Category Archives: Read Hot and Digitized

Read, Hot and Digitized: Indian Princely States Online Legal History Archive

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


As a librarian, I can’t help but love a good bibliography. 

The first professional book I purchased after getting my first bibliographer job was Maureen Patterson’s South Asia Civilizations: a Bibliographic Synthesis.  Over the course of many years, Patterson, the former Bibliographer of the South Asia Collection at the University of Chicago, enlisted the help of a small army of graduate students and library staff to identify and succinctly document citations of scholarly books and articles organized in the ways that academics think.  Arranged by broad chronological and thematic categories, Patterson’s Bibliography was a life-saver for me while in graduate school.  Whenever I ventured into unknown territory as a grad student, the Bibliography was the perfect launching pad, giving me recommendations to begin learning.  Since then, as a librarian often called upon to help people in areas less familiar to me, I’ve turned to Patterson’s Bibliography over and over to learn, explore, and discover.  My personal copy, now tattered and torn but always with lots of post-it notes and flags pointing me to particular areas, reveals just how helpful this work has been to me.

Author’s personal copy of South Asian Civilizations

And yet, as a print source, published only once in 1981, it is dated.  Not just in terms of content—the way we think about South Asia has certainly changed since 1981!—but also in terms of its static functionality.  Bibliographies are essentially curated lists of citations, that is, of metadata (“data about other data”).  The intersection of online metadata and citations, namely in and through tools such as citation managers such as Endnote, Procite, RefWorks, and Zotero, is fertile digital humanities ground wherein we can learn about new subject areas.

For example, I recently learned of a new bibliography for the study of legal history, the Indian Princely States Online Legal History Archive, or IPSOLHA.  IPSOLHA takes up the challenge of complex histories from the colonial period when there were “hundreds of semi-sovereign, semi-autonomous states across the South Asian subcontinent. Varying in size and authority, these states (sometimes referred to as native, feudatory, or zamindari states) were incubators for innovative legal, administrative, and political ideas and offered a unique counterbalance to the hegemony of British rule. Yet despite their unique history, studying these states is complicated by the scattered nature of their archival remains.” IPSOLHA’s intervention is to use the tools of the digital humanities “to build a database and collection of references to facilitate historical study of these states, with a special focus on their legal and administrative history.” 

Example of entries re: Princely States from Patterson’s Bibliography

Main collection of IPSOLHA, with options for sorting, display and visualization

Like Patterson’s Bibliography, IPSOLHA is built upon student labor to investigate and document publications; but unlike Patterson, IPSOLHA has used the dynamic citation manager tool, Zotero, to gather relevant references from both online and analog resources which are then uploaded into a database.  The database sorts and presents the references in static thematic categories, but also in ways that can be determined by the researcher, including by type, language, location and more.  At the time of this writing, IPSOLHA is primarily a discovery tool (like Patterson), but in time, the hope is that the discovery will lead to digitization projects and more online full-text access for researchers.

Display from IPSOLHA of Gazetteers

IPSOLHA is a fabulous place for both beginner researchers to get started, but also for more advanced scholars of princely India to find hitherto unknown source materials.  I encourage all to dive in and explore the possibilities.

Learn more about:

Read, Hot and Digitized: Nuṣūṣ — A Corpus of Neglected Texts

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


While digital, machine-readable texts in Arabic are growing in their availability, certain genres of writing and scholarship in Arabic have become more readily accessible than others. Among those more obscure disciplines are Sufism, theology (Muslim and Christian), and philosophy. These tend to be theoretically complex, and even dogmatically challenging, disciplines that are not as well represented in North American Islamic Studies programs as literature or Qur’anic studies. The Nuṣūṣ corpus––a project led by Antonio Musto––seeks to fill in some of the desiderata by putting more texts from these essential disciplines up on the Internet for researchers to use.

A project that began with an almost exclusive focus on Sufism, Nuṣūṣ has expanded to include works from a variety of complex disciplines of Arabic-language scholarship produced by Muslims and Christians. The corpus currently contains 61 machine-readable texts, with plans to add more and to make the text files available for download. Differing from other, larger corpora of Islamicate[1] disciplines, Nuṣūṣ provides the bibliographic information for the modern editions from which these digitized texts are derived. This is not only a responsible move, but a useful one for researchers: modern editions of historic texts can differ greatly; comparing modern editors’ approaches to the text and their choices that affect meaning and understanding is therefore rich area of exploration in Arabic-language digital humanities. It is hoped that––as possible––Nuṣūṣ will start to add multiple editions of historic texts in order to facilitate this comparative work.

Image of a table of Arabic-language works held in the Nusus corpus.
Nusus’s “Browse Corpus” page.

Nuṣūṣ’s aspirations lie in providing researchers with an adequate corpus from which to do computational text analysis. To that end, the team has created several different ways for researchers to access and engage with the texts. The “Browse Corpus” feature gives researchers an accurate sense of which specific items are included. If one is looking for a particular author or text, this would be the list to consult. This is also where crucial metadata (information about the item) is located, such as the origin of the digital images (Nuṣūṣ’s own OCR process or the OpenITI project repository), the internal corpus text ID, the date of the historic text’s alleged composition, the discipline, the genre of writing, the title, and the author. Author names link to biographies from the Encyclopaedia of Islam, and titles link to the WorldCat record for the modern edition used in the digitization of the text.

Image of a search for an exact term in the Nusus corpus.
Performing a search for the exact term “عقل” in the Nuṣūṣ corpus.

Furthermore, the Nuṣūṣ team has provided a cross-corpus search tool. Researchers can build a search using the provided fields and Boolean operators (AND, OR), and can specify whether they are searching for an exact term. It is also possible to confine the search to specific titles, authors, or genres. This arrangement encourages researchers to pursue projects that might compare across a scholar’s oeuvre, across a genre of writing (Muslim theology, philosophy, Sufism, or Christian theology), or across a single text. Researchers could use this tool to construct searches across known networks of scholars, as well. As the corpus expands, the ability to conduct searches and collect the resulting data will become increasingly effective and useful.

Readers interested in text and corpora analysis should consult the UT Libraries’ Digital Humanities Tools and Resources guide for more information on methods to apply to corpora like Nuṣūṣ. For recommendations of other corpora that might be useful for your research, consult the Data Set list on the Text Analysis guide. Lastly, as the Nuṣūṣ corpus partners with and derives from the OpenITI repository, it is worth considering the OpenITI repository documentation at the KITAB project. Happy corpus hunting!

Dale J. Correa, PhD, MS/LIS is Middle Eastern Studies Librarian and History Coordinator for the UT Libraries.


[1] The term Islamicate was coined by Marshall G.S. Hodgson in volume 1 of his The Venture of Islam (p. 57).

Read, Hot, and Digitized: The Freedmen’s Bureau Search Portal

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


Government documents can offer crucial insight into the histories of a nation, but traditional access can require skill with microfilm readers, resources to travel to an archive and astute understanding of how to use an index. As cultural heritage institutions take on more digitization projects, researchers have benefited from remote access to digital collections complimented by user-friendly browse and search features. This past November, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) gifted scholars and genealogists alike with the Freedmen’s Bureau Search Portal, a valuable new platform to discover 1.7 million pages of digitized records from the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands.

Screenshot of PDF showing a scanned image of report from the Bureau's collection with the transcribed text on the left side.
Researchers can download a pdf of records that include the transcribed text side by side with the scanned record image.

Created in 1865, the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, more commonly known as the Freedmen’s Bureau, aspired to help Southerners, including 4 million formerly enslaved people, transition to a new society after the Civil War. Congress charged the Bureau with providing social support like medical care, rations and educational opportunities, and tried to help poor individuals deal with seized lands and find employment. Abolished in 1872 by Congress, the short-lived Bureau’s positive impact on assisting formerly enslaved people is still debated. However, the utility of these records for genealogical and scholarly purposes is certain as they offer valuable insight into the Reconstruction period, including government policies and interactions between freedmen, white southerners and government officials.

Previously, portions of these records have been available online for browsing, but were not always searchable or in one place. The NMAAHC interface allows users to filter records by collection, record type, location and date. In addition to a keyword search, these features help users discover materials like ledgers of employment, marriage records and reports describing criminal and civil disputes. Thanks to efforts to index names and locations, users can also search the names of enslaved and former owners, which is of particular use to genealogists and individuals researching family histories.

The indexing was the first step to the collection portal’s debut on the Smithsonian-developed digital asset management system, “Enterprise Digital Asset Network (EDAN)”. This system connects multiple Smithsonian digital collections and allows users to access metadata using the institution’s own API. The user-friendly search interface is built using the open source search platform, Apache Solr, which UT Libraries also uses for our own Collections portal.

Screenshot of the search portal results page. It shows options to filter by name, date and keyword search. The results show the titles of reports and the option to "Quick View Transcription"
Screenshot showing the search results page for record locations indexed from Texas. Users can quickly review the transcribed text from the results page without having to scroll through the scans.

What makes the NMAAHC’s search portal especially notable is its support from a crowdsourcing transcription project, a collaborative endeavor from the NMAAHC and Smithsonian Transcription Center. This is the largest crowdsourcing project the Smithsonian has ever undertaken and so far, 400,000 pages have been transcribed by volunteers. The records’ cursive script makes it challenging to automatically transcribe using OCR, and the project will greatly benefit from transcription efforts. These efforts are invaluable as the letters and reports that provide more details beyond statistical ledgers are more often than not untranscribed.

Screenshot of the Smithsonian Transcription Center project page for the Freedmen's Bureau. It shows the percentage completed for each project, with the first two being at 87% and 86% percent complete.
Screenshot showing percentage completion of Freedmen’s Bureau transcription projects from the Smithsonian Transcription Center.

For now, users can still search the indexed data for names, places and dates, and additional information provided by volunteers in their transcription efforts like subjects and keywords. The records themselves and the transcription project will provide scholars a glimpse into life during the Reconstruction period and allow genealogy researchers to make meaningful connections with ancestors and family histories.

Explore more in these UT Libraries resources:

New UT Libraries Database! African American Heritage

  • Digital resource exclusively devoted to an American family history research containing primary sources devoted specifically to African American family history, including census records, vital records, freedman and slave records, church records, legal records, and more.

Crouch, Barry A. The Freedmen’s Bureau and Black Texans. University of Texas Press, 1999.

Farmer-Kaiser, Mary. Freedwomen and the Freedmen’s Bureau: Race, Gender, and Public Policy in the Age of Emancipation. Fordham University Press, 2010.

Mears, Michelle M. And Grace Will Lead Me Home: African American Freedmen Communities of Austin, Texas, 1865-1928. Texas Tech University Press, 2009.

Read, Hot & Digitized: Art and Revolution

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

Working at the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection since I began a career in librarianship, I have been fortunate to witness and sometimes participate in various facets of what goes into making the Benson the premiere Latin American collection in the world. The collection has many incomparable features, and depending on a researcher’s interest, they will know the Benson in unique ways from others. For instance, there are those that know the Benson because we hold the papers of Gloria Anzaldúa and Alicia Gaspar de Alba, two groundbreaking Chicana writers. Others will know it because of the Archive of Indigenous Languages of Latin America (AILLA), the digital archive that is a gateway to linguistic preservation and revitalization. Others will know it still because of our wonderful circulating collection, which includes journals, new publications, canonical works, children’s literature, etc. At the Benson we always say that if it exists and is tied to Latin American or US Latinx subject matter, we try to collect it.

One unsurprising aspect of the Benson is our dedication to documenting human rights initiatives. This happens across all of the ways that we do collecting, but I’m thinking specifically about the work that my colleague Theresa Polk and the Latin American Digital Initiatives team do on a daily basis, particularly working with post-custodial partners throughout Latin America to document local, often grassroots struggles.

I couldn’t help but think of her work when I saw a noteworthy digital collection from the University of New Mexico’s esteemed Center for Southwest Research. The collection, “Asamblea de Artistas Revolucionarios de Oaxaca Pictorial Collection,” is described as a “collection of prints, posters, and mural stencils…created by a collective of young Mexican artists that formed during the state of Oaxaca’s 2006 teachers strike.” The strike lasted seven months and turned violent after police opened fire on non-violent protestors representing the teachers’ union. Eventually, various groups forced the police out of the city and set up an anarchist community for several months while unsuccessfully calling for the resignation of then-Oaxacan governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. The 127 artworks in this collection reflect this period through themes that include “land rights, political prisoners, government corruption, political violence, police brutality, violence against women, art exhibitions and the nationalization of agriculture and oil.”

The artwork has been digitized and made available on the site using high-resolution scans. One of the strengths of the collection is that users can see a thumbnail and a brief, but useful description of the document, as shown below.

Then, users can click on each individual item for a larger image with richer metadata. Indeed, another strength of the collection is its metadata. While only in English, it contextualizes the image for a deeper understanding.

Another feature of the digital collection is that UNM’s Center for Southwest Research has worked with the Asamblea de Artistas Revolucionas de Oaxaca (ASARO) to archive their blogs and other digital-born materials using Archive-It. Having access to these blogs in a shared digitize space enhances the collection because it preserves ASARO’s voices on the struggle, using their words and their language. Like the metadata, this creates fuller meaning for researchers while fostering a relationship between ASARO and UNM.   

This collection is useful to researchers and classes who are interested in understanding politics and local movements in twenty-first century Mexico. Like the Benson’s Latin American Digital Initiatives, the themes are so varied, making it a useful tool for classes doing interdisciplinary work, and particularly for scholars who are more visually-inclined. In any case, it is a welcome contribution to the study of human rights in Latin America, and a wonderful reminder of the work that libraries do in documenting and preserving historical moments.

Would you like to know more about the teachers’ strike? Check out the following resources we hold at UT Libraries.

La batalla por Oaxaca (2007)

“Women in the Oaxaca Teachers’ Strike and Citizens’ Uprising (2007)

“‘Our Culture’s Not for Sale!’: Music and the Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca in Mexico” (2021)

Read, Hot and Digitized: Disability COVID Chronicles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related materials in the UT Libraries collection:

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

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

Disability Studies Quarterly.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Madhubabu,renowned Telugu detective novel writer

Gurajada Venkata Apparao, popular Indian playwright

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

Read, Hot and Digitized: Interactive Encyclopedia of the Palestine Question

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.


The Interactive Encyclopedia of the Palestine Question (IEPQ) is “the first interactive platform entirely devoted to the Palestine question.” Conceived by the Institute for Palestine Studies as part of a joint project with the Palestinian Museum, the IEPQ traces the history of modern Palestine, from the end of the Ottoman era to present days.  

‘Palestine’ and ‘the question of Palestine’ are terms that bear multiple political, historical, geographical, and legal meanings and interpretations. Similar to other ‘national questions’ throughout modern history, the Palestine question pertains to the appropriate status and treatment of the Palestinians, and their right to self-determination. The public debate originated in 1917, with the Balfour declaration and the British Mandate, but the historical events that lead to that point in time, and are now part of the Israeli-Arab conflict (sometimes called ‘the Jewish-Arab conflict’) could be traced back to the second half of the 19th century.

The IEPQ consists of six sections: Chronology (timeline), thematic chronologies, highlights, biographies, places, and documents. The overall Chronology details “the main events that shaped Palestinian history in the realms of war, diplomacy, culture, and economy.” Events are categorized under various terms, such as ‘violence,’ ‘institutional,’ ‘contextual,’ ‘diplomatic,’ ‘legal,’ ‘cultural,’ and so forth. Some of those events are also mapped in the Thematic Chronologies section; for example, “history of the PLO,” or “Colonialism and Palestinian resistance.” Visualizing the events in a chronological order allows for better understanding of the conflict’s development throughout the years. The Highlights section includes detailed articles (with selected bibliographies) about specific topics, events, and organizations; for example, political movements, refugees, demography, and the Nakba. Currently the IEPQ includes 107 biographies of Palestinian “intellectuals, artists, activists, combatants and politicians.” Some include references to selected works of and about the individual. The Documents section includes historical texts, photographs, maps, and charts that support information presented in other sections and mapped back to the Chronology section.  

Thematic chronology of “Military operations and Zionist ethnic cleansing (1946-1949).” https://palquest.org/en/overallchronology?nid=140&chronos[]=140
An example of ‘cultural event’ in the Chronology section: “Ghassan Kanafani publishes first novel, Rijāl fī al-shams (Men in the Sun), in Beirut. https://palquest.org/en/overallchronology?sideid=5568

I find the Places section to be the most compelling one, as it presents “the painful legacy of the past,” mapping 418 Palestinian villages occupied, destroyed, depopulated, or deserted during the Nakba. The main screen of this section shows a 1940s survey map from the British Mandate. Detailed information about each village could be brought up either by clicking on the map itself, or on the village name on the right bar. Clicking on the left corner of the main map would bring up additional layers and overlays of modern maps, as well as satellite imagery. For example, the page of al-Jammasin al-Gharbi (image 1) shows where the village was located until 1948, with information about its size, population, land ownership and use, and a narrative about its ‘before and after’ 1948 status. Some pages include information about the specific military operation in which the village was occupied, mapping it back to the Chronology section. The information in this section is taken from the massive volume titled All that remains, edited by Walid Khalidi, and published in print by the Institute for Palestine Studies in 1992.

al-Jammasin al-Gharbi village page on the IEPQ Places section. https://www.palquest.org/en/place/17021/al-jammasin-al-gharbi

The IEPQ interface is available in both English and Arabic. The current platform was designed by Visualizing Palestine, a portfolio of the independent, non-profit Visualizing Impact innovation lab, that combines data science, technology, and design in similar awareness projects. IEPQ is using British Mandate era survey maps that were digitized and released to the public domain by the National Library of Israel. The digital maps, as well as the additional layers, overlays, satellite imagery, and the geographical metadata, are derived from the Palestine Open Maps platform, also a project of Visualizing Palestine.

The IEPQ brings to mind similar projects that compliment it. For example, the United Nations holds a large online repository of documents on the question of Palestine. The Israeli Zochrot NGO, dedicated to the memory of the Nakba, created a Nakba Map, where one could see the overbuilt area of villages on a current map of Israel.

Additional selected resources:

Amar-Dahl, Tamar. Zionist Israel and the Question of Palestine : Jewish Statehood and the History of the Middle East Conflict / Tamar Amar-Dahl. München: De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2016. Digital. https://search.lib.utexas.edu/permalink/01UTAU_INST/9e1640/alma991057960839006011 

Bashir, Bashir, and Leila Farsakh. The Arab and Jewish Questions : Geographies of Engagement in Palestine and Beyond / Edited by Bashir Bashir and Leila Farsakh. Ed. Bashir Bashir and Leila Farsakh. New York: Columbia University Press, 2020. Digital. https://search.lib.utexas.edu/permalink/01UTAU_INST/9e1640/alma991058189874306011

Khalidi, Walid. All That Remains : the Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948 / Editor, Walid Khalidi ; Research and Text, Sharif S. Elmusa, Muhammad Ali Khalidi. Washington, D.C: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992. Print. https://search.lib.utexas.edu/permalink/01UTAU_INST/9e1640/alma991055971519706011

Lenṭin, Ronit. Thinking Palestine. Edited by Ronit Lentin. London : Zed Books, 2008. Print. https://search.lib.utexas.edu/permalink/01UTAU_INST/9e1640/alma991057925283506011

Said, Edward W. The Question of Palestine / Edward W. Said. New York: Times Books, 1979. Print.https://search.lib.utexas.edu/permalink/01UTAU_INST/9e1640/alma991036311349706011

Zochrot Remembering booklet series at the UT Libraries – https://tinyurl.com/ysduujp5 

Zochrot Nakba maps at the UT Libraries – https://tinyurl.com/bd4dpkrw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read, Hot and Digitized: More is less? Less is more? Minimal computing in South Asian Lexicography

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

I had the lucky opportunity recently to catch Nickoal Eichmann-Kalwara’s presentation on the University of Colorado’s Digital El Diario project at the UC San Diego Digital Initiatives Symposium wherein she advocated for the use of “minimal computing” to achieve “archival justice.” Deeply inspired by her comments but woefully ignorant of the corpus on minimal computing within DS/DH (what seems a combination of activist- and digital-turn on the “less process, more product” concept in archival work), I took it upon myself to learn more as I struggle with the constant nagging tension between achieving the immediate task at hand (“will a simple Google chart effectively communicate my point?”), exploiting technologies to their fullest extent (“boy, I sure bet I would impress folks if I used a sexy Tableau dashboard”), and justifying resources (“this will cost how much??”).  When, I wondered, is less actually more in DS/DH, when is more actually more, and how should we negotiate those differences?

Way back in 2017, Roopika Risam and Susan Edwards argued (in “Micro DH: Digital Humanities at the Small Scale”) that the fixation of everything “large” is not conducive to justice across our institutions, our staff, nor our data:

“Digital humanities practices are often understood in terms of significant scale: big data, large data sets, digital humanities centers… This emphasis leads to the perception that projects cannot be completed without substantial access to financial resources, data, and labor… While this can be the case, such presumptions serve as a deterrent to the development of an inclusive digital humanities community with representation across academic hierarchies (student, librarian, faculty), types of institutions (public, private, regional), and geographies (Global North, Global South).”

I found their argument compelling and wondered where I had seen these tensions in practice.  As a South Asianist, I had to look no further than the uniquely colonial way of knowing—lexicography–and the uniquely 21st century way of access–digital reformatting. 

For over 20 years, the Digital Dictionaries of South Asia (part of the Digital South Asia Library at the University of Chicago) has arguably been the gold standard for online South Asian language dictionaries.  Recognizing the inadequacies of OCR tools to convert images of most South Asian scripts to accurate text data, the DDSA has utilized strategies such as “double blind keying” to produce highly accurate digital editions of established and respected dictionaries.  The process is time-consuming and expensive but produces trusted full-text data that can be used and manipulated in a variety of ways, including those beyond dictionaries.  The institutional positioning of the University of Chicago has allowed for many successful grants over the years to fund DDSA, including those from the US Department of Education, the Mellon Foundation, the Association for Research Libraries and others.  The DDSA is truly extensive in scope and in impact.

At the other end of the spectrum is the DigitalRoses project.  In this pilot, an individual researcher, Gil Ben Herut, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of South Florida, presents another approach to digital dictionary making.  Rather than seeking a fully searchable, text-mineable dictionary, Herut suggests that simple encoding that operationalizes headwords alone (rather than the full-text) for navigation within a dictionary is sufficient for most user applications.  Using target words, the DigitalRoses approach “resolves a common problem in OCR text ingestion through the utilization of manual indexing of the first entry word on each page in physical media, [thereby… ingesting dictionaries at a fraction of the time and cost of full digitization,… streamlining searching by allowing partial, wildcard and fuzzy searches, and maintaining the richness of the printed layout.”

In comparision, then, we have two approaches to the same problem and therefore two solutions.  See, for example, a search for the Kannada word for “book,” Kitaba/ಕಿತಾಬು, in the DDSA version of Kittel’s Kannada-English Dictionary and in the Digital Roses version.

The thoroughly meticulous approaches used in the DDSA model produce a robust and unique digital experience built on fully manipulatable, multiscript data while the simple imaging and only partial inputting of the DigitalRoses project produces a quick digital surrogate to the analog counterpart. 

Turning back to “minimal computing,” these two projects offer up models to complicate our understanding of who gets to do what and how in our technologically informed research.  Grant funding allows for big data and big research at big institutional levels.  Minimal computing allows individuals and less resourced cohorts to also meaningfully contribute to the field.  Both approaches have the potential to positively impact users and the creation of new knowledge. 

I encourage you to consider where you fall on this debate: is less more? Is more more?  And when does it matter?


For more on minimal computing, justice through DS/DH, lexicography, and Kannada, see:

Constance Crompton, Richard J. Lane and Ray Siemens, eds.  Doing digital humanities: practice, training, research (London; New York: Routledge, 2016)

Howard Jackson, ed. The Bloomsbury Handbook of Lexicography / [edited by] Howard Jackson. (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2022)

Ferdinand Kittel and Mariappa Bhatt. Kittel’s Kannaḍa-English dictionary. (Madras: University of Madras, 1968-1971)

Roopika Risam. New digital worlds: postcolonial digital humanities in theory, praxis, and pedagogy (Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 2019)

Read, Hot, and Digitized: Adventures in Data-Sitting

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

It will come as no surprise that I, the English Literature Librarian, was a nerdy little bookworm as a child. I actively participated in the Book It! reading program, a literacy initiative sponsored by Pizza Hut. The premise of Book It! was simple: After completing five books and getting the sign-off from my teacher, I would “earn” a coupon for a personal pan pizza. When I was in 5th grade, I read enough Baby-Sitters Club (BSC) books in a single week to earn three pizzas. I felt a tinge of guilt because I had skipped early chapters in each book where the text was reused, word-for-word, from previous books in the series. It was always Chapter 2!

Every devoted Baby-Sitters Club fan knows the text was reused to introduce the characters and the premise of the series. There were over 200 books published in the span of 13 years – of course some of it would be repetitive! But let’s take it a step further. What if we could quantifiably demonstrate the reuse of Chapter 2 text, while also comparing stylistic and narrative changes across multiple ghostwriters and cultural trends? And how would you do this kind of analysis of 200+ novels, spin-offs, and graphic novel adaptations? Well, a feminist collective of scholars called the Data-Sitters Club (DSC) is attempting to do just that. 

Cover art for the Data-Sitters Club, by artist Claire Chenette

The Data-Sitters Club describe their project as “a fun way to learn about computational text analysis for digital humanities”. They created a corpus of Ann M. Martin’s influential young adult series and have analyzed it using a variety of DH methods and tools (Python, R, TEI, Voyant, just to name a few). The Baby-Sitters Club has had a long pop culture shelf-life for Gen X and Millennial readers, with the recent Netflix reboot (which was sadly canceled after two seasons) and the podcasts Stuck in Stonybrook and the Baby-Sitters Club Club. According to the publisher Scholastic, the series has been in print since 1986 and has sold more than 190 million copies. Given the series’ immense popularity and continued pop culture influence, the books are a gold mine for researchers interested in gender, race, class, and sexuality, but, like much of girl culture, the books haven’t been the subject of serious research.

So the Data-Sitters Club saw opportunity for new research, while also making DH more accessible, especially to women and other marginalized groups often sidelined in DH projects. The DSC does this through a series of 16 blog posts on their GitHub site, written to mimic the narrative style of the book series, including titles that riff off the originals. Each blog post covers a use case for the BSC corpus and features a different tool, coding language or technique. Two of my favorites are DSC #2: Katia and the Phantom Corpus and DSC #5: The DSC and the Impossible TEI Quandaries. (A running joke throughout the blog is that later posts refer the reader back to “Chapter 2” to explain the corpus and how it was created, an intentional reference to the Chapter 2 in the original series that reused text to explain the series’ premise.)

Cover art for DSC #2: Katia and the Phantom Corpus, which parodies an original Baby-Sitters Club book cover that I’m pretty sure I read in 3rd or 4th grade. Image courtesy of the Data-Sitters Club

One thing you won’t find on the DSC GitHub site is the corpus itself. The team scanned print books to create a legal corpus, but as of right now, it’s not available publicly online. The DSC has used the project as an advocacy tool to promote the loosening of ebook copyright restrictions to build literary corpra for private research. In partnership with the non-profit Authors Alliance, they wrote to the Librarian of Congress asking for exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 to access the full BSC corpus. Of all the DSC blog posts, I found DSC #7: The DSC and the Mean Copyright Law to be the most fascinating – and frustrating.

I would recommend the Data-Sitters Club blog to any emerging DH scholar or librarian looking to try a new tool or method. Much of the content is highly technical, but the fun, approachable tone of each blog post makes the content accessible. I hope they are able to get legal access to the full ebook corpus so we can see more research on the Baby-Sitters Club books and better understand their cultural impact on a generation of women and girls.

You can find print copies of the original Baby-Sitters Club series in the PCL Youth Collection, and I highly recommend the recent essay collection We Are the Baby-Sitters Club: Essays and Artwork from Grown-up Readers, available at the PCL.