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UH Special Collections Welcomes New Department Head

Department News

As the fall semester ushers in a new class of Cougars, the University of Houston Special Collections also welcomes some new faces.  Among them is Christian Kelleher who has recently joined the University of Houston Libraries as the new Head of Special Collections.

Christian Kelleher, pictured here at the Benson Collection as part of an interview with StoryCorps.

Christian Kelleher, pictured here at the Benson Collection as part of an interview with StoryCorps.

Kelleher comes to the University of Houston having previously served as Archivist and Assistant Head Librarian at the University of Texas at Austin’s Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection for over a decade.  There, he worked to expand exhibition and instruction programs, helping to establish the Black Diaspora Special Collections program with the Warfield Center for African & African American Studies and building collaborative programs with the UT Law School’s Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice, assisting with the Papers of George Lister.  In addition, working with the Center for Mexican American Studies and the Department of Mexican American & Latina/o Studies, he began a series of archives workshops, including presenting to over 100 participants in the meeting of the Society for the Study of Gloria Anzaldúa.

Beginning in 2008 he also served as Project Manager for the Human Rights Documentation Initiative.  Among other duties in this role, he coordinated efforts to build and maintain the Genocide Archive of Rwanda (GAR) and the Digital Archive of the Guatemalan National Police Historical Archive (AHPN) on a post-custodial model.  The GAR contains audio, video, photographs, testimonies, and more, seeking to prevent future mass atrocity and genocide through education, while the AHPN seeks to make available for remote study and scholarly research a digital iteration of over 10 million documents, the originals of which were discovered in 2005 and remain under the stewardship of the Guatemalan people.

Kelleher brings with him experience in management, collection development, digital projects, grant projects, and outreach.  He holds Master’s degrees in Journalism and Library and Information Science from the University of Texas at Austin, is a Certified Archivist, and has professional experience working in multiple languages, including French and Spanish.  In addition to his experience at the Benson Latin American Collection, Kelleher has amassed experience working as an archivist in both the public and private sector.  Working with History Associates Incorporated, he has consulted for the National Geographic Channel, the National Library of Medicine, and the National Park Service, among others.  He accrued experience in nonprofit development while working at the literary publisher Graywolf Press, and even served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Republic of Guinea where he oversaw initiatives aimed at resource conservation and environmental education.

Kelleher now looks forward to continue building on the work being done at the University of Houston Special Collections, supporting the teaching and research activities of the University and serving as a resource for the scholarly community and general public.  Specifically, Kelleher aims to use his previous experience with high-impact online archives to help build and shape digital environments that will continue to introduce the rich variety and research potential of our primary sources to an international, scholarly community.  In doing so, Kelleher seeks to reflect the diversity of the city and the University not only in our physical archival collections, but in our online presence as well.  In addition, he seeks to extend our reach beyond the reading room walls, expanding our vibrant and engaging exhibitions and instruction partnerships, further integrating Special Collections into the life of the University, its students and faculty, as well as community partners.

Please, join us in welcoming Christian Kelleher as the new Head of Special Collections at the University of Houston!

HAHA Fellow Bids Farewell

Department News, Houston & Texas History, Performing & Visual Arts

In August 2013 I was extremely excited to begin my position as the Houston Arts and History Archives Fellow at the University of Houston Libraries Special Collections. I was straight out of my graduate program at the University of Michigan and ready to dive into the field as a professional archivist. I was also thrilled to return to Houston, my hometown and favorite city, and to work with materials that reflected the community where I grew up. Over the following two years, I worked on some amazing projects, developed inspiring working relationships, and gained knowledge and skills that I’ll use throughout my career.

Houston Arts and History Archives Fellow, Stacey Lavender (far right), showcases items from the Main Street Theater Papers at last week's Brown Bag event

Houston Arts and History Archives Fellow, Stacey Lavender (far right), showcases items from the Main Street Theater Records.

The two largest portions of my time here at UH have been dedicated to arranging and describing archival collections and to assisting with the curation of digital projects. I have worked with a wide variety of materials in our Houston Hip Hop, Houston and Texas History, Performing and Visual Arts, and Contemporary Literature collections. I’ll admit that when I started, I was most excited to work with Houston hip hop materials. I felt that hip hop materials were in particularly great need of collecting and that they would resonate particularly strongly with students. I was right! But at the same time, I discovered that each of the collections I worked with, whether they included materials from a German singing club with over 100 years of history, one of the largest regional theatres in the nation, or 1970s and 1980s science fiction and fantasy conventions, documented an important part of our history and held direction connections to the Houston community. I’m proud to have contributed to making so many new materials accessible to our students and researchers, and working with such a diverse array of materials certainly kept me on my toes and made coming to work every day exciting!

I’m grateful that this position also provided many opportunities to work directly with our patrons. Throughout my time at UH I spent about eight hours a week manning the reference desk, and this January I also began serving as contact point for Performing and Visual Arts reference. It’s always my pleasure to help students and researchers find the materials they need. One of the most exciting (and unexpected!) outreach projects I worked on was co-curating the “Nina Vance and the Alley Theatre: A Life’s Work” exhibit with our Architecture & Art Library Coordinator Catherine Essinger. Designing and implementing the exhibit, which ran from October, 2014 to May, 2015, gave me the opportunity to work with people all over the library, across campus, and with former and current Alley Theatre actors and staff. I’ll always remember it as one of my favorite accomplishments here.

UH has also been very supportive of my professional development, which I think is essential for any early-career librarian or archivist. I have attended several conferences and workshops during my time here, and completed my first professional presentation at the Society of Southwest Archivists convention in 2014.

But perhaps my favorite thing about working at the University of Houston Special Collections was the opportunity to work with such an amazing group of colleagues, both in our department and across the library. I’ll miss coming to work with them every day, but I look forward to our paths crossing in the future as I continue my archives career.

Flashback 1997!

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)

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

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.

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