November 28, 2010 12:46:00 AM
The Billups-Garth Archives at the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library recently finished working with two history classes from Mississippi University for Women 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 Students learned the value of historical documents and how they can incorporate research skills into their long-term career goals.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 had their students utilize the local archives for two different research projects.
Dr. Velek''s "Introduction to Historical Thinking and Research" class searched 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 themselves 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 photographs of Native Americans taken by photographer Marion Stark Gaines in the 1890s.
"The opportunity to spend time in an archive and explore collections related to local history has expanded my students'' understanding of research," said Dr. Kempker. "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.
For more information, contact Mona K. Vance at 662-329-5304.