Billups-Garth Archives works with history students from Mississippi University for Women

The Billups-Garth Archives at the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library recently finished working with two history classes from Mississippi University for Women (MUW) on their research projects.  Students learned the value of historical documents and how they can incorporate research skills into their long-term career goals.

Professors Dr. Thomas Velek and Dr. Erin Kempker both had their students utilize the local archives for two different research projects.

Dr. Velek’s “Introduction to Historical Thinking and Research” class utilized the archives by searching for all available records on subjects such as the local Jewish community, the development of downtown Columbus, and local African American newspapers. The goal of the project is to give the students a chance to introduce them to the professional field of public history and archive work as career options as well as allow them to engage with a variety of archival sources.

Dr. Velek said, “Having an introduction to this type of historical work is critical to students’ education and especially important for those who are considering graduate work.”

Dr. Kempker’s “History Capstone” class, on the other hand, worked on an article length research paper. Students chose their topics and an overwhelming majority chose to focus on local history with sources from the Billups-Garth Archive.  Projects ranged from research on a northern missionary, Cyrus Green, who came to teach at a Freedman’s school in Columbus during Reconstruction to exploring the photographs of Native Americans taken by female photographer Marion Stark Gaines in the 1890s. 

MUW student Alicia Bowman and former Newcomer's Club member Peggy Weseli look over the clubs scrapbooks housed at the archives

Dr. Kempker said, “The opportunity to spend time in an archive and explore collections related to local history has expanded my students understanding of research.  In exploring the diversity of sources our local archive houses, my students have gained new insight into how writing history differs from reading history and have honed their research skills in the process.”

MUW student Alicia Bowman enjoyed her time researching the scrapbooks of the Newcomers Club, a local women’s club active in the 1950s and 1960s.

Bowman said, “Working with primary sources is such a thrill. If you ask yourself questions such as, ‘Where did this come from?’ ‘Who held this before me?’, you cannot help but be fascinated by the fact that you were able to hold it too. Now I understand the importance of a local archive and realize what a treasure we have in Columbus.”

Working with the classes from MUW allows students to receive hands-on experience for when they begin their careers.  History students can go on to work in many fields such as education, law, museums, writing, historic preservation, archives, and government.

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Published in: on November 29, 2010 at 11:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

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