The US-Mexico border region spans 2,000 miles from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean, traversing deserts, mountains, forests, rivers, and wetlands, and serving as home to some 18 million people. Many of those people live in pairs of sister cities that straddle the border and that have evolved uniquely bi-national, interdependent cultural and economic identities.
Brownsville, the southernmost city in Texas, and Matamoros, Tamaulipas, form one of these bi-national communities at the eastern edge of the border region. And the University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College, a member of the University of Texas System and the Texas Digital Library consortium, is uniquely positioned to provide insight into the unique challenges and opportunities presented by the border region.
With funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), UTB/TSC is currently planning the development of a Border Studies Resource Center that will collect and disseminate Border Studies research, an area of study that comprises many disciplines and has real-world implications for policymakers on both sides of the border.
One important component of the Resource Center is a digital repository hosted by the Texas Digital Library. With the repository, UTB/TSC will create a centralized collection of border-related research produced in both the US and Mexico.
John Hawthorne, Assistant Director of the Oliveira Library at UTB/TSC, hopes the repository will elevate the usefulness of border studies by making it easily accessible to researchers around the world.
“This region of the U.S. and Mexico is misunderstood in both nations,” he said. “Our hope is that the Border Studies Resource Center will help scholars and policymakers throughout the U.S. as a resource for accurate information.”
In 2009 UTB/TSC received a $99,276 planning grant from the IMLS, which it is using to gather resources, hold meetings, recruit partners, and identify content for the repository. It has been holding a series of forums in the U.S. and Mexico to solicit feedback on how the resource center can be most useful to scholars and public policymakers and to identify potential partners in the project.
A key player in the formation of the Resource Center will be the Texas Center for Border and Transnational Studies, a teaching and research center at the university that is headed by Dr. Antonio Zavaleta.
UTB/TSC has also found an external partner in El Colegio de La Frontera Norte, the preeminent Mexican university that studies the border region. But the team’s goal is to create a larger consortium of institutions in the two countries that will partner in the creation of the Border Studies Resource Center.
As part of the planning process, members of the UTB/TSC team will attend DSpace training classes offered by the Texas Digital Library. The team will also work with the TDL to create a prototype repository with roughly 100 items, as well as a planning document for how to move forward with the project. The team hopes to apply for a second IMLS grant to continue work on the Resource Center once the planning phase is complete.
The ultimate result will be a collection of interdisciplinary resources with a practical purpose: “We would like the rest of the country to better understand the region,“ Hawthorne said. “Our region is the future of the U.S.”
Anyone wishing to contribute to or learn more about the Border Studies Resource Center can contact John Hawthorne, Assistant Director of the Oliveira Library, at John.Hawthorn@utb.edu.
Go here to find out more about DSpace repositories hosted by the Texas Digital Library.