Guest post by Amy Hunsaker, Music & Performing Arts Librarian
It’s time to celebrate Latinx authors during Hispanic Heritage Month, which overlaps September and the first few weeks of October. Don’t know where to start? This year, we’ve gathered a list of five Latinx authors whose works we recommend reading. Take a look below.
- Isabel Allende’s contributions to Latinx literature are substantial, encompassing her innovative writing style, feminist perspective, advocacy, and cultural bridging. Her work has left an indelible mark on the literary landscape, making her a significant figure in the world of Latinx literature. Some of her more notable works include “The House of the Spirits” (“La Casa de los Espíritus”), “Eva Luna,” and “Daughter of Fortune” (“Hija de la fortuna”).
- Julia Alvarez is a highly influential Dominican American writer known for her powerful storytelling and exploration of themes related to identity and immigration. Her writing fosters cross-cultural understanding, bridging the gap between the Dominican Republic and the United States and facilitating dialogue on issues of identity and belonging. To get a good understanding of her writing, try reading “How the García Girls Lost Their Accents” and “In the Time of the Butterflies.”
- Sandra Cisneros played a crucial role in shaping and popularizing Chicana literature, which explores the experiences of Mexican American and Chicano communities in the United States. Cisneros’ novel “The House on Mango Street” is a seminal work in Latinx literature. It provides a poignant and relatable portrayal of growing up in a marginalized urban environment, and it has become a staple in classrooms and literary discussions.
- Carlos Fuentes was a central figure in the Latin American literary boom of the 1960s and 1970s whose works helped shape and define modern Latin American literature. Fuentes’ writing often delves into political and social issues, offering incisive critiques of power dynamics, politics, and social injustices both in Mexico and globally. Many of his novels, such as “The Death of Artemio Cruz” and “Terra Nostra,” grapple with the complexities of Mexican identity and history, shedding light on the cultural nuances of the nation.
- Colombian novelist and Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez is credited with popularizing and defining the genre of magical realism in literature. This style combines the ordinary with the extraordinary, blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. His novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude” is a quintessential example of this genre. Many of García Márquez’s works explore themes of politics, power, and social injustice. He was an astute observer of Latin American political history, and his writings often served as a commentary on the socio-political realities of the region. His works have been translated into numerous languages and have been read and celebrated worldwide. This global reach helped bring attention to Latin American literature and culture on a global scale in the 20th century.
In addition …
The Library provides a Spanish Language & Literature guide to direct you to the best resources for the study of Spanish language and literature at UVA, as well as a Latin American & Iberian Studies research guide that includes collections about Latin America, Caribbean, Portugal, and Spain.
And don’t miss our newest Spanish-language databases available for free to UVA students, faculty, and staff:
- Platino Educa is a Spanish-language film streaming platform with over 300 films from Spain and Latin America. The films are classified by subject and cover a broad range of themes, including art, history, environmental science, literature, and social justice. The films were specifically selected for teaching and some come paired with preselected scene clips and educational guides. Films have Spanish and English subtitles.
- Latinx Thought and Culture: The NPR Archive, 1979-1990 showcases two radio programs: the weekly Spanish-language Enfoque Nacional (1979-1988) and the daily English-language Latin File (1988-1990), available for the first time in a searchable database as digitized audio with transcripts. They focus on Latinx issues related to politics, sociology, human rights, the arts and more with interviews of key figures and news reporting by a new generation of Latinx journalists at the time.
- Hispanic Life in America: Series 3 is a news media resources database sourced from more than 17,000 American and global news sources, including over 700 Spanish-language or bilingual publications. It covers arts and entertainment, civil rights and activism, immigration and citizenship, sports and athletes, labor, religion, science and technology, and society and culture.
A new exhibition now open in the First Floor Gallery of UVA’s Harrison Institute and Small Special Collections Library makes a bold and compelling claim: a portrait long held in the Library’s collections has for nearly a century been misidentified and is now believed to be the most accurate image of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley in existence. Arranged to appear almost like an evidence board on a detective show, the exhibition calls on the viewer to look with their own eyes, asking, “What do you see?”
Shelley, who is now regarded as one of the most influential English poets of the Romantic movement, was not well known in his lifetime. The author of the utopian allegory “Queen Mab” and the sonnet “Ozymandias” (a poem so endurably influential it was referenced in the television shows “Succession” and “Breaking Bad”), Shelley lived a radical life. He was an atheist and a vegetarian who promoted sexual freedom and an end to aristocratic privilege. Due to backlash against his beliefs, Shelley self-exiled in Italy, where he drowned in 1822 at the age of 29.
Few portraits of Shelley were ever made in his lifetime; an 1819 portrait of the poet by amateur Irish painter Amelia Curran is the best known and was copied by several artists. UVA Library’s new exhibition “Portrait of a Poet—Revisited: William Edward West’s Percy Bysshe Shelley” makes the claim that a portrait by American painter William Edward West was for years misidentified as an image of the English writer Leigh Hunt and is actually a portrait of Shelley, based on a sketch composed just days before Shelley’s death.
“It’s an amazing thing to have this portrait, arguably the best painting we have of Shelley and the only one done by a professional portraitist, here at UVA,” said Andrew Stauffer, a UVA professor of English and co-curator of the exhibition. “We’ve relied on the Curran portrait to characterize Shelley in the past and he’s come off as rather angelic and somewhat infantilized in certain ways,” he said. “This picture shows him as political, interested, older — he’s got the gray hair in his sideburns; it’s captured right before his death. It’s a way of seeing Shelley that we haven’t had access to.”
The story behind the portrait
About a year ago, Stauffer, who specializes in literary Romanticism, was at work on a forthcoming biography of the poet Lord Byron. Deep in research mode, Stauffer was examining an 1822 portrait of Byron done by William Edward West when he came upon another West portrait that gave him pause. The man in this second portrait, in Stauffer’s eyes, very much resembled Percy Bysshe Shelley, who was a peer of Byron’s. Stauffer began delving into that portrait’s history and current location and discovered it was held just “100 yards away” from where he was working: in UVA’s Special Collections Library.
The portrait first appeared in 1905, when it was published, along with a narrative of its provenance written by Nellie P. Dunn, in The Century magazine. Dunn, who ultimately donated the portrait to UVA Library, wrote that, according to West’s nephew, West met Shelley in the summer of 1822 at Byron’s summer house in Montenero, Italy, and was “so impressed by the man’s charming individuality” that he “slyly made a sketch of him.” This was less than a week before Shelley drowned in a shipwreck in the Tyrrhenian Sea. At some point after Shelley’s death, according to the narrative, West made the oil painting from his “sly sketch.”
The portrait was accepted as Shelley for much of the early 20th century. But in 1940 the scholar Newman Ivey White published an influential biography of Shelley in which White objected to the authenticity of the West portrait, insisting it was instead a portrait of Leigh Hunt, another peer of Byron’s. White suggested that West invented his story opportunistically, once Shelley’s fame had risen in the mid-19th century. “I believe White got it wrong with regard to West,” Stauffer writes in a forthcoming article in the Keats-Shelley Journal. “In my view, it is the best portrait of Percy Shelley that has come down to us, and 20th-century Shelleyans were right to accept it as genuine.”
The exhibition systematically dismantles White’s theory by examining physical evidence in a way that White wasn’t able to in his time. “It uses technology that wasn’t available in the 1940s when White made his argument,” Stauffer said. “He was working with low-quality black and white photos, all reproduced in old books. Whereas we can put various portraits side by side, magnify them, and zoom in.” The visual resemblance to all other existing Shelley portraits is crucial, Stauffer said, as well as a short 1828 magazine article on Shelley that stated West had indeed met the poet in Italy and claimed that Shelley “had also the most wonderful-looking head ever seen alive on our earth.”
“Shelley was not famous when that article was published,” Stauffer said. “There was no reason West would make that up for self-aggrandizement. To me, this is the smoking gun that suggests he definitely met Shelly, observed him physically, and likely sketched him, which is what artists tend to do.” In the face of testimony reported from the painter himself, Stauffer writes in his forthcoming article, “the burden of proof falls on White.”
Stauffer and Annyston Pennington, a UVA English doctoral student who co-curated the exhibition, acknowledge that their evidence is circumstantial, but feel they have built the strongest case possible. “We’re just raising the conversation letting people decide for themselves,” Stauffer said. “The Library has been so supportive through this whole experience,” both in terms of conserving the portrait and updating it in the catalog to acknowledge the new scholarship, he said.
In that sense, the exhibition reminds the viewer that the Library’s archives are not static repositories, but instead living collections where curators, professors, and researchers are reinterpreting objects. “This exhibition blends visual art, art history and literary history,” said Pennington, who translated Stauffer’s article into the exhibition structure with visual aids and additional images.
“It shows off the work that’s often happening behind the scenes at the Library — of revisiting and reevaluating the collections,” Pennington said. “That reframing makes them valuable in an ongoing way.”
“Portrait of a Poet—Revisited: William Edward West’s Percy Bysshe Shelley” is on view through Nov. 5, 2023 in the First Floor Gallery of the Harrison Institute and Small Special Collections Library.
“The Harlem Renaissance has come to the University of Virginia’s Grounds,” begins a UVA Today article featuring the Library’s newest exhibition, “Their World As Big As They Made It: Looking Back at the Harlem Renaissance.”
The article continues,
[The exhibition] examines the works in the period of Black artistic and intellectual activity centered in a New York neighborhood. The Harlem Renaissance began in the early 1900s as racist violence and diminishing economic opportunity pushed Black Southerners to head north in a movement known as the Great Migration.
“These young people, like Zora Neale Hurston, Wallace Thurman, Gwendolyn Bennett … their approach was, ‘We’re not going to try to aspire to white person standards. We’re not going to try to aspire to the Black middle-class standard. We’re fine being Black,’” George Riser, chief exhibition curator, said.
The exhibition draws on the UVA Library’s collection strengths in portraying the period, by
… [including] issues of some of the Harlem Renaissance’s most popular magazines, like The Crisis and The Messenger, manuscripts and original dust jackets of major works that came out of the movement, and even some of the period’s fashions. Marlon Ross, an English professor at UVA, provided Appiah, Riser and Robertson with the necessary historical context as they chose the works they wanted to highlight. Though some of the works featured in the exhibit were added to the library’s collection recently, others were collected as they were being published.
“Not many institutions have a collection like ours,” Krystal Appiah, [one of the exhibition’s curators,] said.
In addition to showcasing items from the collection, a UVA Arts Council grant enabled the exhibition to commission works from five local artists. These contemporary pieces were inspired by poetry from the Harlem Renaissance and illustrate its lasting impact on modern culture.
You can visit “Their World As Big As They Made It” in The Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library until June 2024.
Guest post by Holly Robertson, Curator of University Library Exhibitions
One hundred years ago, the artistic and political revolutions of the Harlem Renaissance were in full swing. The unmistakable sounds, images, words, and conventions of the era indelibly shaped American culture.
On Wednesday, Sept. 13, the University of Virginia Library will open its major new exhibition: “Their World As Big As They Made It: Looking Back at the Harlem Renaissance” in the Main Gallery of the Harrison Institute and Small Special Collections Library.
Featuring the visionary works of writers, artists, and thinkers of the Harlem Renaissance, this exhibition examines the creative and intellectual pursuits that defined Black American identity and political consciousness. The Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library is fortunate to hold a wide selection of influential books, magazines, illustrations, and manuscripts by these Harlem Renaissance creators.
We’ll celebrate this retrospective throughout the building with an open-house style event starting at 5:30 p.m. that will feature live music from the Charlottesville Jazz Congregation, great food, and gallery talks. Art in conversation with Harlem Renaissance poetry — part of our Arts Council grant project “As Big As We Make It!” — will be on display in the Main Gallery.
This event is free and open to the public. No tickets are required but register to let us know you’re coming, to stay updated on event details, and especially if you’d like free parking in the Central Grounds Garage.
- “Their World As Big As They Made It: Looking Back at the Harlem Renaissance”
- Wednesday, September 13 — 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
- Harrison/Small — 170 McCormick Road
- Register for more details and free parking
Take a look at some preview photos of the exhibition below. All photography by Stacey Evans.
Students are back on Grounds, classes are in session, and the Library is here to help. As a UVA student, you can use the Library to access books, journals, databases, makerspaces, and media equipment. You can contact a librarian any time of day through the Ask a Librarian portal or explore Library spaces to find a favorite study spot for years to come. And you can meet new friends by joining the Library Student Council, which is holding its first interest meeting of the year this evening, Aug. 28.
“Students should join Library Student Council if they are looking for a way to get more involved with UVA Library, or if they are interested in all the things libraries do,” said Haley Gillilan, UVA’s Undergraduate Student Success Librarian. “We meet every other Monday to discuss topics in the library science field, network with librarians, and make friends with fellow readers. Every year we design and host an escape room in a UVA Library space, so those who are interested in puzzles, reading, and technology should think about joining us!"
Hallie Terry and Lauren Askew both joined the Library Student Council as first-year students in the fall of 2019. After organizing a successful escape room program that fall, they were gearing up for many more social events when the COVID pandemic hit. “We continued to develop relationships in the midst of that challenge,” Terry said. “Going through that experience, I now deeply value community, relationships, and finding ways to serve others.” Both women graduated from the University in May.
We asked Terry, who plans to be a librarian, and Askew, who majored in material science and engineering, what advice they have for incoming students about using the Library. Here are their tips:
Don’t be afraid of it
Terry: The Library can seem overwhelming, or only something you need for class assignments or projects, but the Library can be used for so much more! You can host movie nights and explore the video collections, you can check out fun books to read, and not just academic books. Just let yourself explore and you’ll find so much! (Did you know that you can get board games through the Library too?!)
Explore the physical spaces
Askew: Find your niche study space — be sure to check out more hidden-away spots like the Fine Arts Library and the Music Library.
Terry: The Fine Arts Library is great! It’s further out than libraries like Clemons or Brown, but I worked there for a semester, and quickly learned what a great space it is. It also has some of the most interesting books that you’ll find in the UVA Library collection, so I highly recommend browsing the shelves and finding a few new things.
Check out the databases and media labs
Askew: Know that the Library gives you access to more than a thousand databases. I used these for engineering papers I had to write. Check out the Robertson Media Center and the Scholars’ Lab, currently on the third floor of Clemons. The makerspace and the 3D printers and virtual reality headsets down there are super cool. You can even rent cameras, light kits, and iPads. Your tuition is helping to pay for a lot of this stuff; you are allowed to use it!
Join the Library Student Council
Terry: Some of my favorite memories in the libraries revolve around my involvement in Library Student Council. Hosting our annual escape rooms in different libraries has been such a fun experience and has allowed me to be able to get to know a different side of the libraries and see how many things they can offer beyond just a simple study space.
[Note: Library Student Council is holding its first interest meeting tonight, Aug. 28, at 6:15 p.m. in Clemons 407. It meets every other Monday evening throughout the year.]
Askew: Just go to the Library. Just, go. The most helpful piece of advice anyone could have given me my first year was just this: You’re allowed to be here. Just go do stuff, try new things, and remember that the Library system is a safe space.
Gillilan [Undergraduate Student Success Librarian]: Remember that there is a staff person behind every book, online link, and study space, making it all work together. Everything you see at the Library or click on the Library website is supported by the Library team. We’re all here to support your research and interests as a scholar in our community!
It’s been a somewhat quiet summer on Grounds as we await students’ return for the fall semester. Renovations on the main library continue, with the building’s grand opening scheduled for April 2024. And we recently bid adieu to the four panels of the Berlin Wall that have been stationed near the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library since 2014.
Far from Grounds, though, several UVA librarians have appeared in local and national news stories about pressing issues in literary world: book censorship in Virginia school and public libraries, authors concerned about AI technology, and trauma-informed archival practices.
For Virginia Libraries, a publication of the Virginia Library Association, Keith Weimer wrote about race and sexuality in the history of book censorship in Virginia. Nearly 32% of Virginia school districts faced challenges to library books from 2020-22, according to the Richmond Times–Dispatch. A national survey run by PEN America concluded that during the 2021–22 school year “41% of [withdrawn] titles have protagonists or prominent secondary characters of color, followed by 33% explicitly addressing LGBTQ+ themes.”
“The events of 2021–2022 thus represent a new and troubling phase in the long history of struggles for control of reading material in Virginia and in the United States,” wrote Weimer, Librarian for History and Religious Studies. “However, race and sexuality have been recurring themes in book censorship throughout Virginia history, especially in periods of backlash to social change.”
Read Weimer’s article to understand the full history of book bans in Virginia, and check out his most recent list of book recommendations for the Library blog.
Authors fight artificial intelligence
In July, Publishers Weekly explored two recent class action lawsuits filed on behalf of five authors (including comedian Sarah Silverman) against the creators of generative AI technology ChatGPT and LLaMA. The suits state that these creators “infringed the authors’ copyrights by using unauthorized copies of their books to train their AI models, including copies allegedly scraped from notorious pirate sites.”
Brandon Butler, the Library’s Director of Information Policy, spoke to Publishers Weekly for the article, which is one of the site’s most popular this summer. Recently, more than 10,000 writers signed an open letter to generative AI leaders asking them to “obtain consent, credit, and fairly compensate writers for the use of copyrighted materials in training AI.” Butler, a copyright lawyer, argued that a permissions-based licensing agreement would not prevent AI from causing devastation to parts of the creative economy. “Whatever pennies that would flow to somebody from this kind of a license is not going to come close to making up for the disruption that could happen here,” he said; instead, the problem will likely require a broader policy approach.
The evolving work of archivists
Next summer, UVA Library will host the Archives Leadership Institute (ALI), a summer program that provides advanced training and experiential learning for mid-career archivists and memory workers. Brenda Gunn, Associate University Librarian for Special Collections and Preservation, spoke to the Federal News Network last month about the institute and the increasingly complex work of her profession for a story titled “Archiving things is not the sleepy job you might think it is.”
Gunn discussed the Institute’s plans to use UVA’s “built environment” – the Rotunda, the Academical Village, etc. – to explore difficult subjects, including the University’s history of enslavement and the 2017 “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. As an archivist, Gunn said, “it doesn’t matter if you’re at an institute of higher education or a museum or a corporation: you probably have some history to deal with.”
Work like this requires “trauma-informed archival practice,” Gunn said; in basic terms, this means making archival organizations aware of trauma and its effects. “When we think about trauma-informed practice, we’re thinking about researchers who come into the reading room and their responses to some difficult subject matter in the materials they’re there looking at. But we’re also thinking about our memory workers, our archivists, and our exhibition curators who may be dealing with the same difficult information as they process a collection or they’re preparing an exhibition.”
Read more about the Archives Leadership Institute, which UVA Library will host in the summers of 2024-26.
Guest post by Rob Smith, Digital Production Group Project Manager
We offer singular experiences in the UVA Library — for our staff, for our student employees, for scholars near and far, for our patrons, for the communities we connect with and serve, and for others tied to the broad networks of knowledge wrapping around our world. Typically, we do this work and our outreach in unique ways. It’s how we roll.
As case in point, the Digital Production Group (DPG) received a request in the spring semester to scan William Faulkner’s handwritten manuscript of “The Sound and the Fury.” (Handwritten! By William Faulkner!) This is one of many literary treasures we hold in Special Collections. (A detail from “Benjy’s Section” of the manuscript is shown below.)
We handle all DPG scans with care and our student employees typically lead this work. But this manuscript seemed to offer something extra special. Who might do it? With whom might this project resonate the most?
Caitlin Gerrard, a fourth-year student and English major in our shop, was fast approaching graduation. She got the nod. This was work Caitlin was genuinely excited to do. She did the work, and she did it well. In addition to meeting the needs of an international patron, the full work is now archived as high-resolution digital files in our holdings in addition to Faulkner’s handwritten master.
Caitlin was the DPG’s only graduate this year. We faced a new challenge: How to make this achievement (more) memorable for her. I am happy to say that we did this; you will find a few pictures below as proof.
Caitlin received a few gifts. Among them was a double picture frame. One side was blank and the other held a photo from William Faulkner’s days when he served as UVA writer-in-residence in the late 1950s. She also received a leather-bound copy of “The Sound and the Fury” and a gift bag with some unusual items: a raincoat, a hat, a dress shirt and tie, a (fake) pipe, and a stick-on mustache. Caitlin recognized instantly her invitation to play Faulkner’s counterpart. She was a perfect sport. A clever photoshoot followed with Caitlin and the rest of our gang.
Thanks to the stellar photography of Eze Amos and to the Photoshop mastery of Stacey Evans, you can see how Caitlin’s fun now complements William Faulkner’s photo on the other side of the Lawn. A one-of-a-kind keepsake, along with the full spread of our good-spirited bunch below. Clearly, we had some extra mustaches. (An easy Amazon buy if you ever have want or need, sold in sheets with options.)
Caitlin graduated Phi Beta Kappa. She has accepted a fellowship to teach English in Taiwan and she is to set off for Taipei this month. We are happy for Caitlin and we are happy for all other 2023 graduates with UVA Library ties. We are also grateful to the other student employees in our group and in the Library who do so much for us throughout the year, including making our work more interesting and a lot more fun.
It’s possible to mistake Ivy Creek Natural Area & Historic River View Farm, located off Earlysville Road in Albemarle County, for simply a nice place to take a hike, with gentle hills, thriving wildlife, and views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Lisa Shutt, an Associate Professor in UVA’s Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American and African Studies, had taken several walks in the area before she took an interest in a towering white barn near the trailhead.
“I didn’t know the history of the barn, I didn’t know the history of the lands that Ivy Creek Natural Area is on,” she said. Once she found out that history, she couldn’t stop thinking about it. Her curiosity about the place led to a partnership with UVA Library, which, for the past year, has been working in various ways to help resurface and preserve information about the area, originally known as just River View Farm.
In 1870, Hugh Carr, a recently emancipated Black farmer, paid $100 for 58 acres of land near the intersection of Ivy Creek and the Rivanna River. Carr continued to accumulate land, growing the property to nearly 125 acres. He built an I-House farmhouse and multiple outbuildings, and raised seven children there with his wife, Texie Mae Hawkins. Their eldest daughter, Mary, inherited the farm and served as a prominent educator in the African American community, eventually becoming principal of Albemarle Training School — one of the only schools in the area where Black children could continue their education beyond seventh grade. She added to the farm over the years by buying adjacent pieces of land, which her siblings and others had owned. Her husband, Conly Greer, was the first Black agricultural extension agent in Albemarle County. He traveled the county by horseback to train other Black farmers in cutting-edge agricultural methods. From 1937-38 he built the large frame demonstration barn that caught Lisa Shutt’s attention so many years later.
“I became fascinated by this place and wanted to preserve and share the legacy of this incredible family, especially with UVA students,” Shutt said. “Most of the people I come across who are deeply invested in the preservation of non-UVA local histories tend to be community members. I want our students to be just as invested in local histories.”
While the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County own the land and maintain the buildings at Ivy Creek Natural Area & Historic River View Farm, the Ivy Creek Foundation helped get the property listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Over the past couple of years, Susie Farmer, the Director of Education for the Ivy Creek Foundation, has worked with UVA’s Special Collections Library, where many documents relating to the family and farm are held.
Shutt reached out to Farmer and local historian Alice Cannon to further research the work and teachings of the Carr and Greer families. This past spring, with the permission and support of the Ivy Creek Foundation, including their Descendants’ Committee, Shutt taught a UVA African American Studies seminar, “Engaging Local Histories: River View Farm.” The class brought undergraduate students to the land, as well as to Special Collections. “I wanted students to think about what Black communities and Black individuals had to do in order to be successful in time periods where that was made extremely difficult by white power structures,” Shutt said.
“Successful research and preservation is a wildly collaborative effort that calls upon a variety of specialized skills for advancement: genealogy, 3D scanning, archival maintenance, navigation, cataloging, and even re-cataloging,” said Librarian for African American & African Studies Katrina Spencer, who helped Shutt’s students with their research. “The work on River View Farm with local community members is a great example of that.”
History made real
Students in Shutt’s class hiked the land, learning which areas were used for farming, and explored the barn’s interior. They visited local food scholar Leni Sorensen on her farmstead in Crozet, where, in the tradition of Mary Carr Greer’s food preservation classes, Sorensen taught them how to make and preserve strawberry jam. The students were trained to be barn docents, giving them the ability to lead tours of the entire farm. And Shutt reached out to Spencer, who is also the Library’s subject liaison to the Woodson Institute, to help guide her students through the Carr family papers in Special Collections.
Spencer prepared an instructional session for Shutt’s students and enlisted Jean Cooper, the Library’s Principal Cataloger and Genealogical Resources Specialist, to assist. The two tailored the session, held in Clemons Library, to the various topics on which students were focusing: some were researching Black education, others were delving into Black land ownership. The librarians gave an overview of how to identify primary sources, how to search databases and access Special Collections, and how to interpret census data, with a deep dive into genealogy, a specialty of Cooper’s.
“Charlottesville is the kind of place that grabs you and won’t let you go; it’s a fascinating place,” Cooper said about conducting genealogical research. “African American genealogy is especially fascinating because it’s so hard. There’s not a whole lot of written evidence … and so you have to figure out how to get there.”
With training from Cooper and Spencer, the students were ready to visit Special Collections a week later to explore three boxes of Carr/Greer papers. “When the students got to Special Collections, they just kind of were in awe,” Shutt said. “I would call it almost a spiritual experience to be able to put our hands and eyes on these documents that were once held by members of this family: a little cookbook, the original contract where Hugh Carr made his mark to pay for the land, academic papers written by Mary Carr Greer when she studied at the Piedmont Industrial Institute.”
Shutt said the students returned to Special Collections without her several times, sending her photos of things they found. The primary documents they analyzed became source material for 20-page research papers each student wrote at the end of the semester. “I think sometimes when students are examining history, it can seem like a fairy tale to them, like they’re watching a movie or reading a novel; it’s so removed from them,” Shutt said. But when they either go to River View Farm or to Special Collections, history is made real.”
Taylor Whirley, a rising third-year student who took Shutt’s class, agreed. “I became engrossed within the history of a family that I had never met and am not a part of, but I quickly developed a desire to ensure that their stories were told within the UVA community,” she said. “Through this class, I learned more about Charlottesville and Albemarle County history than ever before, which was an incredibly eye-opening experience in general.”
Reparative work at the Library
When Shutt reached out to Spencer for help, the request led not only to a successful instruction session, but also to some necessary updates in the Library’s records.
“I saw the term ‘River View Farm’ for the first time when Lisa got in touch with me,” Spencer said. “I didn’t know what it was. And I knew that if I was going to teach about it, I had to start doing some digging.” She was surprised to find scant information about the family members in the Library’s catalog when she began searching for it. “Our River View Farm entries didn’t reference Hugh Carr, or Mary Carr Greer, or that family. And I thought, ‘Well, shouldn’t these go together, if these were the people who owned this property and developed it?’”
Spencer approached Ellen Welch, a Library Manuscripts and Archives Processor, for help with this issue. “Part of my work is responding to suggestions for improvements in describing our collections,” Welch said. “The description for the Ivy Creek Natural Area papers was so minimal that the history of the Carr family was invisible to anyone searching our collections. With Katrina’s suggestion, I was able to bring the Carr family history into the description so that patrons can know more about this important family in Albemarle County during the 19th century.”
In March, Welch published a deeply researched post on the Special Collections blog, “Notes from Under Grounds” exploring the Carr/Greer family and the Library’s Papers of the Ivy Creek Foundation collections (MSS 10770 and MSS 10176). “As a longtime local resident, I had known about the Ivy Creek Natural Area but had no knowledge of Hugh Carr,” she wrote. “This is what makes reparative work so essential in libraries and historical repositories. It is exciting to shine a light on their remarkable lives, making them well known to our patrons today and in the future.”
3D cultural heritage data
While Welch was illuminating River View Farm history in the Library catalog, Will Rourk, the Library’s 3D Technologies Specialist with the Scholars’ Lab, was creating new primary source data about the site for historic preservation purposes, using high-tech equipment to do so.
With an academic background in architecture and architectural history, Rourk is an expert in cultural heritage preservation using 3D data. Equipped with laser scanners, aerial drones, and photogrammetric technologies, Rourk teaches architectural history students to collect, process, preserve, and distribute 3D data of historic objects, buildings, and sites, including the Rotunda Dome, archaeological artifacts at Monticello, and the Pine Grove School in Cumberland, Virginia.
During the fall 2022 semester, Rourk’s students used laser scanning equipment to collect 3D data of the barn, the farmhouse, and surrounding landscape at River View Farm. “In all we collected 55 individual scan datasets of the barn and 123 datasets for the house and landscape,” he said. His students produced a thorough storymap website on their work. Late last month, Rourk uploaded all of the data about the barn and farmhouse to LibraData, UVA’s data repository, hosted by the Library.
“Once the 3D data is up in the Library, then it’s accessible to the scholarly community,” Rourk said. The data has a variety of uses, including historic structure reports for architecture firms, 3D printing of artifact replicas, or even for the immersive virtual reality spaces in the Library’s Robertson Media Center. “We have a ton of this data running in the virtual reality lab in Clemons,” Rourk said. “You can virtually visit the Pine Grove School, cabins for the formerly enslaved, as well as the [now demolished] U-Hall arena.”
Rourk is planning on loading the River View Farm data onto the VR stations in Clemons for virtual explorations this summer. The data is also being used to help preservation efforts of River View Farm. Rourk is working closely with Jody Lahendro, who was a preservation architect at UVA for 16 years and now, in retirement, serves as a board member of the Ivy Creek Foundation. The 3D data from Rourk and his students will be crucial to Lahendro’s current volunteer work assisting Albemarle County Parks & Recreation in developing a historic structure report for River View Farm.
“All these people in the historic preservation community that I work with are just doing amazing, interesting work. And I am propelled by their eagerness to do good,” Rourk said. “I feel like the Library does good because we help people who do good. And this is one small way that I can do that.”
To take a tour of River View Farm or to learn about other educational events and scheduled hikes on the land, visit the Ivy Creek Foundation website.
In a rapidly changing world, archivists’ jobs have become increasingly complex. Their knowledge must encompass not only paper, film, and audio records, but also born-digital materials and their required infrastructures. Archivists sometimes balance the roles of historian and budget planner, all the while preparing for crisis response or protecting materials against climate change. And many archivists are pushing back against outdated structures and systems embedded in the field’s theories and practices.
The University of Virginia Library will explore these and other issues when it hosts the Archives Leadership Institute (ALI), a summer program that provides advanced training and experiential learning for mid-career archivists and memory workers. Late last month, the National Archives’ National Historical Publications & Records Commission awarded UVA Library a $300,000 grant to host ALI from 2024 to 2026. The ALI program, which started in 2008, is the only leadership institute for archivists designed by archivists. At UVA Library, the program will focus on organizational leadership, relationship-building, and self-knowledge, using the complicated and sometimes painful landscape of this university to examine power of place and its role in the work archivists do.
“We are looking for archivists who have an appetite for moving the profession forward, who want to refine their social justice lens, who want to be aware of the environment in which they work and be responsive to their communities, who desire to lead their organizations with empathy and compassion, and to be skilled in developing strong relationships as well as repairing fractured and broken ones,” said Brenda Gunn, Associate University Librarian for Special Collections and Preservation, whose proposal won the National Archives grant for UVA Library.
We spoke with Gunn about how the Archives Leadership Institute will take shape at UVA. Our conversation is below.
Q. What will the Archives Leadership Institute look like at UVA Library (how long is the program, where will students stay, etc.)?
A. ALI (which is the shorthand it is known by in the profession) is a weeklong, in-person intensive program, and the 25 members of the cohort will stay on Grounds, likely in Bond House. The cohort will arrive on Sunday night, June 16, 2024, for an opening night dinner and orientation. The cohort begins their work in earnest on Monday morning. Sessions will continue through Friday night with an end-of-institute capstone event. Students depart Charlottesville on Saturday.
It doesn’t end there, though. Following the in-person experience, the cohort will continue to learn together via Zoom in a series of meetings that will continue until the next ALI program begins in June 2025.
Q. What can you tell us about the instructors for the ALI program?
A. Mary Brackett with UVA’s Organizational Excellence will be part of the faculty and will be the facilitator for the week. In her facilitator role, she’ll begin and end each day and weave all of the themes together throughout the week. From UVA Library, Elyse Girard, Executive Director of Communications and User Experience, will be working with the cohort on leadership through communication. And Catalina Piatt-Esguerra, Associate Dean for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Accessibility, will work with the cohort on IDEA elements, which are built in throughout the week.
Our other faculty come from different parts of the cultural heritage sector, including Christina Thompson Shutt, Executive Director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, and Makiba Foster, Librarian of the College at the College of Wooster and leader of the “Archiving the Black Web” project.
Q. What will cohort members come away with?
A. My hope is that the participants leave Grounds with confidence to correct narratives in their own institutions. Part of the beauty of having this type of program on Grounds is the ability to use the University’s landscape, the built environment, as a backdrop for capacity building in leadership. How does a memory worker lead a change and transformation in the field at large, in their communities, in their institutions, and even within their own workgroups. We’ll take them from the macrocosm to the microcosm and stops in between.
Q. What makes UVA Library a good place to host this program?
A. UVA has a strong commitment to leadership development and training, and UVA Library has excellent facilities that can be used for in-person portions of the program. These buildings are across the street from the West Lawn, part of the historic Academical Village. Put another way, the locations will be replete with history and symbolism, and will support the Institute’s concept of the power of place. The ALI@Virginia experience will be grounded in place and our landscape, and the cohort will explore leadership through the lens of the unique emotional, historical, and frankly traumatic landscape that UVA offers.
We also intend to have one day of learning out in the Charlottesville community, ideally at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center. Other venues likely to be used will be the UVA Rotunda and Morven, UVA’s Sustainability Lab, located on 4000-plus acres in Albemarle County, a short distance from UVA Grounds. We feel confident that the places we take the cohort will yield fruitful discussions.
Q. Who should apply for the program, and what previous education is required?
A. The program is targeted to mid-career folks who work in an archival setting or who are archives adjacent, such as a records manager, or an exhibitions curator, or a consultant. Typically, a cohort member has a degree in information science or public history, with an emphasis on archival studies, but there are also cohort members who have degrees from a wide variety of disciplines. They do need to be working in a cultural heritage setting and be energized by and committed to transforming archives and archivists, whatever that may mean to them.
Our application process will depart from previous practices and has been informed by considerations of how to remove barriers for applicants, and how to attract more BIPOC individuals and candidates with a variety of lived experiences.
Q. Anything else you’d like to add?
A. ALI has been around since 2008, when it launched at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Other institutions that have hosted include Luther College (in Decorah, Iowa), Berea College (in Berea, Kentucky), and most recently Purdue University. The cohort model of an intensive works really well in smaller communities and on a college campus because of the on-campus housing, which brings folks together.
I was a member of the 2010 cohort in Madison. I was also a steering committee member for ALI@Luther and ALI@Berea. I’m the director of the program and have a wonderful advisory/steering committee: Steven Booth, Audra Eagle Yun, and Petrina Jackson (who worked at UVA as the Instruction Librarian in Special Collections).
This is the only leadership institute for archivists designed by archivists. In that regard, there is a lot of prestige attached to it, and high visibility and interest. We have designed the leadership curriculum to be intensive and challenging, just as the University’s landscape carries intensity and challenges for those who walk through it.
In June, the U.S. celebrates Pride Month, in honor of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising. Across the country, people gather with parades, events, parties, and other celebrations to honor the history and impact of the LGBTQ+ community. This post highlights podcasts, literature, and archives that document the rich array of lived experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals.
Whether you are exploring your own identity or want to build your allyship capacities, we hope that this month’s materials provide you meaningful ways to learn about our vibrant community.
- Catalina Piatt-Esguerra, she/hers (Associate Dean for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility)
First, from Amanda Wyatt Visconti, they/them, (Managing Director of Scholars’ Lab):
The “Gender Reveal” podcast
The “Gender Reveal” podcast interviews a diverse array of trans, nonbinary, intersex, and two-spirit people. Whether you want to be a better ally, explore your gender, or just hear about a broad array of trans lives, the show connects you to a variety of lived trans experiences (including activism, creativity, work, and joy), rather than only transition or tragedy. You can listen through various platforms or read episode transcripts if you prefer. “Starter packs” collect episodes to start listening to specific kinds of interviewees, including trans authors, actors, Indigenous and two-spirit folks, social justice and union activists, and academics.
Zines are DIY self-publications, often small paper booklets easily replicated on copy machines and distributed for free. They’ve historically been a low-barrier way for LGBTQIA+ folks to share advice and art with one another. UVA’s library catalog offers an array of zines and zine-related reads; and when the main library completes its renovation you’ll be able to visit the Scholars' Lab zine wall on the third floor to grab as many free zines on LGBTQIA+ and other topics as you want! For now, here are a couple of LGBTQIA+ zine resources you can access online:
- “Embodiment: Secrets Under Our Skin” by the Feminist Union of Charlottesville Creatives for “profoundly personal stories, poems, and creative artworks conceived from radical bodily exploration.”
- “TGI 'n fine: A resource & care zine for trans, gender non-conforming, & intersex youth” by the LYRIC Center for LGBTQQ Youth, with advice for exploring and navigating gender transition.
- Barnard College’s Zine Library offers links to many free digital zines by women, nonbinary people, and trans men, with emphasis on zines by women of color and a newer effort to acquire more zines by trans women; as well as resources on how to make your own zines.
Second, from Brenda Gunn, she/her/hers (Associate University Librarian for Special Collections and Preservation):
“The Black Flamingo”
Dean Atta’s debut novel, “The Black Flamingo” (on order for UVA Library), is a banned book in several locales and states. First published in Great Britain in 2019, Atta’s book launched in the U.S. a year later and met challenges calling for the removal of this young adult novel from library shelves. Atta writes in verse to tell the story of Michael as he transitions from living at home in London with his mother and younger sister, to enrolling in a nearby university to study English in the hopes of becoming a writer. Michael is mixed race; his father is of Jamaican descent and his mother is Greek. He is also gay. Michael moves through novel spaces as a university student and gains strength and motivation from his new experiences, especially with the Drag Society. As he develops his drag persona — the black flamingo — and settles into this group space of acceptance, Michael defines himself in defiance of all those who would try to do that for him. Winner of multiple awards, including the Stonewall Book Award from the American Library Association, “The Black Flamingo” should appear on only one list: must read.
Third, from M. Grace Hale, she/hers (Reference Librarian):
“The Mimicking of Known Successes”
The Mimicking of Known Successes (on order for UVA Library), is a beautifully written novella. Maika Older, the author of the critically acclaimed “Centenal Cycle” series, introduces a cozy sapphic mystery, complete with tea, scones, an elite university, and a gender-bending Sherlockian/Watsonian team. The storyline manages to combine eco-criticism and post-apocalyptic politics with a lightness of heart that keeps you wanting more. The twist is that the story is set on Jupiter where humans have retreated after climate collapse made Earth uninhabitable. Humans have retained a foothold in the solar system by building a colony of ring-like habitats connected by light rail lines around Jupiter but dream of rehabilitating Earth.
The central mystery concerns an unidentified man who goes missing on one of the provincial rail stations, and the shadowy agency that appears to deal with it. Mossa, an investigator, is called on to look into the disappearance. When the missing man turns out to be a scholar from Valdegeld, home to the colony’s elite university, Mossa decides to call on Pleiti, a Classics scholar, to get the inside scoop on faculty life. Pleiti is a specialist in pre-collapse Earth ecosystems and may or may not still have a candle burning for Mossa after their college romance ended badly years before.
The novella pokes wicked fun at the foibles of academia and the dangers of a nostalgia ethos, using minimalist strokes to build a world that leaves the reader wanting to know more. The mystery unfolds on the storm-plagued Valdegeld platform and eventually collides with political maneuvering around the colony’s efforts to repopulate Earth’s ecosystem so humans can someday return. The tone manages to be both cozy and atmospheric, touching with a light hand on the politely cutthroat world of elite research institutions as well as the human capacity for hope.
Lastly, from Mandy Rizki, she/her/hers, (Reference Librarian):
Digital Transgender Archive
The Digital Transgender Archive is an online database compiling archival material from the lives and experiences of transgender people, with more than seventy institutions contributing from around the world. The database can be searched by collection, keyword, or tagged location – meaning photos of trans folks in Berlin in 1920 are tagged in Berlin on a world map, even though they are physically in the Human Sexuality Collection at Cornell! Items in the database include 1990s newsletters from the East Coast FTM group, photographs from the 1978 ‘Gay Day’ parade in San Francisco, newspaper clippings from Sao Paulo, correspondence, and so much more.
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