Where Ya Headed?

Texas, 1839. Thomas Gamaliel Bradford. PCL Map Collection.

Ars Technica has written about a great new map resource website (Old Maps Online) with a rather unique user interface, one that allows the user to zoom in on an area à la Google Earth, and providing a selection of different types of enlargeable maps related to the selected area. The site was conceived through a a collaboration between The Great Britain Historical GIS Project based at The University of Portsmouth, UK and Klokan Technologies GmbH, Switzerland, and utilizes maps from the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, the Czech Republic’s Moravian Library and the San Francisco Bay Area’s David Rumsey Map Collection.

Not overlooked in the article, our own PCL Map Collection gets a mention:

Having such a large collection of cartographic history in one place and accessible by anyone with a browser is extraordinary enough. But it’s not the only online map collection of note. The University of Texas’s Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection has been a familiar online companion from the early days.

Speaking on Tongues

“Babel No More: The Search for the World’s Most Extraordinary Language Learners” (Free Press, 2012)

Our friends over at the ShelfLife@Texas blog have an interview up with UT grad Michael Erard, author of “Babel No More: The Search for the World’s Most Extraordinary Language Learners”(Free Press, 2012), whose study of linguistics led him to investigate hyperpolyglots.

Erard introduces as the pinnacle example of multilingualism Giuseppe Mezzofanti – a 19-century priest who allegedly spoke 72 languages – to reflect on the predispositions and genetic quirks that make grasping language easier for certain people.

From the Q&A:

Why do some people pick up multiple languages so easily?

One reason is that they’ve already picked up multiple languages – they have a lot of knowledge about the basic patterns they’ll see in a grammar, and they know a lot about how they learn. (That is, if they’ve learned languages from a lot of different families.)

You can read the full interview with Erard here.

Libraries Salutes Award Winners

Andrés Tijerina with Anthony Grafton.

Congratulations to Dr. Andrés Tijerina, University of Texas Libraries Advisory Council Member and UT alum, for receiving the American Historical Association’s Individual Equity Award.  Dr. Tijerina is a renowned scholar of Texas history and a professor at Austin Community College.  His latest publication is a chapter in Still the Arena of Civil War: Violence and Turmoil in Reconstruction Texas, 1865-1874, edited by Kenneth W. Howell.

Frank Andre Guridy

Additionally we congratulate Dr. Frank Guridy for receiving the American Historical Association and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History’s Wesley-Logan Prize for his first book, Forging Diaspora: Afro-Cubans and African Americans in a World of Empire and Jim Crow.  Dr. Guridy is an associate professor of history and director of the Warfield Center for African and African-American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.

The Benefits of Membership

Literary Longhorns reception.

Last night, the University of Texas Libraries launched a new initiative called Literary Longhorns. The initiative recognizes donors who have given or pledged $25,000 or more to the University of Texas Libraries.

A select group of alumni, donors and friends were invited to the launch reception at the home of Ted and Melba Whatley.  Ted serves on the Libraries Advisory Council.

The reception featured presentations from Dr. David Hunter on the Fine Arts Library and its Historical Music Recordings Collection, and from Adán Benavides on the Benson Latin American Collection.

In addition, guests were treated to a special presentation by Robert Faires, Arts Editor for the Austin Chronicle and Libraries Advisory Council member, on the making of his one-man show, Henry V.

It was a special evening for guests to learn more about the University of Texas Libraries collections and ideas for future acquisitions of unique and rare items.

L–R: Dr. Mark Hayward, Tony Budet and Jim Estrada.

Satisfaction

I guess we’re doing it right.

The President’s Task Force on Undergraduate Graduation Rates released its report yesterday, and amongst the recommendations, the Libraries found some happy news in an included student satisfaction survey:

According to the figure, students report the highest satisfaction levels with the university libraries. Indeed, for both of the library measures, about 95% of students report somewhat satisfied or better for these items.
Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) data (click on image to enlarge).

Now to work on that other 5%-7%….

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

It’s elementary…

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If you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes, or are comforted by the brogue of the British tongue, then you are in luck: last fall’s Sherlock Science Study Break is now up on the university’s YouTube channel for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy.

 

Blake Alexander (Feb. 4, 1924 – Dec. 11, 2011)

Blake Alexander

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Drury Blakeley Alexander, whose namesake Alexander Architectural Archive in the Architecture & Planning Library is the premier collection of architectural resources in Texas.

Blake was a champion for the education, documentation, and preservation of Texas’ architectural heritage. He was also a pioneer in recognizing the importance of archiving architectural records. The Alexander Architectural Archive grew out of his personal collection and stewardship. The resources he collected continue to play an important role in the restoration of many of Texas’ most important buildings and continue to support the education and scholarship of American architectural history.

To learn more about Blake’s life and legacy, please see:

Relevancy in the Campaign Cycle

Gingrich's 1971 dissertation on the Congo.

A note by way of a practical example to all those hungry young campaign staffers working on research (opposition or otherwise) for their respective candidates: libraries are a great resource.

Just ask alumna Laura Seay (PhD, ’09), whose investigation into now-presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s 1971 dissertation (“Belgian Education Policy in the Congo”) from his European history study at Tulane is getting some renewed appraisal.

Seay located the document among the microfiche collections at PCL.

The lesson could well be that while the Congressional record and the Internet may be fine resources, a little legwork in the stacks can result in treasure.

Alcalde has the whole story here.

Ottaviani’s “Feynman” on the Tube

Ottaviani on Feynman

If you happened to have the misfortune not to be in attendance at the special installment of Science Study Break featuring Jim Ottaviani earlier this fall, well, you’re now in luck.

Comic writer Ottaviani’s extended commentary on his subject – nuclear physicist and virtuoso renaissance man Richard Feynman – that kept the crowd alternately laughing and thinking throughout the evening is now up and available for viewing on the university’s Know website, so check it out.

UPDATE: Ottaviani’s “Feynman” talk is now up on the university’s YouTube channel. Start sharing!

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