Any time that the university acquires a new archive or artwork, or announces new research discoveries or innovations, the Libraries take it as a responsibility to provide the resources necessary to understand and provide context for such accomplishments.
When James Turrell’s Skyspace opened at the Student Activity Center in a October 2013, his profile among the campus community was elevated, and so it was up to bibliographers at the UT Libraries to work with relevant constituencies determine what materials would be needed to support inquiry into the artist’s work and career.
One of the items that came of acquisitional considerations in the wake of Turrell’s arrival on campus is the bookJames Turrell / comisaria de la exposicion y del catalogo by Ana Maria Torres (IVAM, Institut Valencia d’Art Modern, 2004), a catalog of an exhibition held at IVAM, Dec. 14, 2004-Feb. 27, 2005, which includes an interview with the artist.
Given budgetary realities, librarians and bibliographers have to make strategic collection decisions, and often that requires delaying the purchase of materials that may be both desirable and essential in order to meet other resource needs. Specialized texts, especially in the field of fine arts, can often be somewhat inflated, and the cost of this volume was evidence. At $2000, the Turrell text was one that was obliged to be set aside until additional monies were present.
The Libraries development office has worked with bibliographers to target materials that similarly fall into this category, constructing a Wish List of items that would be of great purpose for Libraries users, but for which funding isn’t currently available. The Turrell book was selected to be added to the Wish List, and almost immediately found benefactor in the person of Libraries advisory council member Margery Lindsey.
There’s no doubt that the embrace of digitization by museums and libraries has significant benefit for the devotees of art history. The preservation of the cultural record from the degrading effects of time is the most utilitarian benefit of the practice, but archival digitization also allows for non-linear consideration of creative works in its ability to allow art to be partnered with other data, information, critical context, etc. Digitization is, though, limited by the sheer volume of historical works that exist and by that which continues to be created. Sometimes, the only sure way for art to be preserved digitally, is for a specific need to arise.
Such is the case with the work of Sandow Birk, a visual artist in southern California, whose art contemplates modern American society with a nod to past masters.
Earlier this year, UT College of Fine Arts Ph.D. candidate Rose G. Salseda began research for her dissertation by interviewing several artists who created artworks in response to five days of civil unrest caused by a jury’s acquittal of four white Los Angeles police officers who had been charged with the videotaped beating of Rodney King, a black motorist.
“These riots were the first in history to be heavily documented through live news coverage, film, video, and photographs,” says Salseda. “Yet, past scholarship has failed to recognize the potential encompassed within art to speak to the history of the riots.”
“My dissertation seeks to unearth a missing visual narrative. Moreover, it reveals the capacity of art to unhinge and complicate polarizing histories of the 1992 LA Riots.”
Along with Birk, Salseda had interviewed sculptor Seth Kaufman and graffiti artist Man One, only to discover that virtually none of the artists’ work from the 1980s-90s had been digitally preserved.
“It really alarmed me,” says Salseda, “because, since most of these artworks were in private collections or in unprotected public spaces, no one would have the opportunity to see them again.”
In working with the Birk, Kaufman and Man One, Salseda was able to gain access to slides, photos and ephemera directly from the artists themselves.
“Birk was the first of the three artists that I met. He shared slides of his work with me and I was surprised that only a few had ever been digitized,” recalls Salseda. “I knew that if the documentation of the work was not updated, it may continue to be overlooked by scholars, teachers, and others.”
Salseda remembered from previous work with staff at the Visual Resources Collection (VRC) at UT that a library might be able to help her capture the imagery, thus ensuring that it would be preserved for both her use, as well as the use of future researchers. But she needed to find someone close by in Southern California that would be willing and able to assist.
“I contacted the head art librarian at Cal State Long Beach — the university closest to Birk’s studio. She then directed me to Jeffrey Ryan, the CSULB Visual Resource Center staff,” recounts Salseda. “I spoke with Ryan and he volunteered to digitize Birk’s images, as well as that of other artists whose work has not been digitized. Thus far, he has digitized several hundred slides for me and the artists I work with — all of which are now available to CSULB students, faculty and staff.”
Salseda then followed up with Sydney Kilgore, media coordinator for the UT’s VRC — an actively growing collection of some 80,000 digital images of art and architecture located at the university’s Fine Arts Library — to see if it would be possible to ingest a selection of Birk’s work into the university’s digital media repository, the DASE (Digital Archive SErvices) Collection, for the benefit of students, faculty and researchers at UT.
“When Ms. Salseda approached us with the Birk project we knew it would be another win/win situation,” says Kilgore. “In this case, the VRC additions resulted with Rose Salseda wanting to share her research, and artist Sandow Birk being willing to personally choose and share 30 images of his art which he felt were representative of his career.”
Salseda is currently working with Kaufman and Man One to secure digital images of their work for inclusion in the VRC, as well, which are expected to arrive next year.
She believes that there is a larger history to be told by the art that was created in the wake of the unrest, but because of a lack of documentation, the story of the period has an incomplete context.
“Due to the numerous artworks the riots inspired and the surprisingly scant scholarly and curatorial consideration of this work, I am positive there are many more artworks out there that have not been properly digitized and archived,” Salseda says. “In general, the lack of art history on the riots and the unbalanced focus on a small pool of artists means that other artist contributions to this important episode in LA and US history are forgotten or go untold.”
It’s this personal, practical experience that Salseda had in the process of her own research that prompted some realizations about the temporality of art and the necessity of digital preservation.
“I have come to realize even more the importance of digitizing images. These images are essential when original artworks are lost, reside in private collections, and/or are irregularly exhibited,” she says.
“It is also important for artists to update the format of their image archives to ensure that future generations have the potential to access images of their art when viewing equipment for older formats become scarce or defunct,” says Salseda. “However, taking on such tasks are out-of-reach for many artists: the equipment is expensive, as is hiring private companies to do such work, and it can take an extraordinary amount of time if one does not have the proper equipment or assistance.”
“Resources like UT’s VRC and CSULB’s Visual Resource Center are invaluable. From personal inquiries to professional ones, like documenting my exhibitions or archiving images related to my dissertation, I knew I could rely on these resources. I hope more students and faculty realize the important indispensable services they offer.”
An exhibition featuring Sandow Birk’s “American Qur’an” is currently on view at the Orange County Museum of Art.
Sydney Kilgore, Rose Salseda and Thao Votang contributed to this article.
The Libraries’ Historical Music Recordings Collection (HMRC) recently added a massive infusion of pristine and rare punk vinyl in the form of 700 LPs and 400 singles (45s) from a collection amassed by the late Justin Gibran (Freud) Reia.
Freud was an avid music collector and musician. His mother, Flora Salyers, and wife, Tamara Schatz, generously donated his collection, which fills a significant genre gap the HMRC’s overall corpus.
David Hunter, Music Librarian, is enthusiastic about the addition to the HMRC, and notes that it will take some time to process the collection and make it available to students, faculty, and researchers. The preliminary estimate for processing the materials is around $8,000, which covers the cost of a graduate research assistant’s time and cataloging.
“The collection is great, just absolutely great,” says Benjamin Houtman, outgoing HMRC Graduate Research Assistant. “Very, very authentic, widely varied — you can tell he loved this stuff. I’ve just barely scratched the surface but I’ve already seen Sham69, Flipper, the Jim Carroll Band, Iggy, Stiv Bators, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Blondie, The Clash, Black Flag — all legends — along with tons of completely obscure stuff.”
“I wish my record collection was 1/10th as good as this. I’m envious of the GRA who really gets to dig into this collection. I hope they appreciate it. Every record I’ve looked at appears to be in good shape too. Wow.”
If you would like to make a contribution to support this effort, please click here.
Be one of the first five people to correctly answer the Human Rights Documentation Initiative trivia question to win 2 tickets for a screening of The Look of Silence between August 14-20 at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar. Winners will be notified by email and tickets will be held at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar box office.
About the film:
“The Look of Silence is Joshua Oppenheimer’s powerful companion piece to the Oscar®-nominated The Act Of Killing. Through Oppenheimer’s footage of perpetrators of the 1965 Indonesian genocide, a family of survivors discovers how their son was murdered, as well as the identities of the killers. The documentary focuses on the youngest son, an optometrist named Adi, who decides to break the suffocating spell of submission and terror by doing something unimaginable in a society where the murderers remain in power: he confronts the men who killed his brother and, while testing their eyesight, asks them to accept responsibility for their actions. This unprecedented film initiates and bears witness to the collapse of fifty years of silence.”
Leading up to the opening of the Learning Commons, we’ve spoken in broad terms about the impact of having a suite of student resources and services co-located for ease of access and use, and how that convenience is expected to improve student outcomes. Much of the talk regarding that impact of the Learning Commons has centered on the process and completion of finished products of a more temporal nature such as reports, projects and other assignments, but beyond the resources — technical help, knowledge resources and technology — that will serve as the basis for user productivity, it’s worth considering the persisting influence that the learning opportunities supported by the new space will provide to the next generation of Longhorns.
Staff in the Libraries’ Teaching and Learning Services (TLS) unit has played a central role in planning the Learning Commons, and their activities will have a significant impact on the success of the initiative. The longstanding relationship between TLS and the University Writing Center was essential to the relocation of UWC to the Perry-Castañeda Library, and much of the vitality in the Learning Commons will be determined by how the partnership between the two groups evolves over time. UWC’s nascent presence has already reaped ideas for collaborating with the Libraries on programming in the new space, and coordinating with other student resources around campus — such as the Sanger Learning Center — will allow a crossover between the provisional service needs of users for the purpose of completing assignments and the generation of lasting skills like interviewing, public speaking, information literacy, and much more.
TLS emerged in 2002 — at the time designated Library Instruction Services — to take the place of the Digital Information Literacy Office (DILO) and expand on its mission to integrate information literacy into the campus-wide curriculum for general education, which it successfully accomplished in 2010. The unit’s name evolved to Teaching and Learning Services as its mission has expanded to represent a more comprehensive view of the academic landscape and the ways in which students and faculty interact to share knowledge and experience.
By its increased involvement in campus curriculum via information and digital literacy, TLS has routinely collaborated with faculty on assignment design and presents course-integrated classes in hands-on classrooms in the libraries. They’ve also created video tutorials on subjects such as avoiding plagiarism for integration into course web sites and embedding in online courses. Through a combination of these methods, TLS now reaches almost 3,000 lower division undergraduates every year.
“The Learning Commons isn’t just about co-locating academic support services for ease of access but is about collaborating in new ways across those departmental lines to better support teaching and learning,” says Michele Ostrow, head of the Libraries’ Teaching and Learning Services unit. “We’re fortunate to work closely with a lot of fantastic faculty who teach in our freshmen programs and are committed to helping the excellent high school students who get into UT become excellent college students.” Continue reading Commons Learning→
It’s certainly the case that our perception of the world’s geography is rooted in our experience with the maps we’ve encountered, developed and designed over eons by both hand and machine. Even though we may have become increasingly reliant on disembodied voices to lead us where we need to go, the archetype for understanding the concept of location which we carry in our minds was instilled by the road guides of family vacations, massive retractable world maps of the elementary classroom and spinning globes of our past.
Equal parts art and science, maps are one of the most effective methods for conveying information visually in virtually any field of inquiry. In the miniaturization of space that is necessary to explain vast areas on a personal scale is a documentation of history and of change; of character and personality, value and values; of plant and animal; of health and illness, feast and famine; of motion and stasis; and of nearly any aspect of life and place that can be categorized for better understanding the world in which we live.
And that, perhaps, is what makes the map collection at the Perry-Castañeda Library so incredibly valuable. Its scope in both size and subject is immense enough to maintain an intrinsic value — both as historical artifact and as a tool of modern research and reference — that goes unaffected by the passage of time.
Though the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection is considered a general collection, it’s anything but. Residing on the first floor of the university’s flagship library, it features more than 250,000 cartographic items representing all areas of the world. And its online component is not only one of the most highly visited websites at the university — garnering nearly 8 million visits annually — but is in the top ten most popular results for a Google search of “maps.”
The university began informally collecting maps previously — at the General Libraries, but also through efforts at the Geology Library, the Barker Texas History Center and the Benson Latin American Collection — but it wasn’t until the PCL opened in 1977 that the Map Collection was established on the first floor of the building as an independent collection.
The core of the collection emerged with the acquisition of the U.S. Geological Survey topographic maps, which date from the late 19th century and cover the entire United States, U.S. territories and other parts of the world where governments contracted U.S.G.S. for mapping, such as Saudi Arabia.
The collection also houses an extensive collection of atlases, from a street atlas of El Paso to the National Atlas of India. The library also purchases commercial and foreign government-issued topographic map series, country, city and thematic maps. The collection also includes a small but popular collection of plastic raised-relief maps and globes, not only of earth, but of the Moon, planets and other various celestial bodies.
Most of the maps in the collection date from 1900 to the present, and the collection is constantly being updated with newer materials, and complements a number of significant historical map collections housed on campus in the Center for American History (historical maps of Texas), the Benson Latin American Collection, the Harry Ransom Center and the Walter Geology Library.
Paul Rascoe — the Libraries’ Documents, Maps, & Electronic Info Services Librarian — has been the driving force behind the collection at PCL, especially in the formulation and execution of the collection’s online component. And it hasn’t hurt to have the planets align, at times.
“In 1994, we decided that we were going to scan maps,” says Rascoe. “We had a Macintosh computer and a Mac scanner, which I believe cost $100. We had a plan to put them in sort of a web menuing system called Gopher, but fortunately, simultaneously with our wanting to put maps online, the first web browser was introduced in that year.” Continue reading You Are Everywhere – The PCL Map Collection→
For over 25 years, graduate students from the School of Information’s Masters of Science in Information Studies program have volunteered at the Perry-Castañeda Library at what is now the Research Help and Check Out desk.
Through the Volunteer Program iSchool students gain experience providing expert research help in a university library by shadowing experienced librarian coaches. Each volunteer is paired with one or two coaches who guide them over the semester. By the end of the semester, volunteers will begin answering patron questions with support and feedback from their coaches.
Participants from both sides of the program speak highly of the relationships that it fosters between experienced librarians and students who are just entering the profession. The iSchool students bring fresh enthusiasm to working at the library that benefits everyone who works at or visits the PCL.
This semester’s program began on February 2nd and will run through May 8th. This semester’s volunteers are Corey Fifles, Alia Gant, Nicole Harris, Rachel Panella, Jeremy Selvidge, and Alicia Zachary-Erickson.
Last fall, almost sixty beautiful, full-color book cover reproductions in poster form of titles nominated for the University Co-op’s annual Robert W. Hamilton Book Author Awards were put on display in the UFCU Student Learning Commons room at the Perry-Castañeda Library. The posters were originally produced for presentation in folding frame screens at the awards presentation dinner, but through a promotional partnership with the Libraries, the nominees for the university’s highest literary award now have an annual home in the university’s flagship library.
The 2014 grand-prize winner, along with the 4 runner-up prize-winners, were announced Wednesday, October 15, and the Co-op has again provided the Libraries with posters of each of the nominated titles for display at PCL.
The exhibit serves as acknowledgement of the research, scholarly and creative accomplishments of the world-class faculty and staff of the university — many of whom are reliant on the collections, resources and services provided through the Libraries to support their notable contributions to a better understanding of the world.
The posters will be on display until the 2015 winners are announced next year.
The Best of Sir Douglas Quintet is a classic album from an Austin transplant musician that came to the Libraries as part of the KUT Collection last year, when we received the beloved Austin radio station’s back catalog of 4000 LPs and 60,000 CDs.
Formed by Doug Sahm and his friend Augie Meyers in 1965 at the suggestion of record producer Huey Meaux, the Sir Douglas Quintet presented a Texas-regional rock and roots sound that belied their rather British-sounding name — a name chosen specifically to connect the band to the ongoing British Invasion period of music occurring at the time. Their unique Tex-Mex style rock was influenced by the cross-cultural currents of south and central Texas, where the sounds and traditions of Mexico, Germany, Acadian-Creole and the African-American south commingled.
The band actually garnered a top-20 hit with “She’s About a Mover,” but broke up after members were arrested on marijuana possession charges at the Corpus Christi airport. The arrest led Sahm to move to San Francisco, but Sir Douglas Quintet eventually re-formed with a new lineup, releasing the successful single and album Mendocino in 1969.
Bob Dylan was even a fan of the band, once stating, “Look, for me right now there are three groups: Butterfield, The Byrds and the Sir Douglas Quintet.”
Once added to the Fine Arts Library the music in the KUT Collection will more than double the library’s existing audio recordings, with the LPs being added to this Historical Music Recordings Collection.
Contributions have also created world-changing projects like the Human Rights Documentation Initiative and Primeros Libros. With more than 3,300 gifts and nearly half of them from UT alumni, the Libraries have enhanced its collections, services, space and value to our university community. Thank you!