Doing research in a library can be an adventure in serendipitous discovery. For Dr. Denise Spellberg, Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin, an unexpected search result was the impetus for a research project that resulted in her acclaimed book, Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders.
Dr. Spellberg shared this recollection—along with other fascinating insights from her research—at the Hamilton Book Awards Author Showcase and Reception, which was held at the Perry-Castañeda Library last Friday. Dr. Spellberg’s book was the 2014 grand-prize winner of the Robert W. Hamilton Book Award.
With presentations nearly as diverse as the PCL’s collection, each faculty author gave the audience an introduction to the themes and motivations that define and drive their research. Both Dr. Lawler and Ms. Lowery spoke of their passion—for clean water and the craft of wig creation, respectively—while Dr. Li described how his experiences in China and the United States allowed him to analyze modern Chinese historical writing. Dr. Spellberg recounted how the discovery of playbill from a 1782 performance of Voltaire’s Mahomet in Baltimore led her to research the role of Islam in early American history.
The University Co-op has sponsored the Hamilton Book Awards since 1997. Winners are determined by a multidisciplinary committee appointed by the Vice President for Research at UT Austin, and the prize is awarded each October. The Hamilton Book Awards Author Showcase and Reception is an extension of the partnership effort by the Co-op and University of Texas Libraries to foster and promote faculty research on campus.
This well-received inaugural Showcase and Reception event was planned by School of Information graduate student and Ask a Librarian intern Katherine Kapsidelis, who graduates this May.
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.
Normally, the subject of books alone is enough for us to spill a few words on the virtual page, but in the case of this year’s presentation, we also had a connection to the proceedings in the form of assistant engineering librarian Larayne Dallas, who happened to serve on the selection committee.