Category Archives: Open Access

Archiving for the Future: AILLA Launches Free Online Course

BY SUSAN S. KUNG, AILLA MANAGER

The Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America (AILLA) is delighted to announce the launch of a free online course called Archiving for the Future: Simple Steps for Archiving Language Documentation Collections, available at https://archivingforthefuture.teachable.com/. The course material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. BCS-1653380 (Susan S. Kung and Anthony C. Woodbury, PIs; September 1, 2016, to August 31, 2020). The course is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license.

Logo, Archiving for the Future: Simple Steps for Archiving Language Documentation Collections

The course is a resource to aid people of all backgrounds in organizing born-digital and digitized language materials and data for deposit into any digital repository (not just AILLA) for long-term preservation and accessibility. The target audience for this course is anyone who is engaged in creating materials in or about Indigenous, endangered, under-documented, or minority languages as part of language documentation efforts, including language rights, maintenance, and revitalization. It was designed particularly for individuals or groups made up of academic researchers and/or Indigenous or endangered language speakers and community members, though anyone may benefit from it.

The curriculum follows simple steps to guide participants through three phases of work to organize language documentation materials for archiving, and it explains in detail what to do before, during, and after data collection to facilitate the long-term preservation of the data. The course is designed to be informative, engaging, and accessible to anyone, especially to those with no previous experience archiving collections of language materials.

Infographic showing the three phases and nine steps on which the curriculum is based

This course was developed by four members of the AILLA staff: Susan Kung, AILLA Manager and grant co-PI; Ryan Sullivant, AILLA Language Data Curator; Alicia Niwabaga, Graduate Research Assistant 2017–2018; and Elena Pojman, Undergraduate Research Assistant 2019–2020. Sullivant and Kung interviewed representatives of various DELAMAN (delaman.org) archives and other digital data repositories in the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Australia, and Cameroon. Niwagaba collaborated with Kung and Sullivant to develop an early version of the course that the AILLA team taught live at the Institute on Collaborative Language Research (CoLang 2018) at the University of Florida in Gainesville during June 18–22, 2018. Niwagaba created the educational animated videos that are embedded in the course to illustrate key aspects of the curriculum. Pojman researched curriculum platforms in which to build the online course. Teachable was selected for a variety of reasons, including its simple yet attractive aesthetic that displays all course modules in the left side bar (see illustration below); its ease of use and progress tracking for enrolled students; its responsiveness to different technology; and the built-in ability to quickly and easily set up the same course in multiple languages. This last feature is especially important since AILLA staff plan to translate the curriculum into Spanish and Portuguese to make it more accessible to AILLA’s Latin American audience. Once the curriculum software was selected, Kung and Sullivant expanded the original 2018 workshop curriculum and wrote the additional content. Pojman wrote the objectives and activities for each step, built the English course in Teachable, and created all of the graphics that are used in the curriculum.

Screenshot of the Teachable student interface, including an embedded video developed for this curriculum

In funding and academic environments where it is becoming increasingly common for researchers to be responsible for archiving their own research data, the AILLA staff saw a need to train language researchers to do this work so that the resulting language collections would be well organized, well described, easy to navigate, and available to reuse for further research and education. While there are some language documentation programs in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand that train language documenters to do these tasks, most do not, and almost no training on how to archive language documentation is available in Latin America. The AILLA team created this course to fill these gaps. 

LLILAS Benson Launches Curriculum Site

By ALBERT A. PALACIOS

In the spring of 2019, LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections partnered with the Urban Teachers Program at the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education to develop and provide free, online access to high school lesson plans. The goal was to bring together the historical perspectives of underrepresented groups, current scholarship, and digitized holdings of the Benson Latin American Collection and Latin American partners. Thanks to a Department of Education Title VI grant, LLILAS Benson was able to create a portal via UT Libraries’ open-access repositories to make these resources widely available to teachers.

Department of Curriculum and Instruction chair Dr. Cinthia Salinas walks “Social Studies Methods” master’s students through a teaching exercise using a pictorial account of Moctezuma and Cortés’s meeting from the Benson’s Genaro García Collection, March 19, 2019. Courtesy of Albert A. Palacios.

For the past two years, College of Education graduate students have been creating World History and World Geography units for use in high school classrooms. The underlying principle for these teaching materials is that students are able to understand, and then subvert, dominant historical narratives in Latin American, U.S. Latinx, and African Diaspora history given the marginalized perspectives the lesson plans highlight. Using the Benson’s digital collections, they have focused on a variety of topics, including women in colonial Latin America, the Mexican Revolution, and the Cold War in Central and South America (publication in process).

Collection materials from the Benson’s Rare Books and Genaro García collections, and El Salvador’s Museum of the Word and Image’s Armed Conflict Collection.

The collaboration and site has since broadened to include other disciplines, audiences, and learning objectives. LLILAS Benson Digital Scholarship staff has been partnering with faculty and graduate students in Latin American Studies, Art and Art History, Spanish and Portuguese, Mexican American Studies, and History to design Digital Humanities–focused lesson plans and assignments for undergraduate teaching. Work is also ongoing to publish technical capacity-building teaching and learning resources for graduate students, digital humanists, and archival professionals at UT Austin and beyond.

Banner image for platform tutorial, “Presenting Geospatial Research with ArcGIS,” based on colonial holdings from the Genaro García Collection.

The site also helps instructors and students find and browse through LLILAS Benson’s digital resources. It consolidates under its Primary Sources section all existing LLILAS Benson digital scholarship projects, digitized collections, and exhibitions. Visitors can filter these resources by grade level, date range, course subject, and country to find relevant primary and secondary sources on their research and teaching focus.

Banner image for Fidel Castro’s Building Inauguration Speeches geospatial exhibition. Curated by Karla Roig, Association of Research Libraries’ Digital and Inclusive Excellence Undergraduate Fellow (2018–2019).

Explore the site through http://curriculum.llilasbenson.utexas.edu/. The interdisciplinary collaborations and site’s development were generously funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Title VI Program and LLILAS Benson’s Excellence Fund for Technology and Development in Latin America. This resource was conceived, designed, and launched by: 

  • Lindsey Engleman, Public Engagement Coordinator (2014–2019), LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections
  • Tiffany Guridy, Public Engagement Coordinator, LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections
  • Delandrea S. Hall, Doctoral Candidate, Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education
  • Rodrigo Leal, Website Designer and Student Technician(Spring 2019), LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections
  • Casz McCarthy, Public Engagement Graduate Research Assistant, LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections
  • Albert A. Palacios, Digital Scholarship Coordinator, LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections
  • Cinthia S. Salinas, Professor and Chair, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education
  • UT Libraries Digital Stewardship (Anna Lamphear and Brittany Centeno)

Digital Stewardship Prevents Permanent Loss of Archives

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 the final installment in a series of five. Read part onepart two, part three, and part four.

BY ASHLEY ADAIR, Head of Preservation and Digital Stewardship, University of Texas Libraries

The UT Libraries’ Digital Stewardship unit supports digital preservation work across the University of Texas Libraries. When Libraries repositories, such as the Alexander Architectural Archives, LLILAS Benson, or the Archive of Indigenous Languages of Latin America begin new digital projects, the Digital Stewardship unit often helps develop initial processing plans. Unit staff install tools and provide training to recover data from older media such as floppy disks and Zip disks, or for acquiring files produced by partner organizations and depositing researchers. Processing of these materials must be planned and undertaken very carefully since data may be at risk of permanent loss due to obsolete formats and media, or because of political or physical issues in local environments.

Floppy disk from a UT Libraries archival collection

Taking a life-cycle approach, the unit also coordinates long-term safekeeping of these valuable and sometimes vulnerable files. Digital Stewardship developed file organizing, naming, and description practices for uniformly storing all of UT Libraries’ diverse preservation data in keeping with international standards. When repository staff complete processing, the Digital Stewardship unit takes in copies of data to be preserved, vaults them to long-term storage, maintains detailed centralized records, and manages off-site backup copies. The unit collaborates with UT Libraries repositories continuously over time to enhance organization-wide digital preservation practices, adapting to new developments and the growing scale of data to be preserved.

Still from Sustainable File Types video, visible at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JCpg6ICr8M&feature=youtu.be.

Administración digital

Traducido por Jennifer Isasi, PhD (@jenniferisve)

La unidad de Administración Digital de las Bibliotecas de la Universidad de Texas (UT) apoya el trabajo de preservación digital en el conjunto de bibliotecas de la universidad. Cuando repositorios como el Archivo de Arquitectura Alexander, LLILAS Benson o el Archivo de Lenguas Indígenas de Latinoamérica comienzan nuevos proyectos digitales, la unidad de administración digital ayuda a desarrollar planes de procesamiento. El personal de la unidad instala herramientas y provee entrenamiento para recuperar datos de medios antiguos como disquetes o discos Zip, o para la adquisición de archivos producidos por organizaciones colaboradoras e investigadores que depositan sus archivos en los repositorios. El procesado de estos materiales debe ser planeado y realizado con mucho cuidado puesto que los datos pueden estar en peligro de borrado permanente debido a formatos o medios obsoletos, o por cuestiones políticas y de tipo medioambiental.

Disquete de una coleção archival de las Bibliotecas de UT

Con un enfoque de ciclo de vida de los datos, la unidad también coordina la custodia a largo plazo de estos archivos valiosos y a veces vulnerables. La administración digital desarrolló prácticas de organización, denominación y descripción de archivos para almacenar de manera uniforme todos los diversos datos de preservación de las bibliotecas de UT de acuerdo con los estándares internacionales. Cuando el personal del repositorio completa el procesamiento, la unidad de Administración Digital toma copias de los datos para preservarlos, los guarda en un almacenamiento a largo plazo, mantiene registros centralizados detallados y administra copias de seguridad en otras localizaciones. La unidad colabora con los repositorios de las bibliotecas UT continuamente a lo largo del tiempo para mejorar las prácticas de preservación digital de toda la organización, adaptándose a los nuevos desarrollos y la creciente escala de datos a preservar.

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

Gestão digital

Traduzido por Tereza Braga

A unidade de Gestão Digital da UT Libraries apoia o trabalho de preservação digital de todas as bibliotecas do sistema. Quando um dos repositórios das Bibliotecas, seja o Alexander Architectural Archives, a LLILAS Benson ou o Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America, inicia um projeto digital novo, a unidade de Gestão Digital geralmente auxilia a criar os planos iniciais de processamento. Os profissionais da unidade instalam ferramentas e dão treinamento para recuperar dados de mídias mais antigas como floppy disks e discos Zip ou para adquirir arquivos produzidos por organizações parceiras e pesquisadores com trabalhos depositados. O processamento desses materiais deve ser planejado e empreendido com muito cuidado, pois os dados podem estar expostos ao risco de perda permanente causado por formatos e mídia obsoletos ou por problemas políticos ou físicos em ambientes locais.

Disquete de uma coleção arquival das bibliotecas UT Libraries

Utilizando uma abordagem de ciclo de vida, a unidade também coordena a guarda a longo prazo desses arquivos valiosos e às vezes vulneráveis. A Gestão Digital desenvolve práticas para organizar, dar nomes e descrever os arquivos visando a armazenagem uniforme de todos os diversos dados de preservação da UT Libraries em conformidade com as normas internacionais. Quando os funcionários de repositórios concluem seu processamento, a unidade de Gestão Digital providencia cópias dos dados a serem preservados, armazena-os em sistema de armazenagem segura de longo prazo, mantém registros centralizados detalhados e providencia cópias de reserva em local externo. A unidade colabora de modo contínuo com os repositórios da UT Libraries ao longo do tempo para aprimorar as práticas de preservação digital em toda a organização, sempre se adaptando aos novos avanços e ao aumento em escala do universo de dados a serem preservados.

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.

Lorraine Haricombe on UT Libraries in the Pandemic

When Vice Provost and Director of the University of Texas Libraries Lorraine Haricombe began her tenure as president of the Association of Research Libraries last August, she couldn’t have imagined that she would be facing the closure of the libraries at UT and the subsequent near-immediate conversion of library services and resources to meet the needs of a campus-wide transition to online teaching and learning.

So when the current health crisis ended any plans for a normal conclusion to the spring semester, Haricombe was not only dealing with a major leadership challenge on her own campus, but was the head of an organization that represents over 120 major research institutions across North America, many of which galvanized their research energies in support of global efforts to address the various facets of the pandemic. When The University of Texas at Austin shifted to remote operations in late March, Haricombe’s focus was on the Libraries conversion from a richly analog experience for campus users to serving a distant base of users through digital resources and support functions for research. At the same time, she was a lead participant in crafting the coordinated position and messaging of peer institutions in the U.S. and Canada.

Now that the libraries and institutions of higher education in the U.S. have forded the spring semester and begun to establish a local and national rhythm, Haricombe took some time to answer a few questions about her experience during this extraordinary time, and where she thinks the libraries can find silver linings among the clouds.


When did you realize that the Libraries would need to suspend operations? What was going through your mind about how this would impact our ability to serve the university?

Lorraine J. Haricombe: A confluence of several events on Friday, March 13 pointed to the seriousness of the pandemic in Austin and at UT. First, the early morning news about two cases in Travis County; second, the immediate closing of UT on that day and third, President Fenves’ announcement later that day that his wife had tested positive and that they would need to be quarantined for 14 days. I felt confident that UT Libraries was in a good position to respond to this crisis. Libraries had been working online for more than two decades. UT Libraries developed a roadmap towards a digital shift in summer 2019 which helped to transition essential services online in instruction, research support and learning. The COVID-19 accelerated the pace of implementation. 

This is a global crisis unlike any we’ve dealt with in the last 100 years. When did you realize its magnitude, and how did that affect your decision-making process in the response?

LJH: The death rate elsewhere in the world followed by the crisis in New York quickly clarified the magnitude of the pandemic. In turn, Travis County, the City of Austin and the University of Texas influenced my response to make employee safety and health concerns a high priority. Despite the critical role of UT Libraries, I requested approval from UT administration to allow UTL employees to work from home “out of respect for their health and safety.” 

When Fenves announced the transition to online classes, what were your initial thoughts about the Libraries’ role in supporting campus?

LJH: I appreciated the significant work of UTL’s collective Leadership Team in summer 2019 to position the Libraries for a digital ecosystem. This meant that UTL’s 2020-2021 roadmap was ready to be operationalized and that our workforce was quickly able to pivot to provide the most critical services and expertise necessary to support UT faculty online.

How do you utilize staff that are normally tasked with processing/preserving/transferring physical materials?

LJH: All our staff are equipped with devices to continue to work remotely. Many are being trained to do evolving projects and others that have been on the back burner.   

How do you support traditionalist library users/patrons that are accustomed to in-person research or stacks browsing?

LJH: UT Libraries has access to many more online resources thanks to publishers and vendors opening up on a temporary basis online resources to students and faculty in higher education across the world. One key example is HathiTrust, a database that covers more than 40% of UT’s physical collection, digitally. Our librarians have provided LibGuides and resource pages to help identify critical and relevant resources.  

Will this affect the long-term manner in which libraries are used or operate? If so, how?

LJH: Yes. Digital resources, their discoverability and access will be essential in an online environment where users now expect to have user-friendly access to their resources, anytime, anywhere. Libraries will require more flexible/agile structures to respond to different needs quickly that will necessitate a holistic approach to services, staff and space.    

What are the challenges this exceptional historical moment present for libraries? What are the opportunities?

LJH: Among the key challenges is to change the perception of “what” libraries do (and can do).  It will also be challenging to advance new models of service, skills, tools (e.g. AI) in a predominantly non-digital organizational structure. Despite a significant shift libraries are still challenged to create a compelling digital presence that corresponds to their successful physical learning space.  

Opportunities: As long as universities exist there will be libraries; they will continue to have a physical presence but maybe fewer in number. Their focus will shift from a collections focus to user services with more embedded partnerships than transactional services.  

Challenges offer exciting opportunities for workforce development (upskill, reskill, leadership development) to enhance physical-based services online or introduce new services, understand the new tools (and their biases), provide closer collaboration to help shape curriculum with information schools and partner with other professionals. This pandemic has elevated the central role of “what” libraries can do. Now we need to leverage the opportunity to constantly refresh our message to resonate with stakeholders and funders, e.g. how do we increase online research productivity and impact; how do library spaces facilitate innovative research and creative thinking; how does the library contribute to equitable student outcomes and inclusive learning environments?  

What has it been like serving in your role as president of the Association of Research Libraries during the crisis? How did it affect your leadership, and what efforts has ARL undertaken to coordinate its efforts with member institutions?

LJH: ARL is strong and healthy. Despite the challenges higher education faced to move online, research libraries across North America have rapidly responded to the shifting needs of their communities and worked collectively to adapt, alongside public health officials, university administrators, and city officials, as well as research communities. In our favor, technological advancements have made information more easily accessible than ever before, and global collaboration is already part of everyday research. This crisis has surfaced exciting new opportunities for research libraries to have a leadership role, offer new services and collaborate/partner locally, nationally and globally. 

At ARL, we continue to observe and share libraries’/campus responses that are consistent with the situation in which they find themselves. These (Zoom) peer-to-peer sessions have proved invaluable as we enter into different phases of crisis management and planning. Recently, I launched the new Plan Ahead Task Force to develop an Action Plan for the next 1-3 years anchored in the priorities ARL leaders have identified in a membership survey in April.

What sort of impact will this have on libraries’ relationship with the publishers? Are there implications for open access (esp. OERs)?

LJH: The COVID-19 pandemic has supercharged discussions around open access across the continuum from budgetary concerns for high priced journal subscriptions to transformative contracts that facilitate open access to scholarship. Many commercial publishers have made texts and other materials available as OERs however, this will likely cease once the semester ends. Libraries are well positioned to be catalytic leaders in developing OERs on their campuses, and at scale as consortia. 

Hypothetically, assuming the health crisis runs its course (by time, therapies or a vaccine), where do you picture the Libraries in two years? How will they be the same? How will they be different? (as a byproduct of the crisis or just as a matter of strategic development)

LJH: I think libraries will continue to exist as central physical spaces. Our spaces are connectors of people and collaborators. Our services will (in part) be driven by user expectations. For example, do we return to a model of closed stacks until a vaccine is discovered to protect employees and satisfy user concerns of safety? How do we deploy data evidence decision-making to reinvest our resources where user data lead us. How can libraries collaborate at scale to find solutions in the “Digital Shift” (e.g. copyright, requirements for open information in licensing/procurement).   

The digital shift will continue: we need to think holistically about our resources, services, skills, spaces and find new partnerships/collaborators to create a digital presence that corresponds to our successful physical learning environment. I see the changes as transitions through accelerated timeframes rather as “sudden stop/starts.” The future is here; we need to be in the moment.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

[5] Ibid.


Celebrating Open Access Week

This October 21st-27th marks the tenth instance of Open Access Week – an international event providing the academic community with opportunities to learn more about Open Access (OA), to share existing OA knowledge with others, and to encourage greater engagement with OA principles and practices. Building on a decade of global action, this year’s theme of “Open for Whom? Equity in Open Knowledge” calls for participants around the world to interrogate the motives, efforts, and outcomes associated with the Open Access movement and to posit solutions toward building a more equitable and inclusive scholarly environment.

Over the years, UT Libraries has made strong efforts toward widening access to scholarship. Just last year, we celebrated 10 years of Texas ScholarWorks, our institutional repository providing open, online access to the products of the university’s research and preserving these works for future generations. This digital portal allows users from all walks of life to engage with scholarly materials and to be aware of groundbreaking research developments free of cost.

While Texas ScholarWorks has been and continues to be a kind of backbone in our Open Access initiatives, it’s by no means the only work we’re doing in this critical area. More recently we’ve discussed our Latin American post-custodial archiving projects and the role they play in access to and preservation of valuable information relating to human rights violations. LLILAS Benson Digital Initiatives, in partnership with El Salvador’s Museum of the Word and the Image (MUPI) and with generous support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is preparing to publically release an online, digital collection “of remarkable embroidered testimonies created by refugee Salvadoran peasant women in Honduras during the civil war.” The opportunity to highlight the struggles and resilience of historically disempowered communities, in close collaboration with individuals from those communities, is a beautiful example of the kind of work that is possible in Open Access.

One of the most pressing and widely addressed issues in Open Access discussions is the rising cost of library subscriptions for online journal and database access. Last year, UT Libraries spent roughly $14 million on library resources to support students, faculty, and staff at the university. In the below Sticker Shock visualizations for annual subscription costs in 2018 and 2019, you can see just how much some already high fees have risen in only a single year.

In order to continue providing high levels of scholarly access and research support, libraries have had to be very thoughtful in their purchasing process, and they’ve also had to make sacrifices. With flat budgets and increasing costs, where libraries choose to spend their money can quickly become a matter of inequity. When you only have so many dollars to spend, whose scholarship is considered “worth it” and whose is not? One way UT Libraries seeks to alleviate this issue of rising costs while supporting a more sustainable and equitable system of publishing and access is through our Open Memberships fund. By financially supporting open infrastructure projects, we seek to encourage greater innovation and equity in the scholarly communications ecosystem.

If you’re interested in learning more about Open Access at UT Libraries, please join a few of our librarians for Open Access Week Trivia in the Perry-Castañeda Library lobby from 2-4 p.m. on Tuesday, October 22nd and check out our Open Access blog. If you want to keep track of Open Access Week news happening outside of UT, you can follow the official event hashtags on Twitter (#OAWeek and #OpenForWhom).

Guatemalan Human Rights Archive in Imminent Peril

In recent weeks, actions taken by the government of Guatemala have put in jeopardy the future of the Historical Archive of the National Police of Guatemala (AHPN), a human rights archive with which LLILAS Benson and other units at the University of Texas at Austin have partnered since 2011.

In a keynote speech to the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials (SALALM), delivered on June 27 at the University of Texas at Austin,  Guatemalan human rights activist Gustavo Meoño, former director of the AHPN, revealed some of the most recent events undermining the archive, including a drastic reduction of staff and an imminent takeover by the country’s Ministry of Culture, both of which have serious implications for the AHPN’s operation and integrity.

Gustavo Meoño presents the keynote address at the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials, held at The University of Texas at Austin in June 2019. Photo: Daniel Hublein.

The significance of this news cannot be overstated. The AHPN contains records of Guatemala’s former National Police dating back more than a century. Its contents relating to the country’s 36-year armed conflict have been crucial in uncovering the fate of tens of thousands of Guatemalans during the most violent years of civil strife. “Since its discovery in 2005, the AHPN has played a central role in Guatemala’s attempts to reckon with its bloody past,” according to the National Security Archive, an NGO in Washington DC that advocates against government secrecy. The records “have been relied upon by families of the disappeared, scholars, and prosecutors. The institution has become a model across Latin America and around the world for the rescue and preservation of vital historical records,” an article dated May 30, 2019, states.

AHPN has become a model for the rescue and preservation of vital historical and human rights records.

Meoño served as director of the AHPN from 2005 until his abrupt removal in August 2018 at the hands of the Guatemalan government and the United Nations Development Office; he subsequently fled with his family to Argentina amid death threats and intimidation. In the weeks since his announcement in Austin, the fate of the AHPN has become even more uncertain. On July 10, the Ministry of Culture and Sports, which now oversees the archive, dismissed Anna Carla Ericastilla, longtime director of Guatemala’s national archive, the Archivo General de Centro América (AGCA, AHPN’s parent archive), amid accusations that she had illegally allowed access to the archive to entities outside the country, such as the University of Texas at Austin, and that she had collected donor contributions to pay archive personnel unbeknown to the Ministry of Culture and Sports.

A scanned document appears on the screen as part of the digitization process. Photo courtesy Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional, Guatemala.

According to the AHPN website hosted by the University of Texas Libraries, “The AHPN Digital Archive is a collaborative project of the University of Texas’ Lozano Long Institute for Latin American Studies, Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice, and Benson Latin American Collection, with the Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional de Guatemala.” As faculty directors of the aforementioned institutions made clear in a recent letter to Guatemala’s minister and vice-minister of Culture and Sports, the collaboration with the AHPN and its parent archive, the AGCA, “has always been open, public, and fully in compliance with the laws of Guatemala and the United States.”

Daniel Brinks (l), co-director of the Rapoport Center; Virginia Garrard, director of LLILAS Benson; and Gustavo Meoño, former director of AHPN, at a July 2018 meeting in Guatemala. Photo: Hannah Alpert-Abrams.

Documents from the AHPN have been used in 14 trials prosecuting human rights abuses, said Meoño. These include the 1980 burning by police of the Spanish Embassy in Guatemala City with 37 Indigenous protestors shut inside; and the 1981 abduction, rape, and torture of Emma Molina Theissen along with the subsequent forced disappearance of her 14-year-old brother Marco Antonio. Preservation efforts have prioritized documents from the worst years of government-sponsored terror, 1975–1985, according to Meoño. All told, there were almost 200,000 victims of the armed conflict, including the disappeared. “Indeed, it may be the Police Archive’s crucial contributions to human rights trials that caused the government of President Jimmy Morales to seek to control the repository and fire its director,” wrote the NSA last August.

Photo courtesy Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional, Guatemala.

The fate of the AHPN has particular resonance for The University of Texas at Austin, and in particular, for LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections and the UT Libraries, who, through their partnership with the AHPN, have successfully secured and posted online digital copies of one-third of the more than 60 million documents in the archive—an estimated 8 linear kilometers of material. Preservation of the archive’s contents has been paramount since the documents were discovered, haphazardly stored, by the Guatemalan Office of the Human Rights Prosecutor (Procuraduría de los Derechos Humanos, or PDH) in filthy, rat-infested buildings that were part of a sprawling police base located in a Guatemala City neighborhood.

Guatemala will elect a new government in August. The AHPN’s Texas partners will be among the international community of human rights advocates watching closely to see what that bodes for the AHPN and the future of truth and restorative justice in Guatemala.


See related posts: 21 Years of Peace;, 21 Million Documents21 años de paz, 21 millones de documentos; Seminar Commemorates Collaboration with Guatemala on Archives and Human Rights

CLIR Fellow Contributing to Renewable Roadsides

If you’ve spent much time in the past decade or so traveling in Texas, you might have noticed the increasing ubiquity of wind farms cropping up along spartan stretches of highway across the state. If a new project involving a fellowship recipient in residence at the Libraries holds any promise, you might soon see more solar panels along your travels, as well.

Emily Beagle.
Emily Beagle.

Last August, the university welcomed a new Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) fellow, Emily Beagle, who spent the fall splitting time between the Research Support & Digital Initiatives at the Libraries and the Webber Energy Group in the Mechanical Engineering Department. Beagle was one of a group of four cohorts in a Data Curation for Energy Economics track for CLIR who are working at various energy institutes and libraries across the country. Beagle’s specific project work throughout the fall related to a renewable energy project funded through The Ray (at The Ray C. Anderson Foundation in Georgia) — one that could potentially bring solar power generation to those long stretches of Texas highway.

The Ray began as a project specific to an 18-mile stretch of I-85 southwest of Atlanta as an exploration of ways “to create a regenerative highway ecosystem” through a reconsideration of the land and communities surrounding our collective highway system. The Ray has already deployed several pilot technology projects along the route including solar-powered vehicle charging, a tire safety check station and solar-paved highways, and the component of the project tasked to the Webber Group was to investigate the placement of solar photovoltaic panels along the right-of-ways nationwide to provide additional energy to the power grid. To do so, the group had to consider the over 45,000 miles of roadways that make up the U.S. interstate network.

Interchange types.
Interchange types.

Narrowing the scope down to a manageable sampling required the research group to come up with some exclusionary criteria, removing swaths from consideration like protected areas (e.g. National Parks and Forests), and focusing on locations close to existing transmission lines, adjacent spaces that are large enough to accommodate development, and locations near exits to make them easy for maintenance access. This allowed them to use existing environmental data for the available space to determine where voltaic clusters would be most efficient and effective.

The Webber Group’s work on The Ray project began in March before Beagle arrived, but that worked out well for her contribution to the project, which involved the development of a data management plan, prepping data for sharing and preservation in repositories like Texas ScholarWorks, and validating reproducibility in findings. She has worked closely with Libraries colleagues to develop and implement  the data plans for the group, while also providing ongoing assessment of the process and the effectiveness of Libraries’ tools and resources as an embedded member of the project team.

Solar Potential Map developed by the Webber Energy Group.
Solar Potential Map developed by the Webber Energy Group.

Working throughout the fall, the group was able to create a report for the foundation in December, and develop an online tool — the Solar Potential Map — that shows the best options for locating panel installations along roadways across the U.S. With the potential for a significant national infrastructure investment under discussion, components conceptualized through a project like The Ray could eventually become a reality. The Ray has already piloted one cluster of solar panels along I-85, and now they have the data to support an expansion of the idea on a much larger scale.

Beagle will continue her stint as a CLIR fellow through the spring, coordinating with her peers in Mechanical Engineering to supervise graduate student work on data-intensive research projects and use that interface to inform and develop data management resources and services at the Libraries. She’ll also using the knowledge she’s gained from the fellowship residence to co-teach workshops for other researchers on campus.

She isn’t the first CLIR fellow the Libraries have hosted — there are currently two Postdoctoral Fellows for Data Curation in Latin American and Latina/o Studies at the Benson Latin American Collection: Edward Shore (continuing from 2017) is overseeing a project to preserve and digitize rare historical documentation on quilombos, communities organized by fugitive slaves in colonial Brazil, and Jennifer Isasi (2018) is working with Benson Digital Scholarship Coordinator Albert A. Palacios to contribute to collections as data efforts, educational resources and digital scholarship initiatives at LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections. And 2017 fellow at the Benson, Hannah Alpert-Abrams, recently completed her term working to develop the repository and interface for the digital Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional, a collection of records relating to the national police of Guatemala. 2013 CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow for Data Curation in Medieval Studies Ece Turnator took part in a collaborative bid between the Libraries, the English Department and research units on campus — including the Texas Advanced Computing Center — to create a global gateway to all the digital resources currently available on the Middle Ages, the Global Middle Ages Project (G-MAP).

The CLIR program has been of great value to the Libraries by allowing us access to trained scholars and researchers with perspectives informed by current trends in the interrelationship between libraries and community stakeholders,” says Vice Provost Lorraine Haricombe. “Their presence provides an opportunity to bridge between unit-level research and scholarship and library resources and services, and to use that bridge to improve and elevate what we do.

The CLIR Postdoctoral Fellowship Program offers recent Ph.D. graduates the chance to help develop research tools, resources, and services while exploring new career opportunities. Host institutions benefit from fellows’ field-specific expertise by gaining insights into their collections’ potential uses and users, scholarly information behaviors and current teaching and learning practices within particular disciplines.

Beagle says the fellowship experience so far has played out as advertised, but in unexpected ways.

“Being split between Engineering and the Libraries, I was expecting that my duties for both would be very different and not have much overlap,” she says. “But I have been pleasantly surprised at how much I have been able to collaborate between the two groups and how much work in one area has informed a project in the other.”

“It has been very rewarding to work with the Webber Energy Group, UT Libraries and The Ray on a project with real world applicability. I hope to someday see solar panels along the interstate and be able to think ‘I was a part of that.’