Category Archives: Archives

Students Use Digital Tools to reveal “Hidden” Collection of Pre-Colonial Objects

Nasca bowl with birds

Students in Astrid Runggaldier’s Art and Archaeology of Ancient Peru class were tasked with an intriguing project this spring: take a collection of pre-colonial objects that is, for all intents and purposes, invisible, and make it visible using digital tools. Their efforts have come to fruition with a first-of-its-kind online exhibition titled Ancient Coastal Cultures of Peru: People and Animals at the Edge of the Pacific Ocean.

The objects in question are part of the Art and Art History Collection (AAHC) at The University of Texas at Austin, a collection associated with the Mesoamerica Center and the Department of Art and Art History. Consisting of ancient artifacts, ethnographic materials, and historical objects primarily from the Americas, the collection, curated by Runggaldier, spans approximately 5,000 invaluable objects for research and studious exploration. These rare pieces do not have their own dedicated exhibition space, although since 2017, select objects rotate through the Ancient Americas gallery at the Blanton Museum of Art (see “Mesoamerican Artifacts Highlight Makeover at UT’s Blanton”).

Chimu spout-and-handle vessel with human effigy

Long focused on the need for a virtual museum to showcase the AAHC collection, Runggaldier looked to the field of digital humanities to devise a project with a few objectives in mind. “Approaching this project from a digital humanities perspective could simultaneously serve in the stewardship of the collection, create an educational resource at UT and beyond, and provide an opportunity for students to become involved in learning goals and tools of digital scholarship, as well as museum studies approaches to collection management and curation,” she said.

Nasca vase with trophy head

Enter the LLILAS Benson Digital Humanities Curriculum Redesign Award. The award provides UT faculty and graduate student instructors with dedicated staff support by LLILAS Benson digital scholarship staff along with a grant of up to $250 to cover expenses incurred in the design or redesign of a course with Latin American, U.S. Latinx, and/or African Diaspora Studies content. Runggaldier applied and received the award, which she used to redesign the Ancient Peru class. For this endeavor, she has worked with Albert Palacios, LLILAS Benson digital scholarship coordinator.

Student’s final project, showing object comparisons

Palacios explains that the goal of the LLILAS Benson Digital Scholarship Office is to “introduce digital humanities principles, methods, and special collections meaningfully and with a critical lens” in the redesign of undergraduate and graduate courses. “Through lectures, class activities, individual assignments and group projects, we aim to strike a balance in the knowledge we impart as co-instructors,” Palacios continues, “so that students leave the course with a well-rounded understanding of the subject matter and course content, as well as information literacy and research methods, basic and more advanced digital skills, and knowledge of ethical issues surrounding collection development and use.”

Chimu vessel

First-year student Miguel Belmonte, a neuroscience major, attests to the success of this aim: Before this course, “I had never used or even known about digital scholarship tools. It was a unique experience.”

Nasca objects depicting chile peppers; postcard showing twentieth-century vendor

Students were divided into teams of four for the final project. Each team had to research objects in the UT collection from two different pre-colonial Andean groups—the Chimu and the Nasca. They then had to compare the objects they chose to an object from another museum collection. To provide context for visualizing the environments of Peru, Runggaldier selected images from the Benson’s Hispanic Society of America Postcard Collection, which has been digitized, described, and mapped by School of Information graduate student Elizabeth Peattie, who is the LLILAS Benson Digital Scholarship and Special Collections intern. Three other indispensable contributors to the success of this project were Brianna Crockett, collections assistant and Art and Art History undergrad, who assisted in the compilation and description of digital assets; Katy Parker, Humanities Liaison Librarian for Fine Arts, who provided research support for students throughout the semester; and Nicole Payntar, doctoral student in the Department of Anthropology, who designed assignment grading criteria and rubrics for research and digital project components.

Student slide featuring Chimu objects and thematic postcard

“I truly enjoy seeing the aha! moment in students’ eyes as they figure out how to use open-source digital tools to make their research more dynamic and interconnected,” says Palacios. “For many, the learning curve is steep, so the digital scholarship staff’s role is to help them overcome this. Luckily, we continue to hear that the in-depth and intense experience was worth the challenge!”

Runggaldier and Palacios had originally planned an in-person opening event to celebrate the going live of the online exhibition. Given the current closure of campus due to the covid-19 pandemic, this was not to be. We encourage readers to visit the online exhibition and to share their opinions on social media by tagging @llilasbenson and @UT_AAH and using the hashtag #digitalhumanities.

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More information: Contact Lauren Macknight, Art and Art History, or Susanna Sharpe, LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections

Digital Preservation and the LLILAS Benson Post-Custodial team

Vea abajo para versión en español / Veja em baixo para versão em português

In honor of World Digital Preservation Day, members of the University of Texas Libraries’ Digital Preservation team have written a series of blog posts to highlight preservation activities at UT Austin, and to explain why the stakes are so high in our ever-changing digital and technological landscape. This post is part four in a series of five. Read part one, part two, and part three.

By DAVID BLISS (@davidallynbliss), Digital Processing Archivist, LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections @llilasbenson

Over the past decade, LLILAS Benson has undertaken post-custodial archival projects in collaboration with partners throughout Latin America and beyond. Post-custodial archival practice encompasses a range of theory and methodology, built on the premise that digital technologies make it possible for collecting institutions like LLILAS Benson to provide access to archival collections from Latin America without taking physical custody or removing them from their original contexts of creation and use.

The Fondo Real de Cholula digitalization team in Puebla, Mexico. The team creates checksums for all files before sending them to the Benson for processing and preservation.

Through these post-custodial projects, LLILAS Benson staff and partner repository staff work together closely to identify collections of interest, select appropriate digitization equipment, and build metadata collection strategies. The materials are then digitized and described on-site in Latin America by partner repository staff. The digitized collections are then transferred to LLILAS Benson, where they are processed, preserved, and in most cases published online. Because the original collections are often vulnerable or sensitive, frequently touching on delicate human rights issues, long-term preservation of their digital copies is especially important to LLILAS Benson staff and partners in Latin America.

A digital photo of a 1607 document from the Fondo Real de Cholula collection. Digital preservation begins the moment each photo in the collection is taken, to protect the integrity of the digital collection.

In recent years, the LLILAS Benson team has integrated file fixity checks in all post-custodial projects. When launching a project at a partner site, LLILAS Benson staff now teach project team members the basic principles of digital preservation and the importance of fixity checks, which verify that files have not been altered or corrupted over time. The project teams are taught to create and verify checksums prior to transferring a batch of files to LLILAS Benson, using free software available in Spanish or Portuguese.

David Bliss and Dylan Joy, of LLILAS Benson, join scholars, government officials, and others at the Archivo Judicial del Estado de Puebla for the launch of the Fondo Real de Cholula digital preservation project. Photo: Revista el Arca de Noé, June 26, 2018.

These checksums now accompany all file deliveries from project sites, and help the LLILAS Benson team identify corrupted or missing files immediately. These checksums speed LLILAS Benson’s processing and preservation work, allowing the files to be published online and preserved long-term more easily. The checksum workflow also encourages each partner to include fixity checks in any future digitization projects they undertake, thus contributing to the partners’ own digital preservation capacity.

Equipo poscustodial LLILAS Benson

Traducido por Jennifer Isasi (@jenniferisve)

@llilasbenson

Durante la última década, LLILAS Benson ha emprendido proyectos de archivo de tipo poscustodial junto con socios a lo largo de América Latina. La práctica de archivo poscustodial abarca una serie de teorías y metodologías basadas en la premisa de que las tecnologías digitales hacen posible que las instituciones colectoras como LLILAS Benson provean acceso a las colecciones de archivos de Latinoamérica sin su custodia física o su eliminación del contexto original de su creación y uso.

A través de estos proyectos poscustodiales el personal de LLILAS Benson y sus colaboradores trabajan en estrecha colaboración para identificar colecciones de interés, seleccionar el equipo de digitalización adecuado y desarrollar estrategias de curaduría de metadatos. Los materiales son digitalizados y descritos en Latinoamérica por parte del personal de cada archivo para luego ser transferidos al equipo LLILAS Benson, quien procesa, preserva y publica los materiales en la mayoría de los casos. Debido a que las colecciones originales son a menudo vulnerables o con contenido delicado, y frecuentemente tocan temas relacionados con derechos humanos, la preservación a largo plazo de sus copias digitales es especialmente importante para el personal y los socios de LLILAS Benson en América Latina.

El equipo de digitalización del Fondo Real de Cholula, en Puebla, Mexico. El equipo crea sumas de verificación para todos los archivos antes de enviarlos a la Benson para su procesamiento y preservación.

En años recientes, LLILAS Benson ha añadido verificaciones de permanencia de archivos en los proyectos poscustodiales en curso. Con el inicio de cada proyecto en el archivo de los colaboradores, el personal de LLILAS Benson enseña a cada equipo los principios básicos de preservación digital y la importancia de añadir verificaciones de permanencia, que verifican que los archivos no han sido alterados o dañados con el tiempo. Los equipos de los proyectos aprenden a crear y verificar sumas de verificación usando programas gratuitos en español o portugués antes de transferir un conjunto de archivos a LLILAS Benson.

Una foto digital de un documento de 1607 del Fondo Real de Cholula. La preservación digital comienza en el momento en que se toma una foto, para proteger la integridad de la colección digital.

Estas sumas de verificación ahora acompañan todas las entregas de archivos desde el lugar de los proyectos de digitalización y ayudan al equipo de LLILAS Benson a identificar archivos dañados o faltantes de inmediato. Esto acelera las tareas locales de procesamiento y preservación en LLILAS Benson y anima a cada colaborador a incluir controles de verificación en cualquier otro proyecto que puedan emprender en el futuro. Esto a su vez contribuye a la capacidad de preservación digital propia de los colaboradores.

David Bliss y Dylan Joy, de LLILAS Benson, en el Archivo Judicial del Estado de Puebla para el lanzamiento del proyecto de preservación digital del Fondo Real de Cholula. Foto: Revista el Arca de Noé, 26 de junio de 2018.

Equipe pós-custodial da LLILAS Benson

Traduzido por Tereza Braga

@llilasbenson

Durante a última década, a LLILAS Benson empreendeu alguns projetos arquivísticos pós-custodiais, em colaboração com entidades parceiras espalhadas pela América Latina e outros lugares. A prática arquivística pós-custodial engloba uma gama de teorias e metodologias assentadas na premissa de que as tecnologias digitais possibilitam a instituições recolhedoras de coleções, como a LLILAS Benson, disponibilizar o acesso a coleções arquivísticas latino-americanas sem necessidade de obter custódia física ou a remoção das mesmas de seus contextos originais de criação e de uso.

Equipe do projeto de digitalização do Fondo Real de Cholula em Puebla, México. A equipe cria checksums para todos os arquivos antes de enviá-los para a Benson para processamento e preservação.

Por meio desses projetos pós-custodiais, as equipes de profissionais da LLILAS Benson e dos repositórios parceiros trabalham em contato estreito para identificar coleções de interesse, selecionar o equipamento de digitalização adequado e criar estratégias de coleta de metadados. O material é então digitalizado e descrito pela equipe de repositório da entidade parceira em cada local específico da América Latina. Em seguida, as coleções digitalizadas são transferidas para a LLILAS Bensonm onde são processadas, preservadas e, na maioria dos casos, publicadas online. Devido ao fato de muitas coleções originais serem vulneráveis ou sensitivas por causa de referências frequentes a questões delicadas de direitos humanos, a preservação a longo prazo de cópias digitais é especialmente importante para a equipe da LLILAS Benson e entidades parceiras na América Latina.

Uma foto digital de um documento de 1607 da coleção Fondo Real de Cholula. A preservação digital começa no momento em que cada foto da coleção é tirada, para proteger a integridade da coleção digital.

Em anos recentes, os profissionais da LLILAS Benson vêm integrando verificações de fixidez de arquivos em todos os projetos pós-custodiais. Agora, ao lançar um projeto em local parceiro, a equipe ensina às equipes do projeto os princípios básicos da preservação digital e a importância das verificações de fixidez para constatar se os arquivos não foram alterados ou corrompidos ao longo do tempo. As equipes de projeto aprendem a criar e verificar as checksums (somas de verificação) antes de transferir qualquer lote de arquivos para a LLILAS Benson, usando software gratuito disponível em espanhol e português.

David Bliss e Dylan Joy, da LLILAS Benson, no Arquivo Judicial do Estado de Puebla, México, para o lançamento do projeto de preservação digital do arquivo Fondo Real de Cholula. Foto: Revista el Arca de Noé, 26 de junho de 2018.

Essas checksums já acompanham todas as entregas de arquivos oriundos de locais de projetos e ajudam a equipe da LLILAS Benson a identificar imediatamente arquivos corrompidos ou faltando. As checksums aceleram o trabalho de processamento e preservação da LLILAS Benson, permitindo publicar os arquivos online e preservá-los a longo prazo com mais facilidade. O fluxograma de checksums também incentiva cada entidade parceira a incluir verificações de fixidez em qualquer projeto de digitalização a ser empreendido no futuro contribuindo, assim, para a própria capacidade de preservação digital de cada entidade.

Digital Preservation and the Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America

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In honor of World Digital Preservation Day, members of the University of Texas Libraries’ Digital Preservation team have written a series of blog posts to highlight preservation activities at UT Austin, and to explain why the stakes are so high in our ever-changing digital and technological landscape. This post is part three in a series of five. Read part one and part two.

By SUSAN SMYTHE KUNG, PhD, Manager, (@SusanKung), and RYAN SULLIVANT, PhD, Language Data Curator, (@floatingtone), Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America @AILLA_archive

At AILLA, we are developing guidelines for language researchers and activists that are intended to facilitate the organization and ingestion of their collections of recordings and annotations of Indigenous, and often endangered, languages into digital repositories so that these valuable digital resources can be preserved for the future. One of the areas of focus for these guidelines is on the importance of using open and sustainable file formats to increase the likelihood that digital files can be opened and read in the future. To help explain these ideas, we produced a short animated video that is available under a Creative Commons license on YouTube at https://youtu.be/2JCpg6ICr8M.

Screenshot from AILLA. 2018. Sustainable File Types , https://youtu.be/2JCpg6ICr8M, CC-By license.

Many digital documents are produced using proprietary software, and future users will need to have the same, or similar, software to open the files or read their contents. While documents in proprietary formats can be put into a digital repository so their bitstreams (all the ones and zeroes) are preserved well into the future, the exact copy of the file a user downloads years from now may be impossible to use if the proprietary software it was made with is no longer available. Documents preserved in these non-open and non-sustainable formats then end up like cuneiform tablets: objects whose marks and features have survived a long passage through time but can only be read by a small number of people after considerable effort and study.

A group of Cañari leaders leaving a meeting in which they discussed the formation of cooperatives to buy land. Cooperativa de San Rafael, man reading: José Zhinin, secretary, law, Antonio Guamán Zhinin president. Man in the door, José María Pichisaca. Front left, Paolo Guamán. photo right, in blue, Francisco Quishpilema; in red Manuel Guamán. Ecuador, 1968. https://ailla.utexas.org/islandora/object/ailla:259974 Photo © Preston Wilson.

Choosing sustainable open formats helps ensure that materials are not just preserved but are accessible and usable into the future, since open-source applications can be more easily built to read files stored in non-proprietary formats.

Archivo de las Lenguas Indígenas de Latinoamérica

Traducido por Jennifer Isasi

@AILLA_archive

En AILLA (por sus siglas en inglés), estamos desarrollando pautas para lingüistas y activistas con la intención de facilitar la organización e ingesta de sus colecciones de materiales de documentación de idiomas en repositorios digitales para que estos valiosos recursos digitales puedan conservarse para el futuro. Una de las áreas que resaltamos en estas guías es la importancia de utilizar formatos de archivo abiertos y sostenibles para aumentar la probabilidad de que estos archivos digitales puedan ser abiertos y leídos en el futuro. Para explicar estas ideas hemos producido un video animado corto que está disponible con licencia de Creative Commons en Youtube: https://youtu.be/2JCpg6ICr8M.

Captura de video de AILLA. 2018. Tipos de archivo , https://youtu.be/SuAUGDzKTol, licencia CC-By.

Muchos documentos digitales se producen con software propietario y se necesita el mismo software (o un software parecido) para abrirlos o leer su contenido. Es cierto que se puede meter documentos en formatos propietarios en un repositorio digital y sus bitstreams (todos los unos y ceros) serán preservados hasta el futuro, pero cuando el usuario del futuro lo descarga, no existe garantía de que aquella copia fiel sea accesible porque es posible que el software necesario ya no exista. Los documentos así preservados en formatos no abiertos y no sostenibles entonces terminan como tableta escritas en cuneiforme cuyas marcas y figuras han sobrevivido tras el tiempo pero solo son legibles por un pequeño conjunto de personas muy especializadas.

Niels Fock con dos hombres cañari en Tacu Pitina, Ecuador, 1974. https://ailla.utexas.org/islandora/object/ailla:259355 Foto © Eva Krener

Escoger formatos sostenibles y abiertos ayuda a asegurar que los materiales no solo permanezcan sino que estén accesibles y útiles en el futuro ya que será más fácil crear una aplicación de fuente abierta para leer archivos almacenados en formatos no propietarios.

Arquivo dos Idiomas Indígenas da América Latina

Traduzido por Tereza Braga

@AILLA_archive

Na AILLA, estamos desenvolvendo diretrizes para pesquisadores linguísticos e ativistas com o objetivo de possibilitar a organização e inserção de suas coleções de gravações e observações em idiomas indígenas (muitos em perigo de extinção) em repositórios digitais para que esses valiosos recursos possam ser preservados para o futuro. Uma das áreas de enfoque para essas diretrizes é a importância de utilizar formatos de arquivo abertos e sustentáveis para aumentar a probabilidade de que esses arquivos digitais possam ser abertos e lidos no futuro. Para ajudar a explicar essas ideias, produzimos um vídeo curto com técnica de animação, que está disponibilizado sob licença da Creative Commons no YouTube, em https://youtu.be/2JCpg6ICr8M.

Captura de tela de AILLA. 2018. Organizing for Personal vs Archival Workflows , https://youtu.be/iZVACb_ShiM

Muitos documentos digitais são produzidos utilizando software proprietário. Assim sendo, o usuário do futuro terá que ter o mesmo software ou similar para poder abrir os arquivos ou ler seus conteúdos. É viável armazenar documentos criados em formatos proprietários em repositório digital, para que seus bitstreams (todos os uns e todos os zeros) sejam preservados por muitos e muitos anos; por outro lado, é também possível que a cópia exata do arquivo baixado pelo usuário daqui a muitos anos seja impossível de utilizar, se o software proprietário que o criou não esteja mais disponível. Documentos preservados nesses formatos não-abertos e não-sustentáveis podem acabar como as táboas de escrita cuneiforme: objetos cujas marcações e funcionalidades sobreviveram uma longa passagem pelo tempo mas só podem ser lidos por um número pequeno de pessoas após considerável esforço e estudo.

Transcrições de histórias tzeltal na Coleção Terrence Kaufman. https://ailla.utexas.org/islandora/object/ailla:257561 Foto © Gabriela Pérez Báez

A seleção de formatos abertos e sustentáveis ajuda a garantir que certos materiais sejam não só preservados mas também acessíveis e utilizáveis no futuro, considerando que é mais fácil construir aplicações de código-fonte aberto capazes de ler arquivos armazenados em formatos não-proprietários.

Ernesto Cardenal Is Dead at 95: The Nicaraguan Poet, Priest, and Revolutionary Chose the Benson Collection for His Archive

Ernesto Cardenal, the Nicaraguan poet, priest, and revolutionary, died in Managua on Sunday, March 1. He was 95.

Ernesto Cardenal, undated photograph.

Admired and controversial, Cardenal was a towering figure in Central American culture and politics. As Nicaragua’s minister of culture under the Sandinista government, which took power in 1979, he oversaw a national program that taught poetry to Nicaraguans of all ages and all walks of life. 

Ernesto Cardenal Papers, Benson Latin American Collection.

As a priest, ordained in 1965, Cardenal defied the Vatican of Pope John Paul II by embracing liberation theology and joining the Sandinista revolutionary armed conflict. His priestly authority was revoked by Nicaragua’s bishops in 1985. Pope Francis absolved Cardenal of “all canonical censorships” in February 2019.

Ernesto Cardenal Papers, Benson Latin American Collection.

Cardenal’s long and rich life can almost be said to be several lives rolled into one. His spiritual path would take him in the 1950s to Gethsemani, the Trappist monastery in Kentucky, where he met and befriended monk and writer Thomas Merton. In the 1960s, he founded an artistic and spiritual community in the Solentiname archipelago in Nicaragua, where he taught literature and painting. He fought in the Nicaraguan Revolution to depose dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle, and serving in the Sandinista government, Cardenal left the Sandinista party in 1994 and became highly critical of President Daniel Ortega.

Ernesto Cardenal. Photo: by Sandra Eleta.

In 2016, the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at The University of Texas at Austin acquired the Ernesto Cardenal Papers, an extensive archive consisting of correspondence, writings by Cardenal, newspaper clippings and writings by others related to Cardenal, photographs, biographical materials, and audiovisual materials. 

Cardenal during his 2016 visit to the Benson. Photo: Robert Esparza.

“We are honored that Ernesto Cardenal chose the Benson Collection as the permanent home for his personal archive. Already, students and scholars from around the globe have been able to consult the materials for their research. We know this accessibility was important to Father Cardenal, and we are committed to the preservation of his life’s work,” said Melissa Guy, director of the Benson Collection.

Virginia Garrard, director of LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections, and professor of history and religious studies, knew Cardenal personally and has long been inspired by him. “Ernesto Cardenal was a fighter: for justice, against dictatorship, for equality, for his faith, and for the power of art and beauty to shine light in a dark world. He was tireless in this lifelong struggle, striving until his final days for a better Nicaragua and true justice for all people. LLILAS Benson is proud to help to carry on his legacy,” Garrard said. (LLILAS Benson is a partnership between the Benson and the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies, or LLILAS, established in 2011.)

Cardenal reads his poetry to a packed house at the Benson. Photo: Travis Willmann.

Cardenal visited the UT Austin campus in November 2016 to celebrate the opening of his archive with a poetry reading before a packed house. During his stay, he was also able to view some of the Benson’s archival treasures and visit with students in a more intimate setting. In honor of the Cardenal archive, and of LLILAS Benson’s emphasis on Central American scholarship and collections, Garrard established Cátedra Ernesto Cardenal, which sponsors a yearly symposium on a topic relating to Central America, and funds research visits to the collection.

Cardenal’s connection with the Benson opened the door to unprecedented access to the man himself, and he granted an interview to former Benson librarian José Montelongo in spring of 2016. Excerpts of the interview, in Spanish with English subtitles, can be viewed at Interview with Ernesto Cardenal.

In 2017, LLILAS Benson published Spanish and English versions of a poignant essay by Professor Luis Cárcamo-Huechante, who discusses the impact of Cardenal’s writings on him as a young man growing up during the Chilean dictatorship. (Read “Cardenal in Hard Times” / “Cardenal en tiempos difíciles.”)

Warhol-inspired libro-disco cover. Caracas, 1972. Benson Latin American Collection.

“It is an extraordinary gift that Cardenal’s papers arrive at the Benson Latin American Collection, in Austin, Texas,” Cárcamo-Huechante wrote. “And it is likely that once again, Cardenal’s writings, and the ethical, political, spiritual, poetic, and human voice that resonates in them, will accompany us at these latitudes of the planet, in the hard times that seem to be upon us.”

For more information, contact Susanna Sharpe, ssharpe@austin.utexas.edu, 512-232.2403.

Digital Preservation and the Alexander Architectural Archives

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In honor of World Digital Preservation Day, members of the University of Texas Libraries’ Digital Preservation team have written a series of blog posts to highlight preservation activities at UT Austin, and to explain why the stakes are so high in our ever-changing digital and technological landscape. This post is part two in a series of five. Read part one.

By KATIE PIERCE MEYER, PhD, Head of Architectural Collections, Alexander Architectural Archives | @kpiercemeyer @UT_APL

Architectural archives are confronting challenges associated with collecting born-digital records, as computer-aided design and building information modeling has become standard in architecture, design, planning, and historic preservation. The resulting digital design records complicate long-term preservation in archival repositories, as many of these are created using a variety of (often proprietary) software programs.

A sample CD from the Volz & Associates, Inc. collection. Born-digital archiving requires preservation two ways: retention of the original media and capture of the data for long-term storage.

Over the past few years, the Alexander Architectural Archives took its first steps toward processing born-digital media from a collection donated by a historic preservation architecture firm. The Alexander Archives has approached this effort as a learning opportunity – for students and staff – to develop digital preservation knowledge. Graduate research assistants have learned about digital archives and preservation at the UT School of Information and apply their new skills, working with staff at the Alexander Architectural Archives and UT Libraries’ Digital Stewardship unit to develop preservation plans, recover data from legacy media, create preservation images to be vaulted to tape, and draft public access workflows.

Abbie Norris, digital archives Graduate Research Assistant at the Alexander Architectural Archives, processes 813 floppy disks, CDs, zip disks, and flash drives, imaging the disks, capturing metadata like disk size and file types, and recording everything for documentation in the finding aid.

Read more about these efforts and the learning process from the perspective of one of the GRAs at the Alexander Architectural Archives.

Archivos de Arquitectura Alexander

Traducido por Jennifer Isasi

Para el Día Mundial de la Preservación Digital, los miembros del equipo de Preservación Digital de las Bibliotecas de la Universidad de Texas han escrito una serie de entradas de blog que hacen destacar las actividades de preservación en la universidad, y para enfatizar la importancia de la preservación en un presente de cambio tecnológico constante. Este texto es el segundo en una serie de cinco. Lea el primer texto.

Los nuevos registros digitales están representan un desafío para su recopilación por parte de los archivos de arquitectura al haberse convertido el diseño y modelado de construcción por computadora en el estándar en arquitectura, diseño, planificación y preservación histórica. Los registros de diseño digital complican la preservación a largo plazo en los repositorios del archivo puesto que son creados con diferentes programas informáticos, muchas veces patentado.

Disquetes 3.5” de la colección Volz & Associates, Inc.

En los últimos años, los Archivos de Arquitectura Alexander (Alexander Architectural Archives) dieron sus primeros pasos hacia el procesamiento de medios de origen digital de una colección donada por una firma de arquitectura de conservación del patrimonio histórico. Los Archivos Alexander han abordado este esfuerzo como una oportunidad de aprendizaje para el desarrollo de conocimiento de preservación digital, tanto para estudiantes como para su personal. Los asistentes de investigación graduados que han aprendido sobre archivos digitales y preservación en la Escuela de Información de UT aplican sus nuevas habilidades trabajando con el personal de la unidad de Administración Digital de Archivos de Arquitectura Alexander y las Bibliotecas de UT para desarrollar planes de preservación, recuperar datos de medios analógicos y crear imágenes de preservación para ser guardadas en cinta.

Lea más (en inglés) sobre estos esfuerzos y el proceso de aprendizaje desde la perspectiva de uno de los estudiantes graduados de los Archivos de Arquitectura Alexander.

Arquivos Arquitectônicos Alexander

Traduzido por Tereza Braga

Para o Dia Mundial da Preservação Digital, os membros do equipe de Preservação Digital das Bibliotecas da Universidade de Texas escreveram uma serie de entradas de blog que enfatizam as atividades de preservação na nossa universidad, para explicar a importancia da preservação no contexto de um presente de tecnología em fluxo constante. Este texto é o primeiro numa série de cinco. Ler o primer texto.

A área de arquivística arquitetônica vem enfrentando diversos desafios ao congregar registros criados em mídia digital (“born-digital records”) nesta era em que o design por computador e a modelagem de dados para construção já se tornaram padrões nos setores de arquitetura, projeto, planejamento e preservação histórica. Os registros digitais resultantes desses processos complicam a preservação a longo prazo em repositórios arquivísticos, pois muitos desses registros são criados por programas de software diferenciados que frequentemente são proprietários. 

Battle Hall é o sede da Escola de Arquitectura e dos Arquivos Alexander. Foi desenhado por Cass Gilbert no estilo Beaux Arts.

Há alguns anos, o Alexander Architectural Archives tomou os primeiros passos para o processamento de mídias criadas digitalmente, utilizando uma coleção doada por uma firma de arquitetura de preservação histórica. A abordagem escolhida foi encarar esse trabalho como uma oportunidade valiosa, oferecida não só a alunos mas também a equipes profissionais, de desenvolver conhecimentos sobre preservação digital. Foi criada uma equipe de GRAs (assistentes de pesquisa de pós-graduação), que aprenderam tudo sobre arquivística e preservação digital na Escola de Informação da UT e agora aplicam suas novas competências trabalhando com os profissionais do Alexander Architectural Archives e da unidade de Gestão Digital da UT Libraries para criar planos de preservação, recuperar dados contidos em mídias antigas, criar imagens de preservação para depósito eletrônico em fita, e elaborar fluxogramas para o acesso pelo público.

Aprenda mais (em inglês) sobre esse trabalho e veja como foi o processo de aprendizado da equipe, ouvindo a perspectiva de um dos GRAs atuando no Alexander Architectural Archives. 

On the Zine

“Illuminating Explorations” – This series of digital exhibits is designed to promote and celebrate UT Libraries collections in small-scale form. The exhibits will highlight unique materials to elevate awareness of a broad range of content. “Illuminating Explorations” will be created and released over time, with the intent of encouraging use of featured and related items, both digital and analog, in support of new inquiries, discoveries, enjoyment and further exploration.

Zines, those do-it-yourself publications that have found renewed popularity in the last decade, provide a medium for different groups to cultivate their own forms of expression. And this expression can vary depending on the zine creator. Broadly speaking, recurring themes tend to interrogate identity (gender, sexuality, race), place (home, gentrification, nation), and time (childhood, adolescence, adulthood). For their part, audiences continue to flock to this form of cultural production because zines are affordable, rare, and allow unfettered access to the creator’s perspectives. Such access is significant as many zinesters come from historically marginalized groups that publishing companies have traditionally overlooked. Their perspectives tend to subvert or resist mainstream American ideas.   

A new exhibit, “You Are What You (Do Not) Eat: Decolonial Resistance in U.S. Latinx Zines,” aims to underscore this resistance by examining Latinx zines that interrogate food and its impact in shaping cultural identity. Zinesters draw on memoirs and artwork to promote plant-based diets and condemn colonial impositions regarding food, “healthy” bodies, and medicine. As an offshoot of food, the exhibit also highlights zines that discuss traditional healing, speciesism, and body positivity.

Viewers will find a nice array of zines, with contributors from as nearby as San Antonio and as far as Washington D.C. Some examples will be more text heavy while others will use mixed media to articulate their points.  

This collection will be of interest to anyone who is interested in zine culture, food studies, decolonial studies, and Latinx cultural production. My hope is that scholars will develop similar projects using zines. The print versions of these zines and others are available in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Room at the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection.  

Daniel Arbino is the Librarian for U.S. Latina/o Studies.

CMAS at 50: A Legacy of Scholarship, Teaching, and Service

Curated by Carla Alvarez, US Latina/o Archivist, Benson Latin American Collection

On Thursday, February 13, the Benson Latin American Collection and Latino Studies celebrated the opening of the archive of the Center for Mexican American Studies (CMAS) with a reception, exhibition, and a staged reading of some of the archive’s contents. The reading told the emotional and powerful story of the Center’s birth, in the voices of those who fought—sometimes at their own professional peril—for an institutional commitment to Mexican American Studies by the University of Texas.

The room was full, and emotions were palpable and visible. Audience and participants ranged from students to faculty to individuals whose history with CMAS extends back decades. Read an account of the event in the Daily Texan.


Portrait of Dr. Américo Paredes, beloved professor, folklorist, and CMAS director

Founded in 1970, the Center for Mexican American Studies (CMAS) at The University of Texas at Austin benefited from Chicano student activism of the 1960s. Members of the Mexican American Student Organization (MASO) and later the Mexican American Youth Organization (MAYO) demanded equitable representation and resources be devoted to Mexican American studies on the UT campus. After years of activism, the Center was established. It stands as an institutional recognition of the importance of Mexican Americans and Latinos in the history, culture, and the politics of the United States.

Information about Dr. Américo Paredes from the CMAS 35th anniversary publication. “35 Years: The Center for Mexican American Studies” was compiled in 2005 by a group of J349T Oral History as Journalism students.

Since its founding, the Center has fostered Mexican American studies and Latino studies on campus and nationally through partnerships. A founding member of the Inter-UniversityProgram for Latino Research (IUPLR), CMAS has worked toward shaping Latino scholarship and to support the next generation of Latino studies scholars.

Entrance to the Center during the time when it was housed in the Gebauer Building, then known as the Speech Building. This is one of the earliest photographs of the Center, from the late 1970s.

For nearly thirty years, the Center operated an in-house publishing unit, CMAS Books, which began as a publisher of academic monographs, providing a means for affiliated faculty to share their research with other scholars, but blossomed into an imprint with a broader cultural and scholarly reach. CMAS Books published a series of monographs and several periodicals including journals and newsletters for the Center and sponsored entities like IUPLR.

“Noticias de CMAS” publicized the Center’s special events.

In addition to supporting Mexican American studies on campus and nationally, CMAS had another goal from the beginning—to establish a presence and engage with the larger community. This community engagement has evolved over the years and included partnerships with the Américo Paredes Middle School;La Peña, a community-based arts organization, the Serie Project and Sam Coronado Studio; and a Latino radio project, proudly launched in the early 1990s. That initial radio project eventually developed into the nationally syndicatedLatino USA. The Center has thus firmly established a legacy of expanding and enhancing knowledge of Mexican Americans’ and Latinos’ contributions to the history and culture of the United States.

Flyer promoting the CMAS 35th anniversary exhibit in the Office of the President.

The Center for Mexican American Studies will celebrate its 50th anniversary during the 2020–2021 academic year.The Center now exists as one of three units under Latino Studies at UT, a powerhouse of Latino thought and advocacy that also includes the Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies and the Latino Research Institute. Visit liberalarts.utexas.edu/latinostudies for updates on all anniversary festivities, including special events, public conversations, digital retrospectives, and interactive campus installations.

The Survival Guide for new African American and Mexican American students, published in 1993, was a collaboration between CMAS and the Center for African and African American Studies (CAAS), now the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies. The Guide was distributed on the UT campus and included articles by students, faculty profiles, information about CAAS and CMAS, a list of Mexican American/Latino and Black student organizations, as well as a directory of minority faculty and staff. Cover art by California artist Malaquías Montoya.

CMAS at 50 is on view through July 2, 2020, in the second-floor gallery of the Benson Latin American Collection, SRH Unit 1. To view the list of archival materials online, visit the Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO) CMAS.

Reflections from World Digital Preservation Day: Introduction

Vea abajo para versión en español / Veja em baixo para versão em português

In honor of World Digital Preservation Day, members of the University of Texas Libraries’ Digital Preservation team have written a series of blog posts to highlight preservation activities at UT Austin, and to explain why the stakes are so high in our ever-changing digital and technological landscape. This post is part one in a series of five.

Introduction to Digital Preservation

BY DAVID BLISS, Digital Processing Archivist, LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections; ASHLEY ADAIR, Head of Preservation and Digital Stewardship University of Texas Libraries

In recent decades, the archival field has been transformed by the rise of digital historical records. As computers of all kinds have worked their way into many areas of our professional and personal lives, collections of documents donated to archives in order to preserve individual and institutional histories have come to comprise both traditional paper records and those created using these computers. Digital records can be scans of paper or other objects, born-digital files comparable to paper records, such as Word or text documents, or entirely new kinds of objects, such as video games. Archivists are committed to preserving digital records, just like physical ones, for future generations to use and study. Digital preservation refers to the full range of work involved in ensuring digital files remain accessible and readable in the face of changing hardware and software.

A box of floppy disks, part of an archival collection held by UT Libraries

Unlike traditional physical media like paper, which can typically be kept readable for decades or centuries with proper housing and ambient conditions, digital files can be lost without periodic, active intervention on the part of archivists: legacy file formats can become unreadable on modern computers; hard drives and optical media can break or degrade over time; and power outages can cause network storage to fail. Digital archivists take steps to prevent and prepare for these contingencies.

There is no one perfect or even correct solution to the challenge of preserving digital files, so each institution may use different tools, standards, and hardware to carry out the work. Typically, however, digital preservation involves choosing suitable file formats, maintaining storage media and infrastructure, and organizing and describing digital objects in a standardized way that ensures future archivists and users can understand and access what has been preserved.

Cassette tapes to be digitized, containing recordings relevant to indigenous languages

Digital preservation represents a significant effort that cannot be carried out by a single person or group. At the University of Texas Libraries, dissemination of digital preservation knowledge and skills is a crucial part of digital preservation practice. Training and pedagogy spread digital preservation expertise within the organization and out to researchers and partners, allowing the Libraries to preserve an ever-growing amount of valuable data.

Introducción a la preservación digital

Para el Día Mundial de la Preservación Digital, los miembros del equipo de Preservación Digital de las Bibliotecas de la Universidad de Texas han escrito una serie de entradas de blog que hacen destacar las actividades de preservación en la universidad, y para enfatizar la importancia de la preservación en un presente de cambio tecnológico constante. Este texto es el primero en una serie de cinco.

Traducido por Jennifer Isasi, Postdoctoral Fellow in Data Curation in Latin American and Latina/o Studies

En décadas recientes, el ámbito de los archivo se ha visto transformado con el aumento de los registros históricos digitales. A medida que las computadoras de todo tipo han pasado a formar parte de muchas áreas de nuestra vida profesional y personal, las colecciones de documentos donados a los archivos para preservar historias individuales e institucionales ahora presentan tanto los registros en papel tradicionales como los creados con computadoras. Los registros digitales pueden ser copias escaneadas de papel u otros objetos, archivos digitales nativos similares a los registros en papel, como documentos de Word o texto, o tipos de objetos completamente nuevos, como los videojuegos. Los archivistas están comprometidos a preservar los registros digitales, al igual que los físicos, para que las generaciones futuras los utilicen y estudien. Así, la preservación digital se refiere a la gama completa de trabajo involucrado en garantizar que los archivos digitales permanezcan accesibles y legibles ante el cambio de hardware y software.


Una caja de disquetes, parte de una colección de archivos de las bibliotecas de la Universidad de Texas

A diferencia de los medios físicos tradicionales como el papel, que por lo general pueden ser preservados por décadas o siglos en condiciones de guardado adecuadas, los archivos digitales pueden perderse sin la intervención periódica y activa por parte de los archivistas: las computadoras modernas no pueden leer algunos de los formatos de archivo más antiguos, los discos duros o los medios ópticos se pueden romper o degradar con el tiempo y los cortes de luz pueden causar fallos en el almacenamiento en la red. Los archivistas digitales toman medidas para prevenir o prepararse para este tipo de imprevistos.

No hay una solución perfecta ni correcta para el desafío de preservar archivos digitales, por lo que cada institución puede utilizar diferentes herramientas, estándares y equipos para este trabajo. Por lo general, no obstante, la preservación digital implica elegir formatos de archivo adecuados, mantener medios de almacenaje y su infraestructura así como asegurar la organización y la descripción de los objetos digitales de una manera estandarizada que garantice que los futuros archivistas y usuarios puedan comprender y acceder al material preservado.

Fitas cassette que contienen grabaciones relacionadas con los lenguajes indígenas, y que serán digitalizadas

El trabajo y esfuerzo necesarios para la preservación digital no puede ser realizado por una sola persona o grupo. En el conjunto de bibliotecas de la Universidad de Texas, la difusión del conocimiento sobre preservación digital es una parte crucial de la práctica de preservación. Mediante esfuerzos de capacitación y pedagógicos tanto dentro de la organización como entre investigadores y colaboradores, estas bibliotecas están logrando preservar una cantidad cada vez mayor de datos relevantes.

Introdução à preservação digital

Traduzido por Tereza Braga

Para o Dia Mundial da Preservação Digital, os membros do equipe de Preservação Digital das Bibliotecas da Universidade de Texas escreveram uma serie de entradas de blog que enfatizam as atividades de preservação na nossa universidad, para explicar a importancia da preservação no contexto de um presente de tecnología em fluxo constante. Este texto é o primeiro numa série de cinco.

O advento dos registros históricos digitais causou uma completa transformação do setor arquivístico nas últimas décadas. Computadores de todos os tipos estão cada vez mais presentes em cada vez mais aspectos da vida profissional e pessoal. Essa mudança também afeta as coleções de documentos que são doadas a instituições arquivísticas com o intuito de preservar histórias individuais e institucionais. Hoje em dia, uma coleção pode reunir tanto registros tradicionais em papel quanto registros criados por esses diversos computadores. O que chamamos de registro digital pode ser uma simples página ou objeto que tenha sido escaneado ou qualquer arquivo que já tenha nascido em forma digital e que seja comparável com um registro em papel como, por exemplo, um texto regidido em Word. Registro digital pode também significar uma coisa inteiramente nova como um videogame, por exemplo. Arquivistas são profissionais que se dedicam a preservar registros digitais para utilização e estudo por futuras gerações, como já é feito com os registros físicos. A preservação digital pode incluir  uma ampla variedade de tarefas, todas com o objetivo comum de fazer com que um arquivo digital se mantenha acessível e legível mesmo com as frequentes mudanças na área de hardware e software.


Uma caixa de disquetes, parte de uma coleção de arquivos mantida pelas bibliotecas da Universidade de Texas

Um arquivo digital é diferente do arquivo em papel ou outros meios físicos tradicionais, que geralmente pode ser mantido legível por muitas décadas ou mesmo séculos, se armazenado em invólucro adequado e sob as devidas condições ambientais. Um arquivo digital pode se perder para sempre se não houver uma intervenção periódica e ativa por parte de um arquivista. Certos arquivos em formatos mais antigos podem se tornar ilegíveis em computadores modernos. Discos rígidos e mídia ótica podem quebrar ou estragar com o tempo. Cortes de energia podem causar panes em sistemas de armazenagem em rede. O arquivista digital é o profissional que sabe tomar medidas tanto de prevenção quanto de preparação para essas e outras contingências.

Não existe solução perfeita, ou sequer correta, para o desafio que é preservar um arquivo digital. Diferentes instituições utilizam diferentes ferramentas, normas e hardware. De maneira geral, no entanto, as seguintes tarefas devem ser realizadas: escolher o formato de arquivo adequado; providenciar e manter uma mídia e infra-estrutura de armazenagem; e organizar e descrever os objetos digitais de uma maneira que seja padronizada e que permita a futuros arquivistas e usuários entender e acessar o que foi preservado.

Fitas cassette com conteúdo relacionado às idiomas indígenas, que serão digitalizadas

A preservação digital é um empreendimento importante que não pode ser executado por apenas um indivíduo ou grupo. Na UT Libraries, a disseminação de conhecimentos e competências de preservação digital é uma parte essencial dessa prática. Temos cursos de capacitação e pedagogia para disseminar essa especialização em preservação digital para toda a organização e também para pesquisadores e parceiros externos. É esse trabalho que capacita a Libraries a preservar um grande volume de dados valiosos que não pára de crescer.

WHIT’S PICKS: TAKE 7 – GEMS FROM THE HMRC

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

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

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


Laika & the Cosmonauts / Local Warming

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

The genius of this Finnish group (1987-2008) was not only that they imported masterful instrumental takes on American surf garage rock back into our record stores, but that they also delivered blistering live shows to prove their point. Local Warming keeps it in cruise control with Sci-Fi guitars, greasy organ hooks, and a punkabilly rhythm section. The vibe veers off into prog and post rock at times, but thankfully never strays too far off the futuristic retro path. Crank up the old hovercraft and blast these instant classics!


Greg Trooper / Floating

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

Heart on its sleeve country-rock from a troubadour lifer, the late Greg Trooper. Having penned songs for Vince Gill, Steve Earle (who provides a true fan’s liner notes), Billy Bragg and others, Trooper showcases his beefy baritone on these tough and touching jukebox-worthy originals. Forthright yet dreamily reflective lyrics reveal river-deep themes swirling around love and loss. Masterfully recorded and produced by Americana heavyweight Phil Madeira.


13Ghosts / Cicada

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

This Birmingham, Alabama duo flew low enough under the music biz radar to miss out on fame, but high enough to attract critical accolades. On this stylistically sprawling 21 track album, Brad Armstrong and Buzz Russell share songwriting duties, and while both are lyrically rooted in southern gothic, the music swerves back and forth – sometimes abruptly – between lo-fi avant pop rock and brooding folk. Think Mark Linkous and Elliot Smith (both ghosts themselves) fussing over fuzz pedals and tape loops in some creaky pineywoods cabin. Or better yet, don’t think. Just tune in and tag along on this richly rewarding backroads trip.


Mal Waldron / Soul Eyes : The Mal Waldron Memorial Album

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

Not quite the jazz household name as Monk, Bud, or Duke, Waldron was most certainly that special musician’s musician, as well as an accomplished composer and sideman to the likes of John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, and Billie Holliday. This compilation spotlights Mal as both solo artist and house pianist for Prestige Records by showcasing various tracks from the Prestige All-Stars, hard-bopping alongside Coltrane and Webster Young, Steve Lacy and Eric Dolphy. Elegant, melodic, classic bop. Essential listening for even the most casual of jazz fans.


Nina Nastasia / Dogs

Available at Fine Arts Library On Site Storage

Minimalist chamber folk from Los Angeles singer-songwriter Nastasia. On this, her first album, the musical moodiness is captured clean and bright by Steve Albini’s bone-dry and in your face production. Hints of dissonant strings and the occasional dark drums/goth guitar combo (“Roadkill,” “Nobody Knew Her,” “Jimmy’s Rose Tattoo”) help to cut the treacle of Nastasia’s almost too-sugary sweet vocals. Legendary BBC DJ Jon Peel declared the album “astonishing.”


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

Collections Highlight: Bertolini’s “Florula guatimalensis”

Historical photo of Antonio Bertoloni
Antonio Bertoloni

Antonio Bertolini (1775-1869) was a Italian botanist and professor of botany at Bologna who wrote predominantly on Italian botany. He also collected notable samples of Central American flora.

Joaquin Velasco, a Mexican physician, came to Italy in 1836, as part of the Mexican papal delegation, and brought with him numerous dried plants and seeds from Guatemala which he presented to Bertolini. Most of them were new or rare species, and their description and classification was compiled and published by Bertolini as Florula guatimalensis sistens plantas nonnullas in Guatimala sponte nascentes. One of the 28 copies available at libraries worldwide resides in the Benson Latin American Collection.

print of poinsetta
“Euphorbia erytrophylla,” commonly known as flor de pascua or poinsettia pulcherrima, from Antonio Bertoloni, Florula guatimalensis sistens plantas nonnullas in Guatimala sponte nascentes (Bononiae [Bologna]: ex typographaeo Emygdii ab Ulmo, 1840), plate 6. Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas Libraries.

Several of the plants Velasco provided to Bertolini were successfully grown in the Bologna Botanical Gardens.