How to Research UTEP History

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As part of the Centennial Celebration we invite all campus divisions and units to explore their own histories. The advice here is intended as a launching point to help members of the Miner nation 1) find stuff from the past, 2) analyze what is found, and 3) tell a great story.


Contents

1. Find Stuff from the Past

The Prospector, February 16, 1946

Before history ever ends up in a book it has to be discovered. Sometimes history hides in libraries and archives, but more often it hides in places close to the people who lived it—in desk drawers, closets, or filing cabinets; in trunks, attics, or garages. The things that people from the past left behind become our sources in the present. Many of the sources on UTEP's history have recently been digitized:

About Campus

  • Course Catalogs - What classes were available and who taught them? The Registrar's Office has digitized past catalogs, beginning with 1920. PDF copies are available at http://academics.utep.edu/catalogarchive.
  • Minutes of the Meetings of the Board of Regents of the UT System - Because UTEP is part of the UT System, many important decisions are recorded in the minutes of the Regents' meetings. The System has placed all of the minutes since 1881 online in searchable pdf format at http://www.utsystem.edu/board-of-regents/meetings/meetings-archive.
  • Facts about Buildings - Extensive spatial data is maintained by the Space Information Resources Office.

About the Region

  • City Directories - These annual publications contain names, addresses, occupational, and other information.

About Texas

  • Texas Sources - The Portal to Texas History contains unique sources from Texas libraries, museums, archives, historical societies, genealogical societies, and private family collections.


2. Analyze the Stuff That You Found

Gathering all the old stuff is only the first step in preparing a history. And, the next steps may be even more important. After you collect your sources you need to analyze them. Some of the questions you should ask include: Who created the sources? When? Where? For what purpose? For what audience?


You should also verify that your sources are accurate. Can you confirm what you found in other newspapers, yearbooks, or other sources? What do other history books or articles say about your subject or your sources? Good places to look include:

  • UTEP Encyclopedia - the reliable, documented, and up-to-date source of information about the history of The University of Texas at El Paso; available at http://encyclopedia.utep.edu. The encyclopedia also contains an extensive bibliography.


You also need to understand how your sources fit into the bigger picture. What else was happening at the same time or in the same place? Who else was involved? What are your sources not telling you?

  • Borderlands Project - Published by the El Paso Community College, these articles treat the history and culture of the El Paso, Juárez, Las Cruces border region.
  • Texas History - The Handbooks of Texas Online contains encyclopedia entries prepared under the direction of the Texas State Historical Association.


Finally, you want to think about why your findings matter. What do they tell us about the past? What do they tell us about the consequences of the past? Why might your findings be important to us, today? Why will someone want to know about the things you have discovered?

3. Tell a Great Story

You have collected your sources and asked tough questions about them, but you are not done yet. Whatever you may know about the past does not matter until you share it. You need to tell the story.

One part of storytelling comes from sticking to your evidence. You can’t invent things but do use your imagination to try to understand how people in the past felt and acted.

The other part of a good story comes from thinking about how you will tell it. Where do you begin? Where do you end? What is most interesting and relevant? Why should we care about it today?


KEITH A. EREKSON
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