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Flashback 1997!

categories: Carey C. Shuart Women's Archive and Research Collection, Houston Hip Hop, In the News, University Archives

The Beloit College Mindset List, a must-read for anyone who wants to feel time quickly slipping away, was recently published for the incoming collegiate freshman class, the majority of which were born in that magical year of 1997 (?!). While it might make some of us feel just a little bit older, the list is worth a read and always provides some eye-opening perspective.

Ron Nief, Tom McBride, and Charles Westerberg (the creators of the list) provide some real marvels, reminding us that, “Among those who have never been alive in their lifetimes are Princess Diana, Notorious B.I.G., Jacques Cousteau, and Mother Teresa.” They came into the world around the same time as Dolly the sheep and Michael “Prince” Jackson, Jr. In addition, these young’uns have never licked a postage stamp (#3) and, frankly, it can get a little confusing when old people say, “around the turn of the century” (#17). The one that makes these old bones ache a little more this evening? “The eyes of Texas have never looked upon The Houston Oilers.” (#26)

In a salute to the University of Houston Cougars Class of 2019, we have gone digging through the archives and share with you a few highlights from the year 1997 housed here at your University of Houston Special Collections.

And, no, we’re not trying just to make you feel old.

Favorite Things: N.W.A. Performance Contract (1988)

categories: Favorite Things, Houston Hip Hop

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.

This past weekend’s opening of the N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton has me feeling nostalgic and fawning over an artist engagement contract from the DJ Steve Fournier Papers.

Performance contract for Eazy-E and N.W.A., from the DJ Steve Fournier Papers

Performance contract for Eazy-E and N.W.A., from the DJ Steve Fournier Papers

DJ Steve Fournier was partly responsible for hip hop’s popular emergence in the Houston club scene during the 1980s, hosting rap contests and peppering his sets with more and more rap at Struts Disco, the Boneshaker, and the Rhinestone Wrangler.  His papers include photographs, memorabilia, as well as performance contracts from emerging acts like Public Enemy, Big Daddy Kane, and Ice-T.  In this particular instance, I’m fascinated by a contract drafted for a performance by “EAZY E/NWA” that maps out the terms for payment ($1,900 now, $1,900 at the show), equipment to be provided by Fournier (“2 1200 turntables, mixer and mics”), locale (“ULTIMATE RHINESTONE WRANGLER… 478 Parker,” Houston’s Northside?!), and the hour and date of the engagement (“12Midnight” on “Thursday – June 16, 1988,” over two months prior to the release of N.W.A.’s first studio album).

The incendiary Straight Outta Compton was released August 9, 1988 on Eazy-E’s Ruthless Records.  It enjoyed the commercial appeal of the recently-instituted “Parental Advisory” stickers, along with the unfiltered imagery of glorified criminal violence and hedonistic misogyny that more than delivered on the promise of something truly illicit.  Against a backdrop of moral conservatism and prosperity gospel of the Reagan-Bush presidential arc, that forbidden nature translated into surprising and enduring commercial success.  It was a party record for our victory in the Cold War, echoing from the edge of Manifest Destiny–Compton, California.  A thunderous shot from the ghetto, it was brash, boisterous, aggressive, and is now universally acknowledged as one of the most important records in the history of hip hop (see #144).

But, in 1988, I’d yet to hear those three little letters and be jolted awake by their meaning and music.  So, I still can’t help but wonder if the show ever came to pass.  The old Ultimate Rhinestone Wrangler (a cavernous venue for a club that easily held over 1,000, it has since been converted into a storage facility) was just a stone’s throw from where I grew up and the idea that N.W.A. might have slipped in and out without me even knowing, makes them feel both so close and yet out of reach–the one that got away, the shows one never sees.  Fitting I suppose, for a group that frightened and thrilled us, both then and now.  With no signature at the bottom representing “EAZY-E/NWA,” I’ll remain curious to hear from anyone who attended and got a rare, early look at “The World’s Most Dangerous Group.”

Whether you have just been introduced via F. Gary Gray’s film or you are an O.G., who has always down for the C.P.T., you’ll enjoy seeing this contract in person along with all the other trips down memory lane waiting in the DJ Steve Fournier Papers.

UH Special Collections and English Department Partner for New Internship Opportunity

categories: Department News

In the spring of 2015 UH Special Collections and the English Department’s Professional Internship Program partnered to launch the Special Collections Social Media Internship.

Shelby Love, UH Special Collections Social Media Internship (Spring 2015)

Shelby Love, UH Special Collections Social Media Internship (Spring 2015)

The Professional Internship Program provides some of the University’s most academically outstanding English majors the opportunity to learn about professional careers that interest them while gaining valuable work experience as an undergraduate.  As part of this program during the past spring semester, Shelby Love staffed our first-ever Special Collections Social Media Internship, working with the University of Houston Special Collections to assist in the week-to-week operations of producing and publishing communications highlighting our holdings.

Duties of the internship included researching, writing, editing, photographing, and scheduling content for our blog and Facebook page, and provided hands-on opportunities to work with a variety of software platforms and content management systems in the process.  Love’s previous study of literature naturally drew her to our Contemporary Literature collections as well as our collections of rare books, where she curated a series of titles we continue to feature as part of our Book of the Month series.  In addition, Love was able to build upon her previous undergraduate research in the area of sociolinguistics and social media, drafting a study of current social media use by archives and special collections as well as a proposal for future development.

We thank Shelby Love for her work and contributions during the evolution of this internship’s inaugural run and we look forward to collaborating with the English Department’s Professional Internship Program in the future.

Book of the Month: Dante Alighieri’s The Vision of Hell

categories: Book of the Month, Guest Posts, Rare Books

In addition to the over 7,000 linear feet of archival collections made available for study at the University of Houston Special Collections, we are also proud to offer over 100,000 rare and antique books for use in our reading room. Each month (some more dutifully than others) we will highlight a text from our collections and what makes it so special.

In the spring 2015 semester we had the good fortune to host our first-ever UH Special Collections Social Media Intern, Shelby Love.  As part of her duties, Love curated a number of selections for our Book of the Month series here on the blog.  For this month (and many to come, no doubt) we share a Book of the Month selection from Shelby Love.

Book of the Month: The Vision of Hell by Dante Alighieri, translated by Henry Francis Cary, and illustrated with the designs of M. Gustave Doré.

"Abandon all hope, ye who enter here." The Vision of Hell by Dante Alighieri

“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” The Vision of Hell by Dante Alighieri

Why so Special? In this 1866 edition, Dante Alighieri’s literary masterpiece is skillfully presented through the two archetypal interpretations of Henry Francis Cary and M. Gustave Doré. Cary, a graduate of Christ Church College, Oxford and assistant librarian in the British Museum, translated the Divine Comedy from Italian to English in the early 1800s. Despite the availability of numerous alternative translations, Cary’s version remained the standard into the twentieth century. That would be over 100 years of beating his competitors.  In fact, his poetic translation was admired by other literary giants such as Wordsworth, Keats, Lamb, Coleridge, Macaulay, and Ruskin. Cary dedicated countless hours and even his own funds to complete the project for public consumption, truly a meritorious example of just how important our librarians are to society.

The second distinguished interpretation is through Doré’s vivid illustrations of the otherworldly adventure. Doré was an incredibly successful and productive French illustrator and printmaker in the 19th century known for his imaginative and fantastical artwork. His work was mainly centered around themes like the (pessimistic) fate of mankind and meditations on life and death, making him and Dante such a compatible ideological pair, the likes of which even match.com couldn’t hope to recreate. In fact, one contemporary critic found the illustrations to be so conscientious that he suggested Doré and the long deceased Dante were communicating through the occult. Dante enthusiasts and scholars still consider Doré a determiner for how the Divine Comedy is visualized by readers today, ranking his hypnotic renderings along with those of Sandro Botticelli, William Blake, Eugène Delacroix, and even Michael Angelo.

"There Minos stands."  Illustration by M. Gustave Doré

“There Minos stands.” Illustration by M. Gustave Doré

With a detailed red and gold hardcover, this edition is one of the most eye-catching items among our larger-format books. The sheer size of it can strike the modern day book lover as both whimsical and puzzling, eliciting the question, why would such a serious classic need to be so colossal? A rewarding perusal in the reading room will reveal a uniquely intimate way to engage with Dante’s beloved classic as Cary’s poetic translation of the writer’s imaginative vision is presented side by side with Doré’s exquisite renditions of the literary masterpiece. This incredible edition contains the crowning achievements of three fruitful lifetimes, brought together by one vision.

Location: Those interested in consulting with this edition of Dante’s classic may request call number PQ4315.2 .C4 1866 in the Special Collections Reading Room.

Mosaic Fellowship Benefits Behind the Scenes

categories: Carey C. Shuart Women's Archive and Research Collection, Department News, Digitization, Finding Aids, Guest Posts, Hispanic Collections, Houston & Texas History

The following piece appears courtesy of Dan Johnson, 2013 Mosaic Fellow, wherein he provides a look at a sampling of projects benefiting from his internship with the University of Houston Special Collections.

I was selected as a Mosaic Fellow in the Fall of 2013 by the Association of Research Libraries and the Society of American Archivists.  I’m presently a MSLS student at the University of North Texas, studying Archival Studies and Digital Image Management. The Mosaic Fellowship included an internship component, pairing up fellows with host ARL institutions; I was glad to have the opportunity to intern here at UH Special Collections since September 2014.  I’ve since had the pleasure of working on a variety of special projects, working hands on with archival materials.

I first started a digital audit of the Ewing Family Papers, comparing the physical archival collection to its finding aid and existing digital collection.  In that review of the Ewing family scrapbooks, I worked with Valerie Prilop, Digital Collections Librarian, and we discovered that the finding aid for one of the scrapbooks provided descriptions for only the front side of each scrapbook page, but did not describe the reverse side, while the digital collection had page-level descriptions for both front and back sides of the pages.  Ultimately, we were able to identify places where the finding aid could be improved, and we made some recommendations to combine two digital collections, one per scrapbook, into a single consolidated digital collection, a project for a later date.

I then started a project under the guidance of University Archivist Mary Manning, processing and describing additions to the William C. Moffit Papers.  The collection was originally donated by Dr. Moffit himself, but several additions were later donated by his wife and family after he passed away.  I was able to process and describe some additional manuscript parts, published musical arrangements, and Patterns of Motion training materials, among other things. Working with a member of the faculty from the School of Music who was intimately familiar with Dr. Moffit’s work helped me better describe and arrange the materials in a way that will make the most sense to researchers using this collection.

I started work on a third project with Hispanic Collections Archivist Lisa Cruces, auditing the physical material of the Alonso S. Perales Papers and comparing the physical archival collection to the finding aid.  There were a handful of items in the physical collection that were not reflected in the finding aid, and I have been correcting the finding aid to more faithfully represent the collection.

Most recently, I’ve been given the opportunity to work with Librarian Emerita Pat Bozeman on a project transcribing and contextualizing some handwritten letters.  Two of these items were taken from the Early Texas Documents collection. One item is a letter from Sam Houston written after he was wounded in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. It documents his request to be transferred from New Orleans to a more northern location upon the advice of several physicians.  Another item is a letter that highlights Stephen F. Austin’s efforts to gather support from the United States government and people for Texas Independence and was written in Nashville, Tennessee days before Texas declared independence from Mexico.  Working intimately with historical documents such as these has been a very exciting and rewarding experience.

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