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History, Research Connects Students to Sense of Place

During Block 5, Colorado College students delved into a variety of historical subjects related to CC. They visited archives at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, and Special Collections and Archives at CC’s Charles L. Tutt Library. Through their research, they unearthed a wealth of little-known documents, photographs, and audio recordings. Next, they experimented with technological resources to showcase their work and share these slices of CC history with the public. It was all part of the course “Topics in History: Digital History/Public History Practicum: Space, Place, & Belonging at CC.”

“We wanted to have the opportunity to do authentic research with students, who are increasingly interested in public and digital history,” says Jane Murphy, associate professor of history and director of the Crown Faculty Center. Murphy co-taught the course with Jennifer Golightly, an academic applications specialist in the Office of Information Technology.

“One of the early successes was going to Special Collections and seeing students’ excitement,” says Golightly.

Jessy Randall, curator and archivist at Special Collections, helped students learn to search for resources. In addition to rare books, special editions, manuscripts, diaries, maps, and other physical holdings, many materials are available digitally.

“Since the student newspapers have been digitized, these kinds of projects have exploded,” Randall says.

Students in the class researched topics on different aspects of past CC life, including:
•  Blackness on campus
•  ROTC and SATC
•  William F. Slocum’s presidency
•  Town and gown relations
•  Evolution of CC viewbooks
•  Mirasol, a Chicano newsletter
•  History of CC hockey ticket prices

Connor McMaster ’22 was able to explore his fascination with military history through a project on the history of military training at CC. For a time in the World War I era, CC was essentially a “war college.” Palmer Hall was home to a radio school where the Physics Department trained radio and telegraph operators. Among the materials McMaster discovered were recordings from a faculty member and student, a menu, daily schedules, photographs, and formal correspondence between the CC administration and the U.S. Department of War.

“I used significant milestones to focus on important documents that reflect student life. A challenge was how to present this material in a public history setting,” McMaster says.

Students were evaluated on their research, analysis and interpretation, contextualization, use of digital elements and tools, and final product and presentation. Future scholars can build on students’ research thanks to the rich bibliographies they compiled. The works will be preserved in Digital CC.

The late Robert J. Cosgrove ’49, who arrived at CC in 1941, left a year later to join the U.S. Air Force and returned to CC on the G.I. Bill, completing his degree eight years after he started, named Colorado College in his will. As a former scholarship student, he hoped his legacy could be used in part to provide financial aid for worthy students. He established the Robert J. Cosgrove Memorial Scholarship, which has been awarded to 137 CC students since 1991. His gift also enhances classroom teaching and facilitates student and faculty research and historical perspectives. In this case, it also provided lunch for students, faculty, and class visitors the final day of the block.

Read more about the course and projects.

Support for library and innovation allows courses like this to happen. Contact Mark Hille at mhille@coloradocollege.edu or (719) 659-9735 to discuss giving opportunities.

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