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Agnes Arnold Hall

source blog: Special Collections Blog

Let’s follow recent posts about Kenneth Bentsen’s Philip G. Hoffman Hall (PGH), with a look at his Agnes Arnold Hall (1968) next door.  Like PGH, Agnes Arnold is a good modern design and its success has much to do with Bentsen’s use of contrast.  An important principle of architectural design, the contrast between thick and thin, heavy and light, solid and transparent enlivens a building’s form.

Kenneth E. Bentsen, Agnes Arnold Hall, University of Houston (1968), south elevation (Photo Eric E. Johnson, by permission)

At Agnes Arnold the vertical lines of the towers contrast with the horizontal lines of the stacked classroom levels. The texture and color of the brown brick towers contrasts with the smooth white spandrels and railings. The solid brick contrasts with the transparent glass. Agnes Arnold Hall is also effective because of its layered façade, which is much more sculptural than Bentsen’s very reserved PGH design. Here the architect achieves this sculptural effect by placing the corridors on the edge of the building and opening them to the outside. The surface is cut away and you can see deep within the building.

Frank Lloyd Wright, Fallingwater, detail, Bear Run, PA (1936)

Frank Lloyd Wright, Fallingwater, Bear Run, PA (1936), detail. Photo J.P. Otto, all rights reserved.

You see these same formal principles at work in another successful modern design where contrasting lines, colors, and textures animate the façade of Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous house, “Fallingwater.”

Agnes Arnold Hall is entered from a bridge over the basement courtyard.

Agnes Arnold Hall is entered from a bridge over the basement courtyard. Kenneth E. Bentsen Architectural Papers

Architects are encouraged to design in three dimensions, not just two. They are intrigued by the idea of space that flows through the building vertically as well as horizontally. You see this in the three-level lobby of Agnes Arnold, where the ground floor is open not just to the level above but to the level below as well. In addition, the building is entered from the south over a dramatic bridge that spans the open courtyard at the basement level. From the street the building appears to rise from an open pit.

The Kenneth E. Bentsen Architectural Papers are housed in the library’s Special Collections department and are currently being processed. Pictures of Agnes Arnold Hall and other campus buildings are available in the University of Houston Buildings Collection of the UH Digital Library.

Favorite Things: Flaxman Loving Cup

source blog: Special Collections Blog

Thomas Flaxman's loving cup, from the Alvin Romansky Papers (1914)

Thomas Flaxman’s loving cup, from the Alvin Romansky Papers (1914)

Whether it’s a rare book printing found at long last or piece of ephemera found in an archival collection by chance, those who visit the University of Houston Special Collections almost always find something they cannot wait to share with others.  Here we celebrate what makes the University of Houston Special Collections so special–our Favorite Things.

Today Julie Grob, Coordinator for Instruction, offers us one of her favorites.

I nominate the silver loving cup from the Alvin Romansky Papers, which currently sits in the reading room. It was donated to his uncle Thomas Flaxman, who was the general manager of No-Tsu-Oh (Houston’s version of Mardi Gras). The inscription on the loving cup also mentions Deep Water and the year 1914, which is a reference to the development of Houston’s port.

In addition to being significant to the history of the city, the loving cup is elegant and silver.

closeup, showing the detail on the loving cup, inscription reads:  Presented By / Directors of No-tsu-oh Ass'n / To / Thomas Flaxman / V.P. & Genl. Mgr. / Deep Water Jubilee / Nineteen Fourteen

closeup, showing the detail on the loving cup, a faint inscription reads: Presented By / Directors of No-tsu-oh Ass’n / To / Thomas Flaxman / V.P. & Genl. Mgr. / Deep Water Jubilee / Nineteen Fourteen

This loving cup is on display alongside a number of other photographs and artifacts from our collections, and available for viewing during our normal reading room hours.  Or, those interested in learning more about Alvin Romansky and the critical role he played alongside others to grow and support the contemporary arts in Houston, should be sure to spend some time with the Alvin Romansky Papers.

Thanks for letting us share and, of course, if you have your own “favorite thing” about the University of Houston Special Collections, we’d love to hear about it!

Leaders in the Libraries: Rachel Vacek

source blog: UH Libraries News


Rachel Vacek has begun her term as president of LITA.

Rachel Vacek, head of Web Services at University of Houston Libraries, recently began a new term as president of the Library Information Technology Association (LITA), part of a three-year commitment as vice-president, president, and past president.

LITA is one of 11 divisions of the American Library Association (ALA), with approximately 3,000 members representing academic, public, school and special libraries, as well as vendors and information professionals interested in library technologies.

Below, Vacek shares her plans as LITA president for the term July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015, and her thoughts on librarian leadership.

What are your responsibilities as LITA president?

The LITA president is the chief spokesperson for the association and works closely with both LITA’s executive director and the board of directors in identifying and promoting information technology issues that are of interest to the association in all kinds of libraries, both nationally and internationally.

The president leads the board and executive committee meetings, and works closely with the 20-plus committees that serve the association, such as membership development, education, web coordinating, program planning, publishing, and financial advisory, to name a few.

The president also coordinates with the appointed representatives to groups and associations outside LITA, keeps the board informed, and is a proponent for advocacy of library technology issues. The president, in conjunction with the board, also determines the strategic direction for the association and is able to create task forces as needed to put initiatives in motion.

What are your goals for your presidential year?

Accomplishing impactful goals within a one-year period can be a daunting task. It becomes essential to coordinate efforts with the president-elect and past president to keep the forward momentum going. I am focusing on member experience and financial stability.

As someone who has worked in the systems and web librarianship field for years, the concept of user experience has always had special meaning for me. The ability to look at a person’s behaviors, attitudes, and emotions about being a member of LITA is especially important when examining and improving member experience.

When answering the question, “Why join LITA?” I have to evaluate the hard benefits like educational and conference discounts or being able to participate in leadership roles, as well as the softer benefits like opportunities to expand one’s network. I believe that people join LITA because they want to learn something new, help their colleagues, grow their network, and advocate for librarians working with technology.

I will work with many of LITA’s committees, primarily Membership, Education, and Publications, to:

  • Involve enthusiastic, active members who have embraced LITA’s mission and values in making new members feel welcome.
  • Recognize more frequently the outstanding contributions of LITA members.
  • Emphasize that a major benefit of joining LITA is about expanding one’s network and circle of influence, and having fun in the process!
  • Consider the goals of current and potential members. I think the best way to engage LITA members is to help them participate in meaningful and relevant activities that will further their goals and those of the profession.
  • Offer more virtual events and mentoring opportunities that help potential or new members learn more about LITA and establish connections and lifelong friendships. Being able to make these connections virtually is essential, since conference travel can sometimes be financially challenging.

The other goal I mentioned was financial stability. The LITA Financial Strategies Task Force presented a report to the board last year that is packed with timely, practical, and creative solutions for helping to address crucial challenges that all ALA divisions are facing. LITA also recently established a Financial Advisory Committee, and I believe that their work, in conjunction with the efforts of other LITA committees, are crucial to ensuring that LITA remains viable and relevant for years to come.

What are LITA’s goals?

In accordance with ALA’s goals of information policy, professional development, and advocacy, LITA’s four broad goals are:

  • To foster collaboration and networking among LITA members.
  • To offer education, publications, and events that inspire and enable members to improve technology integration within their libraries.
  • To advocate for meaningful legislation, policies, and standards that positively impact the current and future capabilities of libraries that promote equitable access to information and technology.
  • To improve LITA’s infrastructure in order to serve, educate, and create community for its members.

How will your role as LITA president benefit the UH Libraries and campus?

National recognition is one of the University’s priorities, and one of the Libraries’ strategic directions. Being the president of a national association is both a huge responsibility and an incredibly rewarding experience. With that comes an increase in press, interviews, and open doors, all of which are opportunities to highlight the UH Libraries and UH as outstanding organizations doing amazing things.

Also, because I have established an incredible network both within LITA and now with the leaders of the other divisions, I am able to help my colleagues make connections with others in the profession. I’ve become quite familiar with ALA’s structure and look forward to offering advice on getting involved, connecting colleagues with relevant skills and interests to appropriate groups, and being a sounding board for ideas.

What have you learned about yourself through this experience?

I’ve grown a tremendous amount in just the past year since becoming LITA’s vice-president. I realized that my previous experiences in chairing the UH Libraries’ Strategic Directions Steering Committee, being Chair of the Librarians, and leading numerous other committees, coupled with being a department head, have all prepared me for this endeavor. The experience of leading a board of directors, strategic and budgetary planning, collaborating with other divisions, and driving the organization’s vision is also preparing me for the next stage in my library career.

UH Libraries Welcomes New Music Library Coordinator

source blog: UH Libraries News

Stephanie Lewin-Lane is the new coordinator of the UH Music Library and liaison to Theatre and Dance.

As one of the University of Houston’s hidden gems, the Music Library serves students and faculty of the Moores School of Music. A new Coordinator of the Music Library recently joined the team to lead programs, services, and collections in support of performing arts curricula and research, and to serve as liaison to Theatre and Dance.

Stephanie Lewin-Lane brings substantial experience in the performing arts to the role, and an enthusiasm for music that she seeks to impart to students.

“Music has always been a major part of my life,” the vocalist said. As a music scholar and performer, Lewin-Lane has an advanced repertoire of knowledge that spans renaissance to rockabilly. Her extensive performance résumé includes opera, jazz, and improvisational theater. She directed a madrigal group with the Bristol Renaissance Faire for 12 years and has formed several other performing groups. She also taught voice lessons, and was part of a rockabilly and hot jazz band in her hometown of Milwaukee, WI. She is as familiar with baroque music as she is with contemporary Hip-Hop.

Immersed in the world of performance, Lewin-Lane decided to augment her knowledge of performing arts by going back to school. She earned a Master of Library and Information Studies and a Master of Music in History and Literature.

Lewin-Lane’s research interests focus on ethnomusicology, specifically, women in rockabilly, American pop music of the 1920s to 1950s, Tin Pan Alley, the music of Shakespeare’s play, and music copyright and intellectual property. Her master’s thesis explored the influence of two performers, LaVern Baker, an R&B singer of the 50s and 60s, and Janis Martin, nicknamed the Female Elvis.

Lewin-Lane sees connections between pop and classical music, which she views as a “great gateway to help students feel comfortable with the idea of studying music in a scholarly way.” Finding those parallels between the two genres makes it more accessible.

Lewin-Lane recently taught a class on conducting research with theater resources. She looks forward to leading more workshops on information literacy specific to the performing arts, exploring topics such as avoiding plagiarism and writing a bibliography.

Her door is always open for students with questions. “What’s most exciting about being a librarian is working with people and helping them,” she said. She believes that students who build support structures by finding librarians and advisors who can mentor them will have the most successful academic careers.

She devotes time to being involved in the music and performing arts community, and wants to share that enthusiasm and appreciation with students. “The great thing about music is that it transcends so many things,” she said.

The Music Library is home to an excellent voice and opera collection. Students have access to a substantial score selection, CDs, DVDs, books and streaming music. Find more music resources online, and visit Stephanie Lewin-Lane at the Music Library on the second floor of the Moores School of Music building. Summer hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00am – 5:00pm.

Lucian T. Hood Architectural Papers

source blog: Special Collections Blog


Lucian Hood, House on Sandy Cove Drive, Houston,1961, Digital Collection

The Lucian T. Hood Architectural Papers have joined the UH Library’s Digital Library collections.  Lucian Hood (1916 – 2001) was an important Houston architect who made his reputation as a house designer for the rich and famous. During the 1970s and 1980s he had one of the largest and best-known residential design practices in the city.

Hood earned his architecture degree from the University of Houston in 1952. He studied under such prominent architects as Donald Barthelme, Sr. and Howard Barnstone. Among his classmates were Burdette Keeland, Jr. (UH 1950) and Kenneth E. Bentsen (UH 1952), both of whom went on to distinguished architectural careers. The Barthelme, Keeland, and Bentsen papers are among the important Architecture and Planning collections held by the library’s Special Collections Department.


Lucian Hood, Memorial Creole Apartments, Houston, 1966, Digital Collection

Early in his career Hood designed both commercial and residential buildings but by the late 1960s had switched to residential architecture exclusively. His work is well represented in the affluent River Oaks, Memorial, and Tanglewood neighborhoods of Houston. His houses were usually traditional in style and were notable for his attention to the many traditional details that brought the designs to life.

The Lucian T. Hood Architectural Papers are the largest of Special Collections’ Architecture and Planning collections. Covering the four decades from 1961 to 2001, the collection encompasses approximately 900 projects. Unfortunately, most of Hood’s early work from the 1950s was lost before the library acquired the materials.

Lucian Hood, second floor plan of residence, Houston, 1983, Lucian T. Hood Architectural Collection

Special Collections often receives requests for copies of the Hood drawings—usually from patrons who own a Lucian Hood-designed house and want copies of the architect’s original plans. The department welcomes the chance to make the Hood drawings accessible online, but because of the enormous size of the collection, only a small part has been digitized. The Digital Library has the projects from the 1960s, but more may be added in the future. Until then, patrons seeking copies from the Lucian T. Hood Architectural Papers should contact the Special Collections Department for assistance.

Photographs from the Leonor Villegas de Magnón Papers

source blog: Special Collections Blog

Leonor Villegas de Magnón and Aracelito Garcia with flag of La Cruz Blanca (Leonor Villegas de Magnón Papers, 1914)

Leonor Villegas de Magnón and Aracelito Garcia with flag of La Cruz Blanca (Leonor Villegas de Magnón Papers, 1914)

Another on the list of recently published digital collections–Photographs from the Leonor Villegas de Magnón Papers.

Previously, we have written about the larger Leonor Villegas de Magnón Papers and how pleased we are that our partnership with Arte Público has made available for study the papers of such a trailblazing, radical Latina.  The recent publication of this digital collection, featuring select photographs, will provide prospective researchers a new window into a figure much obscured from our predominant Texana narrative.

Born in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico in 1876, Leonor Villegas de Magnón would lead a life that, for a woman of her time, place, and disposition, found her pushing headlong into a fierce, at times unfriendly current of history in the American Southwest.  Educated in San Antonio and Austin, Texas, Magnón would take up permanent residence in Laredo and is remembered today as an educator, journalist, activist, and the founder of La Cruz Blanca (The White Cross) during the Mexican Revolution in 1913 (following in the tradition of other voluntary relief organizations being established to nurse the wounded of war).  Her remarkable life is documented in her autobiography, La Rebelde (the Lady Rebel).

Included in this new digital collection are portraits, landscapes, and photographs showcasing her work in the Mexican Revolution as well as candid photographs featuring her family and friends.  Notable figures like Porfirio Díaz, Jovita Idar, and Pancho Villa, can be found throughout the collection.

We hope you enjoy this new digital collection of photographs and invite you to visit the Special Collections Reading Room should you wish to further explore the Leonor Villegas de Magnón Papers.

University of Houston Integration Records

source blog: Special Collections Blog

"I would'nt think of attending an all White school there.  Please pardon me." (detail of a letter from Merdis L.B. Holyfield to UH President, from the University of Houston Integration Records)

“I would’nt think of attending an all White school there. Please pardon me.” (detail of a letter from Merdis L.B. Holyfield to UH President, 1958, from the University of Houston Integration Records)

A number of new digital collections have been rolling out over at our Digital Library and if you blink, it’s been tough to keep up.  Over the coming days we will publish some highlights, showcasing these new and exciting primary sources now made available to researchers, free from the constraints of reading room hours or the patron’s locale.

One collection new and of note?  Check out the University of Houston Integration Records.

The University of Houston is rightly proud of its gender and ethnic diversity.  Often touted as one of the most ethnically diverse research universities in the nation, Cougars come in all colors and creeds.  The integration of the University’s athletics programs under coaches Guy V. Lewis and Bill Yeoman changed the face of collegiate athletics in the South and is thoroughly documented in Katherine Lopez’s Cougars of Any Color.  The image of Lynn Eusan’s beaming smile in 1968, as she became the first black homecoming queen at a predominantly white university in the South, still looms large in our history and marked another step in UH’s legacy of integrated and equal.

However, this diversity and legacy did not happen by accident or overnight.

The University of Houston Integration Records document the early days of hand-wringing and  tiptoeing around an issue that still confounded so much of the nation and, unresolved, threatened to tear communities apart.  While violent opposition to integration plumbed new depths for history, particularly throughout the South, what resulted at UH were steady, incremental, and quiet steps, spearheaded by University Presidents Clanton C. Williams, A.D. Bruce, and Phillip G. Hoffman.  Working with community leaders, University Administration would eventually oversee an admissions process that resulted in twenty black students being enrolled at UH in the spring of 1963.

By 1964, football and basketball illustrated the importance of intercollegiate athletics, as Elvin Hayes and Don Chaney were dominating the hardwood for Coach Guy V. Lewis and Warren McVea was gearing up to revolutionize the game in Coach Yeoman’s veer offense (all while enduring merciless and ugly epithets from fans of programs in the Deep South).  The nation had been put on notice.  A university, in the South and striving to become colorblind, was not only surviving but thriving by serving all the sons and daughters of Houston, and ultimately scholars the world over.  In doing so, they have left us an inheritance of a virtual global village doing remarkable work on Cullen Boulevard.

Included in these University of Houston Integration Records are documents from the 1940s through the 1960s, with an emphasis on the ’50s and ’60s.  Correspondence and internal memoranda from University Administration, as well as documents and letters related to the applications of prospective black students (both domestic and international) highlight the poignancy of the collection.  The sheer absurdity of segregation laws and practices in the United States hits home as one reads President Williams’ flailing attempt in 1958 at an explanation to a Ghanaian student regarding the particulars of his denial of admission:

"I regret very much to state that there has been a misunderstanding on your part." (detail of letter from UH President Clanton W. Williams to prospective student, E.K. Aboagye, 1958, from the University of Houston Integration Records)

“I regret very much to state that there has been a misunderstanding on your part.” (detail of letter from UH President Clanton W. Williams to prospective student, E.K. Aboagye, 1958, from the University of Houston Integration Records)

I regret very much to state that there has been a misunderstanding on your part.

The University of Houston has not yet reached a decision as to when it will admit Negro students.  As of this date I must advise you, therefore, not to plan to enter this institution in 1959.

I strongly suggest to you that your desires might be realized should you apply to an institution which does not have the integration problem unresolved.  I presume that you are in contact with the American diplomatic authorities in Accra.

Needless to say, the University of Houston has come a long way since then, now embracing its diversity as a core value and strength.

Selections in the University of Houston Integration Records are pulled from the President’s Office Records in our University Archives.  Original documents may be viewed in the Special Collections Reading Room during our normal research hours or on the Digital Library at your leisure.

Guest Post: A Pithy Reflection of Spec Coll, Riots, and Gratitude (with a splash of humor)

source blog: Special Collections Blog

Today we have a goodbye post from Bryan Bishop ’14, the department’s first Instruction Support Student Worker. During his year in the position, he prepared rare materials for class visits, maintained the Evans Room (our classroom and function space), input student learning assessment data, digitized materials requested by patrons, and created descriptive metadata for a collection of World War II photographs.

A graduate of the UH Honors College in History and Political Science, Bryan is heading to Fonville Middle School in H.I.S.D. to teach U.S. History for the 2014-15 school year. He has also been accepted into the John W. Draper Master’s Program in Humanities and Social Thought at NYU with a deferred start date. All of us will miss Bryan’s intellectual curiousity, “can do” attitude, and sense of humor. Heeeeeere’s Bryan!

Student worker Bryan Bishop working in the stacks

Student worker Bryan Bishop working in the stacks

When I happened upon the Instruction Support position available in Special Collections last August, I had no idea what “instruction support” was, or that it would be the best job I ever had. As an older student worker I had had a few jobs prior to arriving at UH. But those jobs levied tremendous pressure, rarely yielding pleasure. This job was different. All that would be asked of me was to show up ready to work, complete thoroughly what was asked of me, and display passion for my projects, most of which involved research relating to my studies and interests: humanities and social sciences. Strange as it may sound, in 20 years of working this was the first time I was unconditionally happy.

Performing tasks around the department was a riot. True, I too have never associated riots with libraries. If anything, life surrounding a library is the complete opposite, serene. So how was working in Special Collections a riot? It was a riot in the sense of how I felt while and after performing my duties; that everything I did was significant for our university community and a team I hold in the highest regard—my co-workers, my friends. This, admittedly, is a peculiar illustration; however, I find that the more idiosyncratic a description is, the more unique, and in this case, special, the experience was.

I could utilize more space than the Interwebs have allotted to express my gratitude vis-à-vis the projects on which I was allowed to work. Ergo, I must devote my closing thoughts to my peers and managers in the department.

Okay, done.

See the 2014 Student Art Exhibit online

source blog: Architecture & Art Library

The 2014 Student Art in the Library is now available in the UH Digital Library!

 Every spring the University of Houston Libraries hosts a juried exhibit of student artwork.  This competitive event is open to students of all classifications and majors.  A blind jury of arts professionals from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Menil Collection, Blaffer Museum, UH School of Art faculty, and Houston art galleries selects the work that will be included each year.  The exhibit is on display in the M.D. Anderson Library during the spring semester.  The 2014 selections have been added to the Student Art Exhibit collection, which includes artwork and ephemera from all but the first two mounted exhibits.

See the architectural drawings of one of Houston’s greatest Modernists

source blog: Architecture & Art Library

The Lucian T. Hood Architectural Drawings are now available in the UH Digital Library.   Through his early drawings, this digital collection captures architect Lucian Hood’s eye for detail and exemplifies his artistry and graphic skills. These drawings, done before architects were aided by AutoCAD and other drafting software, embody the craftsmanship and sense of detail from a bygone era. In all, the collection contains 116 drawings done by hand in pencil. The drawings include floor plans, interior and exterior elevations, foundations, and plots.

Many of the drawings are from Hood’s early work on residential homes, which are representative of the architectural trends and influences of the early 1960s. These homes, located throughout the Houston neighborhoods of River Oaks, Tanglewood, and Memorial, are highly sought after in the marketplace, and owners are often interested in the original drawings in order to restore the homes to their original specifications.

Hood was a 1952 graduate of the University of Houston who studied under Donald Barthelme. He was one of Houston’s early Modernist architects and his work was in great demand for more than 40 years, from the 1950s through the 1990s.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections in the Lucian T. Hood Architectural Collection.