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Remembering Poet Cynthia Macdonald

Contemporary Literature, Department News
Portrait of Cynthia Macdonald.

Portrait of Cynthia Macdonald

Cynthia Macdonald, acclaimed poet and co-founder of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston, died last month at the age of 87.

Macdonald began her career intending to be an opera singer, then switched to writing poetry. She published seven books of poetry, including Amputations (1972), Transplants (1976), W(holes) (1980), and I Can’t Remember (1997). Her work revealed an interest in the artistic, the freakish, and the domestic, a preference for pithy language, a dark wit, and delight in playing with form. She was honored with a 1983 Guggenheim Fellowship among other writing awards.

Macdonald came to the University of Houston after previously teaching at Sarah Lawrence College and Johns Hopkins University. In 1979, she founded the renowned Creative Writing Program along with fellow poet Stanley Plumly. Macdonald was considered an extremely knowledgeable and supportive instructor and mentor. In 1989 she received the Esther Farfel Award, the University of Houston’s highest faculty award.

Poem

Early draft of poem “No Time for Suicide”

In addition to writing and teaching, Macdonald was a practicing psychotherapist who specialized in helping people with writer’s block.

Also a mother, she leaves behind two children, Jennifer Macdonald and Scott Macdonald.

In 2010, the University of Houston Libraries acquired the Cynthia Macdonald Papers, a sprawling collection of manuscripts, correspondence, and materials from the writer’s teaching and psychoanalytical careers. Special Collections also holds the Library of Cynthia Macdonald, a collection of over 3000 books, primarily contemporary American poetry, many of which were inscribed to Macdonald by her literary friends.

See also, “The Writer’s Life.”

Our Summer Vacation 2015 – Research Never Sleeps

Department News
Uribe assists with a project to consolidate space, shifting books in our secure stacks area

Uribe assists with a project to consolidate space, shifting books in our secure stacks area

With Labor Day behind us, we must begrudgingly say goodbye to summer.  And while some students, enthusiastically or not, are just now settling down and getting comfortable with our grand academic pursuits regarding the diffusion of knowledge, other University of Houston students have been working all summer long towards that end.

In the past on this blog we have featured some of the great work undertaken by student workers specializing in instructional support and assisting with our University Archives.  However, under the supervision of our Library Supervisor, Nelda Cervantes, a team of student workers tackles the the lion’s share of grunt work necessary to allow UH Special Collections to carry out its mission of making our rare and varied materials available to current and future researchers.  The summer of 2015 was no exception as the team of Gabrielle Davila, Huong Hyunh, Tammy Le, and Ricardo Uribe not only carried out the day-to-day tasks they have come to expect, but also took on a number of priority projects, directly impacting the campus and research communities here at UH.

With access to our archival finding aids, maps of the library, and everything in-between, Davila is a welcome sight for researchers, students, or even the sheepishly lost

Davila is a welcome sight for researchers, students, or even the sheepishly lost, thanks to her detailed maps of the M.D. Anderson Library

Student workers serve as the face of Special Collections, staffing our front desk and welcoming researchers to our reading room or students attending classes in our Evans Room.  Visiting scholars will see them pulling requested materials, assisting with reproduction requests, and shelving materials when research is complete.  Behind the scenes, they can be found assisting with the accessioning of books and archival material coming into Special Collections, doing the heavy lifting (quite literally) at the loading dock, labeling archival boxes and folders, manufacturing preservation housings for new acquisitions, and even taking out the recycling and trash.  Simply put, if it needs to be done, they can do it.

Le constructs preservation housings for newly cataloged items in the Charles & Betti Saunders Materials & Exhibition Preparation Room

Le constructs preservation housings for newly cataloged items in the Charles & Betti Saunders Materials & Exhibition Preparation Room

This summer, however, a number of additional projects also benefited from their  talents and attention.  Uribe and Hyunh assisted with the production of Dr. Terry Tomkins-Walsh’s exhibition, “Houston History: Archives, Magazine, and Oral History,” and Le even provided some last minute assistance with hors d’oeuvres prior to Houston History Magazine’s Summer Launch Party.  When not mired in the minutiae of assessment and use data, Davila assisted Hispanic Collections Archivist Lisa Cruces with the inventory and organization of 18 boxes of books donated by Carlos Gonzales-Peña as well as material from the Kanellos Latino Literary Movement Book Collection.  As new archival collections were donated and new acquisitions eagerly awaited a permanent place on our shelves, all of our students helped make space for the new arrivals throughout the summer, shifting and consolidating materials.  Finally, Cougars through and through, they all eagerly assisted with the work of our Libraries’ Campus Engagement Committee as they produced and readied materials for our volunteers during the Weeks of Welcome.

Hyunh staffs the front desk of our foyer reception area, ready to greet visitors to Special Collections

Hyunh staffs the front desk of our foyer reception area, ready to greet visitors to Special Collections

The commendations could continue, but it would appear the point is evident.  The UH Special Collections would not function fully if not for the tireless efforts of Nelda Cervantes and her team of student workers.  Sadly (for us), Ricardo Uribe left Special Collections at the end of the summer to pursue other opportunities while completing his study of mechanical engineering here at UH.  While we will miss his contributions, the work of our students continues now into the fall semester.  We thank all of them for all of the work they have completed, and the work still left to do.

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.

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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