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History Students Learn to Do Research Using Mexican Rarities

Hispanic Collections, Instruction
HIST 4373 class med

History students with Dr. Susan Kellogg (far right)

Students from Dr. Susan Kellogg’s course “Researching Mexican History” visited Special Collections this week to learn about conducting research with rare books and archival materials. This course designed for History majors teaches undergraduates to do research using both traditional and digital sources, applying these skills to historical materials related to Mexico.

Student with Cortes book

Student examines 18th century edition of the letters of Hernan Cortes

In the Evans Room, Special Collections’ classroom, students viewed items that dated from the 16th century to the 20th century, such as books, maps, letters, and newspapers. Archival highlights included a letter written by Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna in 1833 and a ledger kept by Leonor Villegas de Magnón for her medical organization Cruz Blanca during the Mexican Revolution. All of the archival materials on display were drawn from our Hispanic Collections.

Vellum document

Sixteenth century document on vellum

After examining all of the materials, each student selected an item to study more closely, learning to apply the kinds of questions asked by historians to a unique or rare item. Class discussion centered around the intended audience for the work, contextual information that might help historians to interpret items more successfully, and what types of research questions might be prompted by a particular item.

Working directly with rare and archival materials gives students an opportunity to better understand the process by which scholars interpret raw source material to create new knowledge. Faculty members who wish to schedule a class visit to Special Collections can contact Coordinator for Digital Projects and Instruction Julie Grob at Special Collections materials are also available to all students for individual study in our Reading Room with the presentation of a photo ID.

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