This past spring, the Woodson in partnership with the Humanities Research Center supervised two undergraduate students in archival research in the areas of medical humanities and cultural heritage. Students learned to apply their humanistic training to real-world problems and to put their critical thinking to use as they learned new practical skills. The students conducted deep research and analysis of primary sources and learned about the nature of archives.
Miriam Shayeb is a freshman English major and was selected to work with the Kezia Payne DePelchin Yellow fever epidemic letters, 1878-1879 (MS 201). This collection consists primarily of a bound volume of 34 letters, the majority of which were written by Mrs. Kezia Payne DePelchin (1828-1893) of Houston, to her sister, describing her experiences as a nurse during the Yellow fever epidemic of 1878 in Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama. The letters have been digitized and transcribed and are available in the Rice Institutional Repository. Miriam analyzed the letters to gain insight into the treatment of illness in postbelllum South and the “interactions between doctors and nurses during an era in which nursing was not completely professionalized.” She also focused on the intersection of race and illness and nursing. She created two online articles on the OpenStax / cnx.org platform:
Edna Otuomagie is a Junior Visual and Dramatic Arts (VADA) major and was selected to work on the Between Decisions Omeka Exhibit. Utilizing Fondren’s Omeka web-based exhibit platform, the exhibit explores how Rice University historically handled gender/sex and race relations through discussion of the huge decisions Rice made concerning these issues from 1957 to 1970—a time when Rice underwent many changes including desegregation based on gender/sex and race. Edna researched the topic in the university archives and spoke with University Historian Melissa Kean and others in the Rice community. Edna created a fascinating exhibit on a topic of great interest that had not been covered in a succinct but over-arching way. Her exhibit is available online: http://exhibits.library.rice.edu/exhibits/show/between-decisions Edna was honored with First Prize in the School of Humanities for her research and received the Humanities Research Center’s First Prize at the Rice Undergraduate Research Symposium.
Both students created thoughtful archival research projects and delivered them in accessible ways online to a broader audience.