Category Archives: Grants

Archive Highlights Religious Practices, Traditional Knowledge of Baniwa in the Amazon

The Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America (AILLA) is pleased to announce the opening of the Baniwa of the Aiary and Içana Collection of Robin M. Wright. The materials in this collection cover research Wright conducted from 1976 to the present among the Baniwa, a northern Arawak–speaking people who live both in villages in the Northwest Amazon and in urban contexts. The digitization was funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

Curing ceremony in São Gabriel da Cachoeira. https://ailla.utexas.org/islandora/object/ailla:273093

During his career as an academic researcher and activist in Brazil and the United States, Wright has focused on the history of the Baniwa people and their religious practices, including shamanism, prophet movements, and evangelization within the region, publishing several books on these subjects.

The collection is multimedia, consisting of over 81 hours of audio, 16 hours of video, and 2,300 scanned pages, and includes a large amount of analog material that has been digitized and made accessible to indigenous communities and researchers. “The Baniwa have anxiously waited for this material to become available, and it certainly has acquired even more importance given the Baniwa cultural ‘revitalization’ that has been taking place over the last few decades,” said Wright.

Manuel da Silva (l) and Robin Wright. Da Silva is a Baniwa shaman and one of Wright’s longtime collaborators. Wright wrote a long biography of him in one of his monographs. https://ailla.utexas.org/islandora/object/ailla:273071

According to the collection guide, the materials in the collection correspond to two major periods. “The first corresponds to Wright’s field trips to Baniwa communities during 1976 and 1977. The second is a longer span covering the period from 1990 to 2010, when Wright was working on projects including the creation of the Waferinaipe Ianheke collection of Baniwa myths, collaborative research projects on traditional Baniwa knowledge surrounding diseases and their treatments, and collaborative projects with shamanic knowledge and sacred sites.”

José Felipe working on the Waferinaipe Ianheke manuscript (a volume of translated Baniwa stories and myths). https://ailla.utexas.org/islandora/object/ailla:273074

Bringing the Collection to AILLA

AILLA manager Susan Kung initially met with Wright at his University of Florida office in June 2018 to discuss the process of organizing, digitizing, and archiving his collection. Kung says “we discussed the potentially sensitive nature of his materials and what was appropriate for AILLA’s different access levels, as well as the types of metadata that we would need for the final arrangement.”

A look inside one of the boxes of Wright’s physical materials that arrived at AILLA (photo by Ryan Sullivant)

In June 2019, AILLA Language Data Curator Ryan Sullivant traveled to Gainesville, FL, with Linguistics Professor Patience Epps, a specialist in Amazonian indigenous languages and co-PI on the grant, to review Wright’s materials, work on describing them, and determine what to include in AILLA’s digital collection. Also discussed were “how to arrange the materials, and how to handle materials that are worth preserving and distributing through AILLA, but whose access must be controlled,” Sullivant said. “This last part is important because one of the main themes of Wright’s work, and the collection, are Baniwa healers’ stories and blessings, which are sacred knowledge and should not be accessed by just anyone.” In the end, only some of the contents were restricted and most of the material was made public.

Capela (chapel), Itacoatiara-Mirim, São Gabriel, Amazonas, Brazil. Robin Wright’s research included both Indigenous religious practices as well as the effects of Protestant evangelization in Baniwa communities. https://ailla.utexas.org/islandora/object/ailla:273376

Digitization Services at the Perry-Castañeda Library digitized microcassettes and AILLA staff digitized standard-sized audio cassettes, scanned thousands of manuscript pages, and handled many already digitized and born-digital files. Sullivant worked closely, albeit remotely, with Wright during the arrangement and description of the materials, and wrote the collection guide, which he translated into Spanish and Portuguese. This is the first AILLA collection to have a Portuguese collection guide.

View the Collection Guides

English: http://ailla.utexas.org/islandora/object/ailla:274686

Español: http://ailla.utexas.org/es/islandora/object/ailla:274688

Português: http://ailla.utexas.org/islandora/object/ailla:274687

Robin Wright is director of the American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program at the University of Florida, where he is also affiliated faculty in Anthropology and Latin American Studies. The curation of this collection was made possible by generous support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and is part of an NEH-funded project to bring together and preserve a number of important Indigenous language collections from South America.

New Collections Highlighted in Updated Latin American Digital Initiatives Repository

Leer en español / Ler em português

BY DAVID A. BLISS

More than 60 thousand scanned images from seven archival collections throughout Latin America are now available online in the updated Latin American Digital Initiatives (LADI) repository (ladi.lib.utexas.edu). The site was developed over the course of two years by the LLILAS Benson Digital Initiatives team and University of Texas Libraries software developers, with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. A previous version of the site, featuring four archival collections, launched in 2015.

¡Alto a la represión del sindicalismo! From the Colección Conflicto Armado, Afiches, collection of the Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen in San Salvador, El Salvador: https://ladi.lib.utexas.edu/en/mupi01
¡Alto a la represión del sindicalismo! [Stop the repression of unionism!] From the Colección Conflicto Armado, Afiches, collection, Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen, San Salvador, El Salvador. https://ladi.lib.utexas.edu/en/mupi01

The digitized images in the LADI repository were created by archive-holding organizations in Latin America in partnership with LLILAS Benson. Partnering organizations produced high-quality scans and detailed metadata about their collections, while LLILAS Benson staff offered equipment, on-site training, and technical consultation under a post-custodial archival framework. The online repository is intended for use by researchers, teachers, and activists, as well as the communities to which the materials belong. The site can be navigated in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Manifestaciones reclamando la reglamentación del artículo transitorio 55 [Protests demanding the establishment of Artículo Transitorio 55]. From the Colección Dinámicas Organizativas del Pueblo Negro en Colombia, Proceso de Comunidades Negras, Buenaventura, Colombia. https://ladi.lib.utexas.edu/en/pcn01

The collections found in LADI span the sixteenth through the twenty-first centuries, and were created by project staff at the following partnering organizations: Archivo Judicial del Estado de Puebla (Mexico), BICU-CIDCA (Nicaragua), Centro de Investigaciones Regionales de Mesoamérica (CIRMA, Guatemala), Equipe de Articulação e Assessoria às Comunidades Negras do Vale do Ribeira (EAACONE, Brazil), Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen (MUPI, El Salvador), and Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN, Colombia). The variety of materials found in these collections reflects the ethnic and social diversity of Latin America. At the same time, the collections speak to common struggles that reach across temporal and geographic boundaries. The particular thematic strengths of the collections in the repository include Afro-Latinx and Indigenous rights, environmental justice, and Cold War–era internal armed conflicts. The collections are:

  • Archivo de Inforpress Centroamericana (CIRMA, Guatemala)
  • Colección Conflicto Armado. Afiches. (MUPI, El Salvador)
  • Colección Conflicto Armado. Publicaciones. (MUPI, El Salvador)
  • Colección Digital del Periódico “La Información” (BICU-CIDCA, Nicaragua)
  • Colección Digital Fondo Real de Cholula (Archivo Judicial del Estado de Puebla, Mexico)
  • Colección Dinámicas Organizativas del Pueblo Negro en Colombia (PCN, Colombia)
  • Quilombos do Vale do Ribeira SP/PR (EAACONE, Brazil)
MOAB - A saga de um Povo. From the Quilombos do Vale do Ribeira SP/PR collection of the Equipe de Articulação e Assessorias às Comunidades Negras do Vale do Ribeira in Eldorado, Brazil:

MOAB – A Saga de um Povo [MOAB – The Saga of a People]. From the Quilombos do Vale do Ribeira SP/PR collection, Equipe de Articulação e Assessorias às Comunidades Negras do Vale do Ribeira, Eldorado, Brazil. https://ladi.lib.utexas.edu/en/eaacone01

About the Site Update

The new version of the site was built from the ground up using an open-source technology stack consisting of Fedora 5, Islandora 8, and Drupal 8, based on the Resource Description Framework (RDF) for linked data. The updated repository infrastructure greatly improves the site’s multilingual capabilities and provides more connections between objects to improve cross-searching and discoverability. The site was developed using a combination of standard Islandora features and custom code, which was contributed back to the Islandora community.

Avalúo de los bienes de Manuel Romero [Appraisal of the assets of Manuel Romero]. Colección Digital Fondo Real de Cholula, Archivo Judicial del Estado de Puebla: https://ladi.lib.utexas.edu/en/frc01
Avalúo de los bienes de Manuel Romero [Appraisal of the assets of Manuel Romero]. Colección Digital Fondo Real de Cholula, Archivo Judicial del Estado de Puebla. https://ladi.lib.utexas.edu/en/frc01

The core project team consisted of David Bliss, Itza Carbajal, Minnie Rangel, Brandon Stennett, and Theresa Polk. The LLILAS Benson Digital Initiatives team would also like to acknowledge the contributions of the many others who supported this project, including the project staff and leadership at each partner organization; scholar liaisons Dr. Anthony Dest, Dr. Lidia Gómez García, Dr. Kelly McDonough, and Dr. Edward Shore; translators Tereza Braga, Jennifer Isasi, Joshua Ortiz Baco, and Albert Palacios; UT Libraries IT services; the UT Libraries Digital Stewardship team; LLILAS Benson Grants Manager Megan Scarborough; the UT Libraries and LLILAS Benson leadership teams; the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; the Islandora development community; and the graduate research assistants who contributed to the project—Alejandra Martinez, Joshua Ortiz Baco and Elizabeth Peattie.


David A. Bliss is the digital processing archivist for LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections, The University of Texas at Austin.

NEH Grant Will Fund Transcription of Indigenous Language Collection

BY J. RYAN SULLIVANT

The Archive of Indigenous Languages of Latin America (AILLA) has received a pilot grant from the Humanities Collections and Reference Resources program of the National Endowment for the Humanities. This grant will improve access to some of the archive’s thousands of audio recordings in indigenous languages by supporting pilot efforts to crowdsource the creation of digital texts for manuscript transcriptions and translations that accompany recordings already in AILLA’s collections. Specifically, the grant will support the transcription of materials in the Mixtec languages of Mexico that are included in the MesoAmerican Languages Collection of Kathryn Josserand. These materials include a very broad survey of the grammar and vocabulary of the Mixtec languages spoken in over 100 towns and villages of southern Mexico.

Transcription of Tehuelche, from the AILLA archive of Jorge Suárez
Transcription of Tehuelche, from the AILLA archive of Jorge Suárez

Digital transcriptions will improve users’ access to these materials and will also facilitate their reuse for humanistic and especially linguistic research studying the dialectology of the Mixtec languages, which, decades after these materials were collected, is still not completely understood. They will also contribute to research on the prehistory of the Mixtec-speaking people, who today number almost a half-million in Mexico. One component of the project will be the development of educational modules that will use the transcription task to teach lessons on linguistic transcription, language description, and historical linguistics. This pilot project will also allow AILLA to develop transcription workflows that can be applied to other significant collections of handwritten documents in the archive’s collections.

Pilot project will improve access to a collection of Mixtec audio recordings.

The project’s principal investigator is Professor Virginia Garrard, director of LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections. The project manager is Ryan Sullivant, AILLA language data curator.

Survey in Chalcatongo Mixtec (with Spanish above), from the AILLA collection of J. Kathryn Josserand
Survey in Chalcatongo Mixtec (with Spanish above), from the AILLA collection of J. Kathryn Josserand

The National Endowment for the Humanities, created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at www.neh.gov.

For more information on the AILLA transcription project, contact Ryan Sullivant.

AILLA Awarded Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded a Documenting Endangered Languages Preservation Grant of $227,365 to Patience Epps and Susan Smythe Kung of the Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America (AILLA) for support of their upcoming project entitled “Archiving Significant Collections of Endangered Languages: Two Multilingual Regions of Northwestern South America.”

The AILLA grant is one among 199 grants, totaling $18.6 million, announced by the NEH on April 9, 2018.

This is a three-year project that will gather together, curate, and digitize a set of eight significant collections of South American indigenous languages, the results of decades of research by senior scholars. The collections will be archived at AILLA, a digital repository dedicated to the long-term preservation of multimedia in indigenous languages. These materials constitute an important resource for further linguistic, ethnographic, and ethnomusicological research, and are of high value to community members and scholars. They include six legacy collections from the Upper Rio Negro region of the northwest Amazon (Brazil and Colombia), and two collections focused on Ecuadorian Kichwa, most notably the Cañar variety.

Women spinning wool, Juncal, Cañar, Ecuador; photo: Niels Fock/Eva Krener, 1973
Women spinning wool, Juncal, Cañar, Ecuador; photo: Niels Fock/Eva Krener, 1973

All of the languages concerned are endangered or vulnerable to varying degrees, and the collections are heavily focused on threatened forms of discourse, such as ritual speech and song. Of the Upper Rio Negro set, the collections of Elsa Gomez-Imbert, Stephen Hugh-Jones, and Arthur P. Sorensen, Jr., include the East Tukanoan languages Bará, Barasana, Eduria, Karapana, Tatuyo, Makuna, and Tukano. The collections of Howard Reid and Renato Athias are focused on Hup, while Reid’s collection also contains a few materials from two languages of the wider region, Nukak and Hotï (yua, isolate). Robin Wright’s collection involves Baniwa. Of the Ecuadorian Kichwa set, Judy Blankenship’s and Allison Adrian’s collections are both focused on Cañar Highland Kichwa, while Adrian’s also includes some material from Loja Highland Kichwa (qvj, Quechua).

The two regions targeted by these collections are highly significant for our understanding of language contact and diversity in indigenous South America. The multilingual Upper Rio Negro region, famous for the linguistic exogamy practiced by some of its peoples, has much to tell us about language contact and maintenance, while Ecuadorian Kichwa varieties can shed light on the dynamics of pre-Colombian language shift. These collections will be made accessible in AILLA in standard formats, and will provide a foundation for further study of these fascinating regions and multilingual dynamics.

NEH Logo MASTER_082010

The National Endowment for the Humanities, created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at www.neh.gov.

Libraries Get NEH Funding from Partner Proposal

Photo of archivesAmong the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) recent announcement of $22.8 million in grants for 232 humanities projects in the second round of its grant awards this fiscal year was included funding provided to the Libraries as one of the recipients for the Texas Archival Resources Online’s (TARO) proposal the “Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO) to the 21st Century Collaborative Planning Project.

The NEH will provide $35,204 in direct funding for a Humanities Collections and Reference Resources Foundations grant to conduct strategic planning that will address researchers’ need for better intellectual access to TARO’s holdings. The Libraries, in partnership with the TARO Steering Committee and their respective institutions will use the funds to assist with the one-year collaborative planning, assessment and pilot testing project. The project will begin July 1, 2015.

TARO is a freely accessible platform for searching over 7,200 finding aids describing collections held by cultural heritage institutions in Texas. TARO has proven a rich resource for historians, documentarians, educators and students since its establishment in 1999, with participating institutions including the state’s larger repositories such as the Texas State Library and Archives, Texas A&M University, and Rice University, and smaller archives including the Old Jail Art Center and San Jacinto Museum of History, as well as over thirty other archives and libraries around the state.

In his announcement of the awards, NEH Chair William Adams said, “In the 50 years since NEH’s founding, the Endowment has supported excellence in the humanities by funding far-reaching research, preservation projects and public programs. The grants announced today continue that tradition, making valuable humanities collections, exhibitions, documentaries and educational resources available to communities across the country.”

According to Kelly Kerbow-Hudson, steering committee co-chair, “The award of the NEH planning grant is big news for TARO and its contributors — and it’s great news for the state’s archival researchers, as well.” She points out that the grant will provide the support necessary to plan for a significant update to the TARO online reference resource http://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/index.html and create best practices to standardize existing finding aids.

The TARO Steering Committee — which includes representatives from repositories across the state — worked extensively to research for and prepare the grant proposal. Special thanks go to key contributors Amy Bowman of UT’s Briscoe Center for American History, Amanda Focke of Rice University’s Woodson Research Center, and Jennifer Hecker of UT Libraries.  A special thanks, as well, to additional Libraries staff involved in the process: Donna Coates, Minnie Rangel, Linda Abbey, Dr. Fred Heath as Project Director and Dr. Lorraine Haricombe as Project Director moving forward.