Category Archives: Read Hot and Digitized

Read, Hot and Digitized: The Texas Archive of the Moving Image

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.

Preserving audio visual materials is one of the biggest challenges for archivists and preservationists. The Texas Archive of the Moving Image (TAMI) has approached the preservation of Texas’ film history in innovative and unprecedented ways for the last 20 years. The non-profit organization solicits any kind of film – home movies, advertisements, local television programs, corporate productions, amateur films and even professional movie productions, and offers to digitize them in exchange for a donation of the digital copy. As a result, TAMI has a digital archive of over 50,000 films by Texans or about Texas. Created by Caroline Frick, currently the Associate Chair of Media Studies in the Radio, Television and Film department at UT Austin, TAMI’s stated goals are to “discover, preserve, provide access to, and educate the community about Texas’ film heritage.” Not only are they preserved for long-term historical and research purposes, but a huge number of those films are accessible online through TAMI’s website.

The casual user can enjoy this site by simply watching videos highlighted on their homepage. They feature a rotating selection of interesting films, with a ‘watch next’ feature and a ‘random video’ selector. I will admit to having fun reminiscing about places I’ve visited and lived in Texas, as well as getting sucked into the fascinating, the weird, and the sometimes inexplicable videos on the site (take, for instance, this baffling 1978 corporate wine industry video from Dallas).

More importantly, TAMI takes their educational mission seriously, with multiple sections that place films within their geographical, historical and social contexts. An education page provides lesson plans on topics from a Texas perspective such as The Cold War, The Dust Bowl and the Galveston Hurricane of 1900. Each lesson plan includes a curated selection of films accompanied by class conversation prompts, assignment ideas and how the themes fit within Texas’ TEKS and STAAR standardized testing requirements. 

The Education and Web Exhibits pages bring together digital technologies in creative ways to teach new understandings of Texas history. The Webs Exhibits section looks at different aspects of Texas. For instance, ‘La Frontera Fluida – The Fluid Border’ explores films of the Texas-Mexico borderlands. On the site you can view films depicting historical events from a historical chronology page, a subject page, and even geographically from a map of the border. These value-added aspects are great examples of a digital-humanities approach, but TAMI also makes these films available for researchers to use in their own projects. Each film has code that allows you to embed the film on your own page. This makes the content of the archive ripe for myriad digital humanities projects exploring every aspect of Texas.

The University of Texas Libraries owns or subscribes to an enormous collection of audio-visual materials originating from every corner of the globe. A simple search in the library catalog for video/film turns up over 75,000 results. While the majority of this material is not necessarily focused on Texas, the library  does have incredible collections of audio-visual materials that originate in the state.

At the Benson Latin American Collection, for instance, we have significant collections of film focused on the history and culture of Latinas/os in Texas, especially focusing on Mexican Americans and the Chicano movement. This includes large numbers of interviews with prominent activists,  documentaries and archival collections such as the Cine las Americas video collection and a collection of their festival materials, the Robert P. and Sugar C. Rodriguez collection of Tejano Music videos, and the Los del Valle project. All of these materials can be crucial primary and secondary source materials for research projects. Taken together with the materials found in TAMI, I can almost always find something useful for students doing research on Texas Latinas/os when they are looking for audio visual materials. No other state has a statewide digital film archive like TAMI, and we are privileged to have such as amazing resource at our fingertips.

All images from the Texas Archive of the Moving Image website and Instagram site.

Further resources:

Frick, Caroline. “An Interview With Caroline Frick of the Texas Archive of the Moving Image and the University of Texas at Austin Department of Radio-Television-Film” The Velvet light trap: 2013, Vol. 71 (1), p. 42-6.

National Film Preservation Foundation https://www.filmpreservation.org/.

Library of Congress Moving Image Research Center. Digital Moving Image Collections. https://www.loc.gov/rr/mopic/ndlmps.html

Read, Hot and Digitized: Documenting Judeo-Spanish

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.

Documenting Judeo-Spanish was launched in Spring 2020 under the leadership of Dr. Bryan Kirschen, a sociolinguist specializing in Hispanic languages at the Romance languages department at Binghamton University, NY (Twitter @LadinoLinguist).

“Ladino (also known as Judeo-Spanish or Judezmo) refers to the variety of Spanish that developed among Jewish populations who were expelled from Spain in 1492 and subsequently settled throughout Turkey and the Balkans, then of the Ottoman Empire. These Jews, known as Sephardim, preserved many features of Medieval Spanish, while incorporating linguistic elements from the languages spoken in their surroundings. As a Jewish language, Ladino has always been in contact with Hebrew. And while it may sound like other Romance languages, in writing, it would have traditionally appeared more similar to a Semitic language. This project deals with documents in Judeo-Spanish written in Solitreo. Solitreo refers to the Hebrew-based cursive script once used by Sephardim; it is the cursive variety of the Rashi (Rabbinic) script; it derived from Galician/Portuguese, meaning ‘to spell.’[1] This style of writing is distinct from the Ashkenazi-based alphabet used for cursive Hebrew today, making documents in Solitreo undecipherable to the untrained eye. Solitreo is now a nearly-extinct alphabet to an endangered language, as most writers of the language utilize Roman characters.”[2]

The Documenting Judeo-Spanish project contains a range of documents from journal entries and ledgers, to personal correspondence, prayers, poetry, and community minutes. The project currently presents 25 selected documents (out of 150 already collected from around the world). Beyond these fascinating digitized texts, the most compelling tool is one that allows users to engage with the paleographic endeavor of deciphering the script. Hovering one’s mouse over a word in Solitreo will reveal its Latin-character equivalent form in Judeo-Spanish, while clicking on that word would show a tooltip with the literal translation of the lexical term. Below each digitized object there is also downloadable PDF file, containing the parallel text in Romanization of Judeo-Spanish as well as English translation. Metadata about both the content of the item and its digital file is included as well. Some items include a short recording of the text (in WAV format) being read in Judeo-Spanish. See for example this postcard: https://documentingjudeospanish.com/explore/postcards/djs0075/

Additional tools are expected to be launched soon, including a fully-developed font in Solitreo which would include individual and final forms of letters, ligatures, numbers, punctuation, and diacritical marks.[3]

Kirschen’s project could be used both within and outside of academia. Its audience are educators, students, scholars, and the public. While it could be used as a pedagogical tool, introducing students to an extinct script, it could also be used by the community, allowing users to learn how to read personal items and re-connect to their heritage. What I really like about this project is that all 150 items that were processed for it were gathered from the public. As opposed to other projects that use existing collections, Documenting Judeo-Spanish is serving like an ‘aid force,’ connecting the academia with the community. 

Related resources (with annotations):

Aki Yerushalayim : revista de las emisiones de Israel en djudeo-espaniol. Jerusalem: s.n., 1979.

The UT Libraries hold a full run of this Ladino language journal, published in print 1979 to 2016 and resumed publication in digital in 2019. Many of its issues include a section dedicated to Solitreo and its transcription. See UTL catalog. Some issues are also available online.

Barocas, David N. A Study on the Meaning of Ladino, Judezmo, and the Spanish Jewish Dialect / by David N. Barocas ; with an Introductory Essay by Henry V. Besso on Judaeo-Spanish, Its Growth and Decline. New York: Foundation for the Advancement of Sephardic Studies and Culture, 1976. (see UTL catalog).

Bunis, D. A guide to reading and writing Judezmo. Brooklyn, N.Y.: The Judezmo Society, 1975. Downloadable from the author’s academia.edu page.

Bunis, D. Soletreo: Writing the Ladino Script with Prof. David Bunis. Stroum Center for Jewish Studies. University of Washington, 2015. In this video, Professor Bunis reviews and illustrates how to write each letter of Ladino in both the Rashi and Solitreo alphabets.


[1] For many Sephardim, Solitreo was simply known as ganchos, meaning ‘hooks,’ due to the ligatures that form between letters (https://documentingjudeospanish.com/solitreo/)

[2] Kirschen, Bryan. “Our Project.” Documenting Judeo-Spanish, 2020, www.documentingjudeospanish.com/project.

[3] https://documentingjudeospanish.com/tools/

Participatory Community Archiving: The South Asian American Digital Archive

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.

May marks Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Month and reminds us to celebrate the contributions of AAPI communities in the U.S. and to confront the ongoing trials experienced by members of the AAPI population.  AAPI Month also challenges us to learn more about the diversity of peoples and cultures enfolded under such a broad umbrella.  This post suggests that we unpack the complexity such a ubiquitous but ultimately masking label as “Asian American” by looking closely at just one community, South Asian Americans, through the lens of a digital project, the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA).

The core of SAADA is community building through documentation and action.  Documentation takes the form of an online repository of narratives, including the personal and private (oral histories, written correspondence, photographs) and the published (newspaper clippings, academic articles).  That archival core forms the foundational structure around and through which SAADA organizes and facilitates action (the process of documentation, educational events, community building).  Throughout, the intention is to represent the complexity of South Asian American experience in an effort to create a more inclusive society.  As their vision states, “We envision American and world histories that fully acknowledge the importance of immigrants and ethnic communities in the past, strengthen such communities in the present, and inspire discussion about their role in the future.”[1] 

Browsing the archive allows one to learn more about topics such as the histories of South Asian immigration or the intersectional engagement of the community, but also demands that one consider the continuity of those histories in the present.

SAADA exemplifies the power of the “community archive.”  Purposefully participatory rather than merely consumptive in practice, community archives encourage those described, presented and preserved in an archive to determine not only what is included and excluded but also how.  As such, SAADA offers an insider-driven alternative to colonial and colonialist libraries and archives, an alternative realized through action.  They are not alone in their efforts.  Other powerful examples of anti-colonial community archival practice include  platforms such as Mukurtu, an open source content management platform that empowers and operationalizes knowledge systems inherent to a community (as opposed to those from outside), and UT-affiliated initiatives such as the Human Rights Documentation Initiative which supports the Texas After Violence Project and the Genocide Archive of Rwanda

Learn more!

Caswell, Michelle, “Seeing yourself in history: community archives and the fight against symbolic annihilation,” The Public Historian 36: 4 (November 2014), pp 26-37. https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2014.36.4.26

Center for Asian American Studies, University of Texas, https://liberalarts.utexas.edu/aas/.

Desai, Manan. The United States of India: Anticolonial Literature and Transnational Refraction / Manan Desai. (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2020).

Mishra, Sangay K. Desis Divided: the Political Lives of South Asian Americans (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016).

Shams, Tahseen.  Here, There, and Elsewhere: the Making of Immigrant Identities in a Globalized World (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2020).

Sharma, Rashmi, and Roshni Rustomji-Kerns. Living in America: Poetry and Fiction by South Asian American Writers (New York, New York: Routledge, 2018).


[1] South Asian American Digital Archive, “Mission,” https://www.saada.org/mission, Accessed 9 May 2021.

Read, Hot & Digitized: Visualizing Wikipedia’s Gender Gap

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.

Wikipedia is a website that many of us use every day – yes, even us librarians! Wikipedia was founded with utopian ideals, with its democratic approach to content creation and always-free, open knowledge. Therefore, it seems like the ideal platform to address structural inequalities in our information systems that reflect and reinforce racism, misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia and combinations thereof.

However, Wikipedia has a long-standing problem of gender imbalance both in terms of article content and editor demographics. Only 18% of content across Wikimedia platforms are about women. The gaps on content covering non-binary and transgender individuals are even starker: less than 1% of editors identify as trans, and less than 1% of biographies cover trans or nonbinary individuals. When gender is combined with other factors, such as race, nationality, or ethnicity, the numbers get even lower. This gender inequity has long been covered in the scholarly literature via editor surveys and analysis of article content (Hill and Shaw, 2013; Graells-Garrido, Lalmas, and Menczer, 2015; Bear and Collier, 2016; Wagner, Graells-Garrido, Garcia, and Menczer, 2016; Ford and Wajcman, 2017). To visualize these inequalities in nearly real time, the Humaniki tool was developed.

Humaniki was created in 2020 by merging two previous data visualization projects. Data scientist Maximillian Klein created the Wiki Data Human Gender Indicators project in 2016. The French project Denelezh was created by Enzel Le Mir for Wikimedia France in 2017. Both projects utilized the Wikidata API and merged because of their significant overlap and shared mission, and Klein recently received a grant from the Wikimedia Foundation to continue this work. Humaniki is also built using Python, and its backend code is available on GitHub

Humaniki has many ways to explore this data. One of the most interesting is to look at the numbers based on language. Wikipedia isn’t just available in English, and Humaniki offers users the chance to look at gender representation for biographies in 529 languages! Another interesting data point is Year of Birth, and the trends in the Humaniki data suggest the gender gap closes slightly for biographies about younger people. For example, 23% of biographies on people born in 1963 are about women. For biographies on people born in 1983, however, 29% are about women. 

Humaniki also provides numbers of biographies on people who identify as “other genders” (people whose gender identity is not cisgender). For each metric, you can review the “Other Genders Breakdown,” which lists out all the gender identities (trans women, trans men, nonbinary, genderfluid, two-spirit, etc.) included in that particular data point. The “Other Genders” metric is important because the numbers are so stark. Looking back to our examples from 1963 and 1983, only 16 biographies in the 1963 dataset and 31 from 1983 are about people who don’t identify as cisgender – that’s out of more than 50,000 biographies! This highlights the great need to create and expand articles on people who identify outside of the traditional gender binary.

Humaniki is a useful tool for building awareness of the Wikipedia gender gap, and there are many ways to act upon this knowledge and get involved. The UT Libraries sponsors multiple Wikipedia edit-a-thons focused on improving articles about women and LGBTQ+ people. Every March, we host Queering the Record, a homegrown edit-a-thon to improve queer and trans representation, and we participate in the international campaign Art + Feminism, which focuses on gender, feminism, and the arts. Additionally, we’ve hosted one-off edit-a-thons covering Latinx and Mexican women, Indigenous languages, and women and LGBTQ+ people in STEM fields. Keep an eye on the UT Libraries events page to learn about future edit-a-thons!

Scholarship and Popular Press on the Wikipedia Gender Gap

Bear, Julia B., and Benjamin Collier. “Where are the women in Wikipedia? Understanding the different psychological experiences of men and women in Wikipedia.” Sex Roles 74, no. 5-6 (2016): 254-265. 

Filipacchi, Amanda. “Wikipedia’s Sexism Toward Female Novelists.” The New York Times, April 24, 2013. 

Ford, Heather, and Judy Wajcman. “‘Anyone can edit’, not everyone does: Wikipedia’s infrastructure and the gender gap.” Social Studies of Science 47, no. 4 (2017): 511-527.

Gordon, Maggie. “Wikipedia Editing Marathons Add Women’s Voices to Online Resource.” Houston Chronicle, November 9, 2017. https://www.houstonchronicle.com/life/article/Adding-women-s-voices-to-Wikipedia-12344424.php

Graells-Garrido, Eduardo, Mounia Lalmas, and Filippo Menczer. “First women, second sex: Gender bias in Wikipedia.” In Proceedings of the 26th ACM Conference on Hypertext & Social Media, pp. 165-174. 2015.

Hill, Benjamin Mako, and Aaron Shaw. “The Wikipedia Gender Gap Revisited: Characterizing Survey Response Bias with Propensity Score Estimation.” PloS One 8, no. 6 (2013): e65782–e65782.

Paling, Emma. “The Sexism of Wikipedia.” The Atlantic, October 21, 2015. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/10/how-wikipedia-is-hostile-to-women/411619/

Stephenson-Goodknight, Rosie. “Viewpoint: How I Tackle Wiki Gender Gap One Article at a Time.” BBC News, December 7, 2016. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-38238312

“The Nobel Prize Winning Scientist Who Wasn’t Famous Enough for Wikipedia.” The Irish Times, October 3, 2018. https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/people/the-nobel-prize-winning-scientist-who-wasn-t-famous-enough-for-wikipedia-1.3650212

Wagner, Claudia, Eduardo Graells-Garrido, David Garcia, and Filippo Menczer. “Women through the glass ceiling: gender asymmetries in Wikipedia.” EPJ Data Science 5 (2016): 1-24.

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.

“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.

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