore and critique existing examples of digital scholarship to encourage and inspire critical reflection of and future creative contributions to the growing fields of digital scholarship.

The Quantitative Criticism Lab (QCL) was formed in 2014 as a collaboration between humanists, computer scientists and computational biologists. The project’s unique combination of expertise informs its innovative approach to the computational analysis of Latin literature. And I’m not just saying that as a research assistant for the project!

The lab is led by Pramit Chaudhuri, an Associate Professor of Classics at the University of Texas at Austin, and Joseph Dexter, a computational biologist and Neukom Fellow at Dartmouth. They recruited me before I knew what digital humanities was, though I was certain that I wanted to do something more with my Classics undergraduate degree other than teaching fifth graders “Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” in Latin (“Caput, umeri, genua and pedes”, if you were wondering). 

This digital Classics project uses machine learning, natural language processing and systems biology to study Latin literature and its influence. QCL uses a computational approach to explore the traditional study of “philology”, or the development and history of language in text. The lab’s first development was its tool, Fīlum (Latin for the thread of a web), an apt name given the tool’s purpose to reveal relationships amongst Latin texts by identifying intertextual references in Latin literature. 

For an example of intertextuality, in the epic poem the Aeneid, Vergil uses the phrase “immane nefas”, meaning “huge wrongdoing” to refer to the unspeakable horrors of the underworld. Years later, the author Lucan, in his epic, the Pharsalia, references and adapts that phrase to “commune nefas”, or “collective wrongdoing”, to blame an entire community for the horrors of civil war. Fīlum aids scholars in discovering, tracking, and discussing such connections. 

So, what makes Fīlum better than a ctrl+f approach? In the example above, a scholar would have to search many texts to even possibly discover Lucan’s reference; with Fīlum, they can search many texts simultaneously. Furthermore, Fīlum can even detect phrasing similar to the search query. 

QCL’s computational approach tabulates similarity, using the concept of “edit distance”, or the number of character changes through additions, deletions or substitutions in two words or phrases. For example, the edit distance of “kitten” and “sitting” has an edit distance of 3. You substitute “k” with “s”, “e” with “i”, and add a “g” – three changes in total. 

What if you have a feeling the phrase you want to use in Fīlum, might be in a different word order? With “Order-Free” searching, the tool searches for any arrangement of the words in a phrase. This is an especially valuable feature since Latin often refuses to follow a regulated pattern of word order.

With its search phrase, edit distance and order free option, Fīlum searches through a selected text or a user-selected corpora of Latin literature from the site. With a free account, users can create a search corpus from a library of texts or upload their own. 

The output cleanly displays results distinguished by each text’s author, work, and highlights the relevant words in each result. For added context, when selected, each result displays the previous and following lines from the text for context.

I have enjoyed both working on Fīlum and using the tool for my research. As QCL continues to improve the tool, I hope other classicists will appreciate not only its value but the interdisciplinary method that built it. 

If you are interested in the project and its study, please stay tuned to information about an upcoming QCL sponsored conference in April, here on the UT Austin Campus:

Digital Humanities Beyond Modern English: Computational Analysis of Premodern and Non-Western Literature https://qcrit.github.io/DHBME/

For further reading on topics like digital classics and text analysis, please see below:

Digital classics outside the echo-chamber teaching, knowledge exchange & public engagement / edited by Gabriel Bodard and Matteo Romanello.

Text Analysis with R for Students of Literature by Matthew L. Jockers.

Critics, compilers, and commentators : an introduction to Roman philology, 200 BCE-800 CE / James E. G. Zetzel.

Philology : the forgotten origins of the modern humanities / James Turner.

UT Library Libguide on Text Analysis by European Studies Librarian, Ian Goodale

Read, Hot and Digitized: South by—The Border Studies Archive at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

BY DANIEL ARBINO

Read, hot & digitized: Librarians and the digital scholarship they love — In this series, librarians from the Libraries’ Arts, Humanities and Global Studies Engagement Team briefly present, explore and critique existing examples of digital scholarship to encourage and inspire critical reflection of and future creative contributions to the growing fields of digital scholarship.

The Border Studies Archive (BSA) at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) has fostered really interesting digital collections of borderlands materials in recent years. These projects include Traditional Mexican American Folklore; Border Wall and Border Security; Border Music; Latinas and Politics; Spanish Land Grants; and Visual Border Studies. Each of these collections offers insight into a vast array of cultural elements that combine to depict life along the U.S.­–Mexico border.

From non-Western healing practices to government documents on border patrol to land grants, the archive seeks to be as encompassing as possible for local community members and scholars conducting research. In fact, many times these cultural processes challenge the notion of a geopolitical border through transnational production like music, folklore, and curanderismo, as many of these elements exist on both sides of the border. Importantly, much of this information is offered through oral histories and video interviews to retain original voices.

UT Rio Grande Valley Border Studies Archive page.

One of the highlights is the BSA’s Border Music Collection, which contains rare regional music that has been donated by scholars and community members alike. This collection recalls local and now-defunct record companies, musicians of yesteryear, and a genre of local music that is threatened by globalization. But music is just one aspect of the collection. It also includes rare interviews with musicians who discuss their life and what influenced their songs. These interviews come via donations and also interviews conducted by the BSA or students in partnership with the BSA. To that end, the BSA contributes to the growth of its own archive by enlisting university students and the community to record these histories with high-quality equipment. The Border Music Collection continues to digitize old records and CDs for an online collection that offers excerpts of the larger collection.

Video interview with Guadalupe Wally Gonzalez on the UTRGV archive’s Border Music page.

Why go to all this trouble? For the curators, this archive builds a sense of community where everyone can learn something new from interacting with members. Perhaps more significantly, it opposes popular U.S. discourse that the borderland is only a violent space in need of heightened security. On the contrary, the archive portrays a vibrant society alive with unique cultural processes and innovation that has the potential to unite both sides of a border divided by “una herida abierta” (Anzaldúa 1987, 3).

Hidalgo County Land Grant Map, UTRGV Border Studies Archive.

Access to the Collections

University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is employing CONTENTdm to showcase these collections. This platform permits the embedding of different types of content, including audio, video, and text. Only some metadata is supplied with certain files, but the user has to dig around to find it; it’s not easily discoverable on the public-facing side of the site. However, the site’s content is fully available in both Spanish and English, an important recognition of the populations being served. Aside from the need for more robust metadata, there remains an opportunity for further digital scholarship that will surely come with time. The Spanish Land Grants section would benefit from additional visual mapping options like CARTO, for example. However, the current interactive map allows users to click on highlighted areas and watch short videos pertaining to the region.  

For music-related materials at the Benson Latin American Collection, please refer to: The Oscar Martinez Papers, Robert P. and Sugar C. Rodriguez Collection of Tejano Music, the Tish Hinojosa Papers, and the Dan Dickey Music Collection For oral histories, please see: Los del Valle Oral History Project and Voces Oral History Project. Finally, for visual renderings of some traditional healing practices, see Carmen Lomas Garza Papers and Artworks.

Citation

Anzaldúa, G.E. (1999). Borderlands/La Frontera. 2nd ed. San Francisco, CA: Aunt Lute Books.