Category Archives: Preservation

Partnering to Preserve and Persevere: The Genocide Archive of Rwanda

Photos of victims of the Rwandan Genocide.

On June 9 — International Archives Day — the Libraries’ Human Rights Documentation Initiative (HRDI) partners Aegis Trust and the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre launched a new, greatly updated and expanded online Genocide Archive of Rwanda (http://www.genocidearchiverwanda.org.rw).

One of the most important resources online documenting the causes, processes, and consequences of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, GAR demonstrates the generative impact that the Libraries’ programming can have. The HRDI project, begun in Rwanda in 2008, engaged staff and volunteers at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre, a museum and documentation center for education and memory in Rwanda, to combine their personal experiences, deep knowledge, and historical resources with the technical expertise at UT Libraries in order to preserve and provide access to the fragile record of the Genocide that was daily being lost.

T-Kay Sangwand and Christian Kelleher meet with Rwandan officials.The first version of GAR, developed by the Libraries’ Technology Integration Services, Information Technology Architecture and Strategy, and Digitization Services departments using Glifos media software, was installed on a laptop and hand-carried by me and human rights archivist T-Kay Sangwand to Rwanda, where it spent the next year demoing the project to build local community, government, and international support.

Launched online in 2010, GAR enabled people in Rwanda and around the world to hear testimonies from Genocide survivors as well as perpetrators and elders in Rwanda about their experiences of Genocide, its root causes, and the lives and society that it destroyed. Photographs and historical documents were collected and digitized by Aegis Trust’s Rwandan staff to be added to the Archives at the Kigali Memorial Centre.Archive and preserved digitally by UT Libraries, and soon UTL was consulting on construction of a climate-controlled physical archive in Kigali in addition to the online digital archive.

The new Genocide Archive of Rwanda moves the archive to the cloud and integrates new mapping features, improved access to documents and photographs, and interactive tours of memorial sites around the country. The new site also includes features to engage youth in peace-building, and highlights important community renewal and reconciliation programs.

When recently retired Vice Provost Dr. Fred Heath and I attended the Kwibuka 20 commemoration ceremonies marking 20 years since the Genocide, Rwandan president Paul Kagame stated that, “Historical clarity is a duty of memory that we cannot escape. Behind the words ‘Never Again’, there is a story whose truth must be told in full, no matter how uncomfortable.” Born in the basement at Perry-Castañeda Library, and now managed in the cloud by a team of new information professionals in Rwanda, the Genocide Archive of Rwanda is a resource that preserves and gives clarity to the 1994 Genocide in support of memory, reconciliation, education, and scholarship in Rwanda, Texas, and around the globe.

The global impact of the University of Texas Libraries is made possible in large part to the financial support of individual, corporate and foundation donors. To contribute to projects like the Human Rights Digitization Project, please contact Natalie Moore or visit our online giving page today.

The Libraries’ Closet

Library Storage Facility, Pickle Campus. Photo by Stephen Littrell.
Library Storage Facility, Pickle Campus. Photo by Stephen Littrell.

Like so many leather skirts, go-go boots and seersucker jackets that need to be carefully stowed in the interim between their respective periods in vogue, these great buildings of books, too, need to occasionally clear space for more useful, timely purposes.

To that end, the Libraries have thus far accommodated a need for additional “closet space” through the construction of off-site warehouses much reminiscent of the one imagined in the closing scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, seemingly endless rows of shelving stretched from concrete floor to stories-tall rafter, where once-prized tomes and formerly-current periodicals can reside until such time as they are once again called upon to provide the critical information needed to complete some important research or solve some lingering question.

These library storage facilities (LSFs) house those low-circulation items and fragile materials that might be considered complementary resources for collections from across the campus of The University of Texas at Austin and beyond.  Both the Harry Ransom Center and the Briscoe Center for American History are reliant upon this remote storage in order to free up room for the more high-value, high-use items in their ever-growing collections of cultural artifacts. Likewise, as parts of the Libraries’ valuable print collection are accessed less frequently than in the past, it’s logical to move those volumes into a high-quality storage environment and establish systems for retrieving books as scholars request them from storage. The migration creates space that can be repurposed for student use and newer technologies to facilitate a more productive, modern learning environment.

The Libraries also enjoined sibling rivals at College Station in two of the ventures thus far — the second of two facilities at the Pickle Research campus in North Austin, and a joint library facility (JLF) at Texas A&M’s Riverside campus outside of Bryan, Texas. In a collaboration that seeks to minimize the physical presence of materials while still availing the needs of institutions across the state, UT and A&M have pared some of their collections to a single-copy that is then shared cross-organizationally through a delivery system coordinated by the principals. The Austin unit constructed in 2010 is already at capacity, and the Riverside unit, which opened in 2013, has incorporated nearly half a million volumes to date. Given the successful outcomes of the partnership, there are already considerations for the development of further partnerships.

Beyond the space-saving functionality of the LSFs, there is a compelling financial reason for moving low-use items off-site.  A 2010 study showed the cost of storing a single volume in an open library stacks facility is $4.26 per year, taking into account personnel, lighting, maintenance and heating and cooling costs. The cost is pegged at 86 cents per volume for storage at a facility such as the Riverside unit jointly operated by the Texas A&M and University of Texas Systems — representing a savings of $3.40 per volume.

The Libraries learned recently that it had received approval from the Board of Regents to begin construction on a third unit at the Pickle campus, which is necessitated by the Dell Medical School’s future plans to build where the Collections Deposit Library currently stands. CDL has long served as a storage facility on campus for permanent collections, as well as a holding space for unprocessed materials, but due to its age and lack of available space, the building has just about outlived its utility. The new construction at the north Austin campus will allow significant additional materials from other campus locations, as well.

The coming facility will, like its predecessors, be climate controlled, and will hold roughly one million additional volumes, bringing the Libraries over halfway to completing a stated goal of removing two million books from campus locations to off-site storage. Construction on the $8 million building will begin in 2016 and is expected to open in late summer of 2017.

Primeros Libros Adds On

 

Illustration on the properties of numbers from the Sumario Compendioso (1556), the first math text published in the Americas.

The Primeros Libros project is thrilled to announce the incorporation of two new partner institutions: the Biblioteca General Histórica at Spain’s prestigious University of Salamanca, and Mexico’s Biblioteca Francisco de Burgoa at the Beinto Juárez Autonomous University of Oaxaca. These two new additions bring the total number of Primeros Libros partner institutions to 17.

The Primeros Libros project, of which the University of Texas Libraries and Benson Latin American Collection are founding members, seeks to digitize the first books published in the Americas, focusing initially on works published in Mexico in the 16th century. Each participating member library is entitled to a full set of the digitized exemplars of all partners as part of the project’s innovative preservation and access strategy. The project inventory currently includes 248 exemplars.

The University of Salamanca will bring 11 exemplars to the project, including five titles not previously covered by the project. One of these is the Sumario Compendioso de las Cuentas de Plata y Oro que en los reinos del Perú son necesarias a los mercaderes y a todo género de tratantes. Published in Mexico City in 1556. The Sumario Compendioso is the first non-religous text produced in the Americas and the first scientific text published outside of Europe. It was written primarily for merchants and miners involved in the silver and gold trade out of Mexico and Peru as a practical guide to help them manage their transactions, a sort of early precursor to the calculator. The Sumario contains tables that made it easier for merchants to get numerical values without having to do extensive calculations by hand, but there are also sections on algebra and quadratic equations.

The addition of the University of Salamanca’s digitized version of the Sumario Compendioso to the Primeros Libros project is also important in terms of the repatriation of cultural patrimony to Mexico, one of the key goals of the project, since there are only three known surviving copies of the book in the world, none of which is in Mexico (the Salamanca copy, one at the British Library, and one at the Huntington Library in Los Angeles). All seven Primeros Libros partner institutions in Mexico will now be able to feature this digital copy of the Sumario Compendioso as part of their local collections.

The Biblioteca Burgoa brings nine additional exemplars to the project. One of these, the Institución, modo de rezar y milagros e indulgencias del Rosario de la Virgen María, represents the only copy of this work in the project to date.

On September 19 and 20, the Biblioteca Burgoa will be hosting the annual Primeros Libros Partner Meeting in Oaxaca. The program for the Oaxaca meeting includes presentations by Benson-LLILAS Digital Curation Coordinator Kent Norsworthy and University of Texas at Austin School of Music professor Dr. Lorenzo Candelaria.

Crawling Through Latin America

A 2006 web capture from the Colombian Ministry of Defense.

When libraries began to experiment with ways to migrate and adapt their traditional structures and skills to a technologic age, they came up with some novel approaches to information collection and preservation that are in a process of constant evolution. One such experiment begun in 2005 is still active and paying dividends today.

The Latin American Government Documents Archive (LAGDA) has been collecting, preserving and providing access to ministerial and presidential documents from 18 Latin American and Caribbean countries. In a process of crawling – the automatic downloading of webpages based on given criteria – the project has captured documents and information that could (and likely would) be lost over time due to neglect, changes in technology, changes in leadership or, in some cases, a willful desire to expunge the historical record.

The project is an extension of a decades-long effort by the Benson Latin American Collection to collect government print reports from Latin American countries, some of which date to the late 19th Century, and complements the work of the Libraries Human Rights Documentation Initiative.

Kent Norsworthy is a data curator and communications specialist splitting time between the Benson and the Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies who has been one of the primary drivers of the LAGDA project. He recently provided an interview on his work to “The Signal,” the Library of Congress’s blog on digital preservation, which you can read here.

The Libraries Afield: Launching the Guatemalan National Police Archives Website

Documents at the Guatemalan National Police Archive (AHPN). Photo courtesy Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional, Guatemala.

University of Texas Libraries Director Fred Heath traveled to Guatemala in December 2011 to participate in the launch of a joint project between the Guatemalan National Police Archive (AHPN) and The University of Texas at Austin. Together, AHPN and the Libraries would provide public access via the web to records of human rights violations by government agents that were discovered in a military munitions dump in 2004.

This is Dr. Heath’s travelogue of his trip.

Our flight to Guatemala City, 5,000 feet up in the Central American highlands took two and a half hours.  Our destination was the National Police Archives, where on Friday we would celebrate with our colleagues, the recent opening of the AHPN website.  I had yet to write my brief remarks.

In the cramped rear coach seat of the Boeing 737, I held my laptop in my lap, with the screen tilted slightly forward to accommodate the encroaching seatback of the traveler in front of me, and edited my three-minute talk.  I was working from the draft I delivered the week before, when we first opened the web site of the Guatemalan National Police Archive.

Our next day — Friday, December 9 — would be International Human Rights Day, and AHPN director Gustavo Meoño had shrewdly decided to reciprocate the previous week’s events with a ceremony in Guatemala City celebrating the partnership between AHPN, administratively housed within the Ministry of Culture, and the University of Texas.

At 35,000 feet, I was not sure what to expect.  I did know that Christian Kelleher (program coordinator for the Human Rights Documentation Initiative), Karen Engle (director of the Rapaport Center for Human Rights and Justice) and Daniel Brinks (professor and co-director of Rapaport) would all address the audience at AHPN, projected to be some 200 in number, but I knew little about the attendees.  I also knew that all three of my colleagues would deliver their remarks in Spanish; so I was determined to keep my Anglo remarks brief.   As I wrote, I wanted to answer the question of why democracies elect to archive and preserve even the dark chapters of their histories, rather than deny or erase them.  I chose to use the example of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library & Museum, whose holdings allow researchers to address the issues of the transfer of presidential power in the aftermath of the assassination of John Kennedy, to study an epochal period in our own tumultuous civil rights movement, and to inquire into the dark chapter that was the war in Vietnam.  My hope was that in my brief remarks I could remind our Guatemalan audience that in a democracy it is necessary to study all parts of our past, in order to learn from our accomplishments, and avoid the recurrences of our missteps. Continue reading The Libraries Afield: Launching the Guatemalan National Police Archives Website

Plus ça change, plus c’est la caneck, caneck….

The Last Lonestar Showdown

On Thursday of last week, college football fans around Texas and many from around the nation gathered around the flat screen to watch the final episode in the third longest running rivalry in college football.  After this season, the two teams are unlikely to encounter each other again in the regular season as the Aggies head toward the Southeastern Conference and the Longhorns lock up annually with their heartland foes.

But even as the sports scene in Texas changes fundamentally, so much remains the same.   The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University remain the two flagship institutions of our state, and when it comes to teaching, learning and research, the two schools remain ever so closely aligned.

And our libraries are united in their determination to advance the core educational missions of the two universities.  The University of Texas System and the Texas A&M University System have united to fund and operate a common storage facility on property owned by Texas A&M.  There all the universities in both systems will be able to preserve their print copies in a shared resources in common facility that will ensure the preservation of the “long tail” of scholarly research while freeing up valuable central library space on every campus.  Full sets of journals now accessed electronically—such as JSTOR—will have their archive print instantiation in Bryan, Texas.

At the same time, the two flagships continue to work together to harness the power of digital technologies in support of research.  Combining their own powerful (but separate distinct) holdings of first century books from Mexico with other examples from Mexican partners, Spain, Brown University, Tulane, Harvard and elsewhere, the Los Primeros Libros project will eventually  enable scholars around the globe to access and study all of the 200+ surviving examples of printing in the Western Hemisphere.

So, as both schools rewrite the lyrics to their fight songs, where each disparages the other in the early stanzas, the librarians will resume the collaboration that makes their combined collections one of the state’s most important assets.

Hook ‘em /  Gig ‘em

 

HRDI Shares Best Practices

From a HRDI Rwanda trip.

(Cross-posted at the HRDI blog.)

In September, UT Libraries Human Rights Documentation Initiative representatives Christian Kelleher and T-Kay Sangwand traveled to Columbia University to participate in an advisory group meeting for the Center for Research Libraries (CRL) MacArthur Foundation funded project, Human Rights Electronic Evidence Study.  The Human Rights Electronic Evidence Study aims to understand the human rights documentation landscape – technologies, documentation creators and end users – and to identify tools and practices for improving documentation’s uses for advocacy and scholarship.

In addition to Kelleher and Sangwand, the advisory group consisted of librarians and archivists from Columbia University, Duke University and human rights organization, WITNESS, as well as practicing lawyers and professors from the University of Texas School of Law. During this day-long meeting, the group discussed how human rights documentation is used from the point of creation by an organization/activist to how it ends up in an archive for educational purposes and a courtroom for legal purposes. Based on their experience of establishing digital preservation partnerships with organizations that create human right documentation, Kelleher and Sangwand shared some of the challenges that can prevent such documentation from ever arriving to the archive (namely, trust and ownership disputes) as well as the HRDI’s approach to overcoming this challenge – the use of the post custodial archival model that allows organizations to maintain physical and intellectual ownership of their materials while depositing digital copies at UT for long-term preservation. Through presentations by legal experts (including the Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice  Co-Director, Dan Brinks) on how human rights documentation may be used in U.S. and international courts, the HRDI was proud to learn that its metadata and preservation standards meet and even surpass the general recommended criteria for documentation authentication in a court of law.

The meeting’s discussion on the creation, preservation, and use of human rights documentation will be synthesized with the study’s findings in CRL’s final report due out in late 2011/early 2012.

T-Kay Sangwand is the Human Rights Archivist for the University of Texas Libraries Human Rights Documentation Initiative.

What Can Brown Do For You?


From "Arte de la lengua mexicana y castellana" by Alonso de Molina,Published: 1576, from the Benson Latin American Collection

In the case of original Latin American research materials, quite a lot, actually.

The John Carter Brown Library at Brown University has signed on to the Primeros Libros project – a consortia-driven effort to capture and preserve as many of the “first books” of the New World, those printed in Mexico before 1601. Brown becomes the project’s biggest contributor bringing an additional 70 volumes to the collection, joining the Benson Latin American Collection, Biblioteca Histórica José María Lafragua at the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla and the Cushing Memorial Library and Archives at Texas A&M University, among others.

The digital preservation of these historic cultural documents not only benefits Latin American study abroad, but it means that long-since scattered cultural artifacts of Mexico can return home for use the country’s own scholars and researchers.

Find more information on the project and its players here.

This Donation Sounds Great

 

William Vanden Dries of the Audio Preservation Fund and Fine Arts Music Library David Hunter. Photo by Emilia Harris, Daily Texan Staff

An unexpected gift can sometimes be the most invaluable.

Thanks to a generous donation from the Audio Preservation Fund – an Austin-based nonprofit formed by three UT alumni in 2009 – the already extensive Historic Musical Recordings Collection (HMRC) just got a little more so with the addition of 1,000 vinyl albums.

Chairman of the Audio Preservation Fund William Vanden Dries hand-delivered the eclectic mix of recordings to the Collections Deposit Library on Tuesday. After an extensive review of the HMRC’s holdings, the group determined where their reserves might bridge gaps in the collection’s catalog, and the gift was amassed from the cache of an unnamed individual collector.

The Audio Preservation Fund acts as a facilitator for the collection and preservation of sound recordings, and for the distribution of donated items to suitable recipients including public archives, libraries, museums, universities and research centers. The Fund’s goal is to make private collections available to the public in an effort to improve access to rare, unique and historical audio.

We express our gratitude to the Audio Preservation Fund on behalf of the Libraries and the patrons who will benefit from their generous gift.

 

International Human Rights Day, Our Role (Updated)

It’s International Human Rights Day, and in the spirit of it, the Libraries can share news of its part in the opening of a new resource for the study of human rights.

Thanks in large part to the generous philanthropy of the Bridgeway Foundation in Houston, the Libraries established the Human Rights Documentation Initiative (HRDI) in 2008, its initial charge to preserve digitally the records of human rights abuses in the Rwandan Genocide.

Though HRDI’s mission has expanded in scope since that time – it has since established projects with the Free Burma Rangers and the Texas After Violence Project, and is currently negotiating new plans in Latin America – the project to collect, preserve and make accessible the Rwandan records has continued with itinerant staff constantly moving between Austin and Kigali, the site of the Kigali Memorial Centre where the fragile and sometimes anachronistic materials were being held.

Today, the project reaches a milestone with the inauguration of the Genocide Archive of Rwanda, a new and comprehensive repository for information related to the genocide. The physical archive housed on-site at the at the Kigali Genocide Memorial facility in Kigali will contain the original audiovisual, documentary and photographic materials in a secure, controlled environment. The digital archive will eventually contain copies of all audiovisual recordings and scans of all known documents and photographs will be accessible to researchers through a cross-referenced system that allows key word searches, first on-site and ultimately online. The Kigali Genocide Memorial will maintain network infrastructure, servers, and digitization and storage equipment for the digital archive, and a copy will also reside with the University of Texas Libraries.

Find more information about the project and the Libraries’ participation here.

You can see a featured interview video from the Archive here.

HRDI Archivist T-Kay Sangwand sat down for a reporter from National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition to talk about our role in the project. You can hear the interview and view some images from the Archive here.