An upcoming student-curated exhibit at University of Houston Libraries features the student organization Afro Americans for Black Liberation (AABL) and its success in the inception of the UH African American Studies Program in 1969.
Forged by Protest: Student Organization Afro Americans for Black Liberation (AABL) and the Genesis of the UH African American Studies Program was curated by Research for Aspiring Coogs in the Humanities (REACH) scholar Saron Regassa as an analog component of a digital project aiming to make the history of AABL accessible as an online resource. The exhibit is a collaboration between the UH department of African American Studies and UH Libraries.
In 1967, a UH sophomore, Gene Locke, created the student organization Committee for Better Race Relations (COBRR), which soon became Afro Americans for Black Liberation (AABL, pronounced “able”). On February 7, 1969, AABL presented their “10 Demands” to UH president Philip G. Hoffman, and throughout the semester, AABL rallied for support on campus. Among the demands was a call for a “Department of Afro-American Studies.” AABL’s activities led to the establishment of the UH Afro-American Program (now the department of African American Studies) later that year, making UH the first state university in Texas with such a program and one of the first in the nation. The UH African American Studies Program was granted departmental status in 2021. Tara T. Green joined the UH College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS) as founding chair of the department of African American Studies in 2022.
As part of the REACH project, Regassa is researching the history of AABL using archives across UH Special Collections, from student publications to UH administration records, and using the primary sources, provided the context and description for the exhibit. REACH is a year-long introductory research experience for undergraduates in humanities disciplines, and is supported by the Cougar Initiative to Engage and the Office of Undergraduate Research and Major Awards (OURMA). REACH connects students to existing UH digital humanities projects and allows them to develop research skills through mentored, first-hand scholarly inquiry and through participation in OURMA research programming. REACH participants will present their research at Undergraduate Research Day in April 2023.
The exhibit will be on display at MD Anderson Library from February 13 through March 13.
A new collection, the Pecan-Shellers’ Strike Documents, is now accessible online at UH Digital Collections.
Featuring 119 items from the Gov. James V. Allred Papers, found in UH Libraries Special Collections, the Pecan-Shellers’ Strike Documents collection describes labor activism of Hispanic women. As described by the Handbook of Texas, “On January 31, 1938, nearly 12,000 San Antonio pecan shellers, mostly Hispanic women, walked off their jobs.” The strike, led initially by Emma B. Tenayuca, lasted for three months and was marked by hundreds of arrests. “At Governor James Allred’s urging, the Texas Industrial Commission investigated possible violations of civil rights in San Antonio and found the police interference with the right of peaceful assembly to be unjustified.”
The materials in this collection have frequently been used for teaching in English department courses. The digital collection facilitates use of the materials in face-to-face, hybrid, or asynchronous instruction sessions.
Explore the collection with these notable items:
University of Houston Libraries welcomes Joyce Gabiola as the new LGBT History Research Collection librarian.
Please describe your role at UH Libraries. How does your work align with the research and teaching priorities of the University?
I’m building on the work of LGBTQI+ community members, along with archivist Vince Lee and the Special Collections team to preserve materials with historical meaning and make them accessible for researchers and the general public. In addition to archival appraisal, processing, curating, etc., part of my role is to build relationships and collaborate with members of the UH community and LGBTQI+ communities to support their teaching, research, and creative interests concerning LGBTQI+ history. This includes but is not limited to research assistance, instruction, discussing ideas for projects, selecting materials for exhibits, providing guidance for preserving materials, or just exploring the collections. The possibilities are endless.
Since I’m working with collections that were donated by members and organizations of historically marginalized and minoritized communities, acknowledging the power I hold as an agent of the academic institution that maintains these collections is essential to my work, as it is to the research and teaching priorities of the University, particularly concerning its strategic goal of social responsibility in building equity and inclusion.
Please share a bit about your background and research interests. How do these inspire and shape your approach as a librarian/archivist?
Houston is my hometown, so after 10+ years of living in Boston, L.A., and San Diego, I have returned in probably one of the best ways possible. It’s incredibly awesome that I get to do this work with the UH community (especially as an alum!) and fellow members of LGBTQI+ communities.
My direct and indirect experience spans academic, community, corporate, familial, and government environments, which have all shaped my approach as an archivist as well as a leader, mentor, researcher, and editor. For example, navigating academia has helped me pay more attention to structural powers that impact our work and relationships in archives, the field, and higher ed. Directing the daily operations of a precarious nonprofit LGBTQ community-powered archives with a low budget forced me to make challenging decisions that would have an impact on the safety and mental health of staff, interns, the community, and myself during a pandemic. And being a parent reminds me of all the jam hands that could possibly be near historical documents, which has prompted me to consider opportunities for K-12 engagement as well as policies around access to our material environment. My overarching approach is to intentionally work toward mitigating potential harm that can emerge in archival environments.
My latest publications explore power structures concerning marginalized or minoritized communities and archives. I’m the principal author of “It’s a Trap: Complicating Representation in Community-Based Archives,” which was published in The American Archivist this past July. My solo-authored essay, “(En)countering the Archival Sidekick,” was published in the Asian American Studies anthology, Q&A: Voices from Queer Asian North America, and it’s based on research that I conducted in four Texas archives as well as my autoethnographic experiences as a queer, more masculine-presenting person of color in the reading rooms and traveling between these different Texas cities.
What are one or two things you’d like people to know about working with archives?
Working with archives is powerful. I would venture to say that a lot of the public, including academics, either don’t know what archives are or they hold misconceptions of them. And yet, archives (plus folx who keep and care for historical materials) are essential to producing knowledge and understanding communities, cultures, and societies, as well as scientific and technological advancements. And it’s one thing to read about an historical event; it’s another to touch a document or object that physically connects you to that history.
Another thing I’d like people to know is that it’s okay for us to let go. Not everything is meant to or should be preserved. And depending on the context, it’s okay to forget and use our agency to protect through our own silence and absence. Some people intentionally subvert documentation of their histories and that of their communities as a way to protect against harm that can emerge through archival environments and relationships. Representation is complicated.
Working with archives is not simply about preserving historical materials and providing access to them. Among feelings of celebration and representation, archives are about people holding, abusing, or being impacted by structural power and navigating those realities through time and space; and it’s about how we consider those histories in order to resist or perpetuate that oppressive power in our present moment in an effort to shape the future. As I’ve stated, working with archives is powerful.
But also, working with archives is just plain cool…and the fact that I am able to do so with such a significant collection of LGBTQI+ history not only of UH, Houston and Texas, but of the nation (and eventually, the world) is beyond amazing.
This week, visitors to the University of Houston MD Anderson Library will notice a suite of banners in the atrium. The Banner Project, created by Houston activists Sara Fernandez and JD Doyle, is a pop-up exhibit featuring pivotal moments in Houston’s LGBT history from the 1930s to present day.
2022 marks the sixth year that UH Libraries has partnered with the creators to host the banners, sparking discussion, reflection, and awareness across campus and in the community. The banners will remain on display through October in honor of LGBT History Month, and on October 11, National Coming Out Day, staff from Special Collections will host an informational table in the atrium from 11am – 5pm, featuring archival materials from the LGBT History Research Collection. The Banner Project creators Fernandez and Doyle will be attending, as well as representatives from the UH LGBTQ Resource Center.
Julie Grob, curator and coordinator for instruction in University of Houston Libraries Special Collections, recently hosted an open house for visitors to view rare and interesting recent acquisitions to the Rare Books Collections, including:
- A signed early edition of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
- An impressive facsimile of the Book of Kells
- Several early books by Mexican/Mexican-American writers in the US
- A multi-volume History of Woman Suffrage inscribed by Susan B. Anthony
- A rare, fragile book of biographies and photographs of Black Texans from 1940
On-site access to Special Collections is by appointment only. Researchers are encouraged to contact our curators with questions and requests.
Paintings and collages have been installed on the 2nd floor of MD Anderson Library near Special Collections, adding to the current exhibit featuring works of Texas-born artist Dorothy Hood (1918-2000).
In collaboration with Public Art of the University of Houston System and the Art Museum of South Texas (AMST), University of Houston Libraries will display Dorothy Hood: The Edge of Being through March 2023, along with additional exhibit locations at UH and University of Houston-Clear Lake. Visitors interested in an immersive look at Hood’s personal archives are encouraged to contact head of Special Collections Christian Kelleher.
Artworks include The Terrible Parade, Black Vessel, Sound From Within, Thorns, Primal Edge, and others.
A student-curated exhibit featuring archival materials related to the Houston GLBT Political Caucus is on display at the MD Anderson Library.
Marking LGBT+ Pride Month 2022, the physical exhibit is augmented by a digital component, and was created by senior history major Kennedy Williams as part of a Research for Aspiring Coogs in the Humanities (REACH) project.
“The [REACH] program gave me experience in archives which will assist me in becoming an archivist in the future,” Williams said. “It proved to me this is what I want to do.”
Williams selected items from the archives of University of Houston Libraries Special Collections’ LGBT History Research Collections, primarily from materials in the Annise Parker and Kathy Hubbard Papers, reflecting the influential history of the Houston LGBTQ+ Political Caucus from its founding in 1975 to the present. (In 2021, the organization’s membership voted to change its name from Houston GLBT Political Caucus to the current Houston LGBTQ+ Political Caucus).
In working with the archives, Williams learned that curation is an iterative process. “Everything takes several drafts, from how you wish to organize the archival material to how you present it,” she said. “Secondly, I learned to critically think not only about the history but about each individual piece of archival material in order to decide what would be good in the exhibit.”
Williams initially had doubts about participating in the research program, wondering what it would be like and if she’d be able to keep up. Now, her advice to other undergraduates considering research opportunities at UH is to go for it. “Don’t let anything hold you back,” she said. “I ended up enjoying every second.”
The exhibit and the LGBT History Research Collection are supported by an endowment from The Hollyfield Foundation, which provides funding for the acquisition and preservation of primary source materials. The LGBT History Research Collection preserves and promotes the archives of LGBT communities and organizations from Houston and the region. Materials, including personal papers, organization records, and library collections, document the communities’ activist, cultural, social, and political activities, and the personal experiences of community members.
Through its support of LGBT and AIDS non-profits, The Hollyfield Foundation has made a substantial positive impact on local LGBT communities since its inception in 1994. The Houston-based organization contributes to charities that work to prevent discrimination, promote equality, and assist in HIV/AIDS education, care and treatment.
The Honorable Vanessa Gilmore retired January 2, 2022, after serving 27 years as a federal judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
Now, embarking on a life after law, Gilmore has gifted her papers to University of Houston Libraries Special Collections. Selections from the newly acquisitioned collection were on display at the 25th Annual Table Talk Luncheon.
Gilmore’s 1994 nomination by President Clinton made her the youngest sitting federal judge to be appointed at the time. During her tenure, Judge Gilmore presided over the inaugural ceremonies of Houston mayors and elected officials, the Enron Broadband scandal, and the case of a man wrongfully convicted and incarcerated, among many others. As a practicing attorney in Houston, she served as a board member on the Community Development Corporation (CDC) along with Reverend Bill Lawson and Bishop Joseph Fiorenza in the neighborhood recovery of Third Ward, and on a number of other civic and charitable organizations. She has also served as chairperson of Texans for NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), and worked closely with diplomatic leaders, including the President of Mexico, to increase US trade opportunities. In 1991 she was appointed by Governor Ann Richards to the Texas Department of Commerce Policy Board which was responsible for increasing business, tourism, and job training development in Texas. She served there as chairperson from 1992 to 1994 and was the first African American to serve on this board.
Her collection contains scrapbooks, correspondence, photographs, speeches, and news clippings that document a distinguished legal and judicial career. As they examined the contents of the boxes holding records of Gilmore’s professional life, Vince Lee, archivist of the Carey C. Shuart Women’s Research Collection, and graduate assistant Polina Kharmats, shared how they produced the mobile exhibit for the Table Talk event.
“We look for visually impactful items that encapsulate her career,” Lee said. “We want to show milestones and distinctions of her trailblazing role. She was one of the first women of color as a federal judge, and she was the first UH Law Center graduate to be nominated for the federal bench.”
The accessioning process included a conversation with Gilmore, in which the archivists asked her to go through the materials and talk about her history. It’s an activity that sparks memories for the donor and surfaces stories and themes which provide a narrative arc of Gilmore’s career, informing a categorization of the materials that makes sense for discovery and research.
Gilmore was connected to UH Special Collections by Elizabeth Gregory, UH professor of English and director of the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) program. Gilmore is a part of the UH Friends of Women’s Studies, which supports WGSS through financial and volunteer efforts. The Table Talk Luncheon is the group’s signature event, benefiting WGSS and the Carey C. Shuart Women’s Research Collection. Ms. Shuart serves as a board member of Friends of Women’s Studies, with which UH Libraries has enjoyed a long-standing partnership, as the archives in the Shuart Women’s Research Collection play a significant role in supporting their activities. Athena Jackson, dean of UH Libraries and Elizabeth D. Rockwell chair, was a 2022 Table Talk conversationalist.
Gilmore’s papers are currently being processed. For more information, contact Vince Lee.
The University of Houston Libraries Bayou City Digital Asset Management Systems (BCDAMS) team is pleased to announce the full launch of the new UH Digital Collections (UHDC) repository.
UHDC allows users to search rare and unique digitized and born-digital items from UH Libraries collections. With 66 of the Libraries’ 92 digital collections moved to the UHDC and the Audio/Video Repository, the final phase of the UHDC implementation represents a shift away from the previous platform known as the UH Digital Library.
Improvements include navigation, search/browse, and image viewer enhancements; robust options for access and download restrictions; permalinks across access, preservation, and finding aids; and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance for accessibility.
The purpose of the BCDAMS team is to bring a new digital collections experience to all Libraries users by upgrading the previous Digital Library, incorporating digital preservation strategies, and streamlining workflows for digital collection production.
The team stated that “UH Digital Collections supports the UH Strategic Plan goal of nationally competitive research by providing the infrastructure to promote interdisciplinary and inter-institutional research in areas such as energy and sustainability, history, social sciences, and the arts. Digital collections are currently being used in innovative faculty, staff, and student research projects across campus, and we look forward to engaging further with digital humanities and data science researchers through the improvements provided by the new system.”
Christian Kelleher, head of University of Houston Libraries Special Collections, has been awarded the Emily Scott Evans Endowed Library Professorship, effective November 1. The appointment enables UH Libraries to further develop impactful collections that support core University priorities for research, teaching, and learning.
The Emily Scott Evans Endowed Library Professorship was established in 2002 by Ms. Evans’ daughter, Alice Evans Pratt. Emily Scott Evans was a longtime friend of UH Special Collections, and the Evans Professorship was created specifically to support an Endowed Library Professor in the department.
As part of his role, Kelleher also curates the Libraries’ primary source collections in Visual Arts and Energy and Sustainability. Kelleher came to UH in 2015 from the University of Texas at Austin where he was the archivist and assistant head librarian at the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection and managed UT Libraries’ Human Rights Documentation Initiative. He holds a Master of Library and Information Science degree and a Master of Arts degree in Journalism from UT. Previously, Kelleher was an archivist and records manager with History Associates Incorporated in Rockville, MD, a development assistant with literary publisher Graywolf Press in Minneapolis, MN, and a Peace Corps volunteer in the Republic of Guinea, West Africa. He currently serves on the boards of CASETA, the Center for Advancement and Study of Early Texas Art, and of the Petroleum History Institute. His research interests include community archives post-custodial archives practice, and the intersections thereof.
“Christian personifies excellence in scholarship, service, and collaboration,” said Athena Jackson, dean of UH Libraries and Elizabeth D. Rockwell chair. “His leadership propels UH Special Collections forward in its mission to preserve and make accessible unique materials for research, and he continues to expand collections that have generative, profound implications for UH Libraries and the scholarly community.”