The Primary Source Librarian

Dedicated to Excellence in Teaching with Primary Sources

The People You Meet

I was in Santa Fe over the weekend for a New Mexico Landscape Paintings opening at Manitou Galleries. Although most of the conversations naturally focused on the art and the artists in the gallery, a few people asked me politely what I do (beyond my role as “artist’s wife”). As always, I noticed that some people immediately engaged with the idea of teaching with primary sources, some were mildly curious, and some could not move away quickly enough.

Michael Taylor, a friend who is married to our artist friend Gail Gash Taylor, does not have to fake interest. That’s because he works for the National Park Service as a program manager for the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program:

“Historic U.S. Highway 66 crosses the heart of America, demonstrating the delights and realities of a wide cross section of American culture along the way. Created in 1926, the 2,400-mile ribbon of highway from Chicago to Los Angeles linked rural communities to urban ones, permitting an unprecedented flow of ideas and economic growth across the country. It saw the migration of Dust Bowl refugees; World War II troop movement; the advent of car culture and automobile tourism; and it facilitated large-scale settlement of the west. For many people in America and throughout the world, the highway has come to symbolize the spirit and freedom of America, and the pursuit of the American Dream. Although decommissioned in 1985, it gained legendary status through song, film, television, books, and personal experiences, and represents an important chapter in American history.” –Program Description, Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program

Michael had arrived in Santa Fe just in time for the art opening from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he had helped celebrate the restoration of the Vickery Phillips 66 Station. This project is typical of the work supported by his program’s cost-share grants for historic preservation and restoration. And yes, each project has potential for teachers to connect “primary source” buildings and architecture to American history and culture. Primary source educators and preservationists are indeed part of the same world.

Vickery Phillips 66 Station Vickery Phillips 66 Station, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Over pizza, following the art opening, Mike and Gail asked about my current work, and I took that as an invitation to espouse my latest ideas for combining primary source teaching with Web 2.0 tools. Mike mentioned the work of Dr. Estevan Rael-Galvez, the State Historian of New Mexico, which I had just read about in the complimentary Santa Fean magazine in our hotel room. I felt as if I was experiencing some kind of Sedona-like energy convergence, but I confess that I’ve always loved the serendipitous discoveries that so often accompany primary sources.

At any rate, I later looked at the State Historian-sponsored New Mexico Digital History Project Web site, and I would encourage my readers to do the same. (Be sure to unblock pop-ups in your browser.) You can search by story, place, time, and people. The site has some interesting features, such as a way for New Mexico researchers to submit essays, as well as a discussion forum on New Mexico history. I look forward to watching the development of K-12 education-related projects on the site. For example, I dream of listening to student-produced podcasts of oral history interviews with grandparents from Native American and Hispanic villages. Imagine the richness of such a student experience.

To end my weekend of serendipity, I received a welcome comment from Nancy Bosch, a teacher of elementary-level gifted children in Overland Park, Kansas. She writes a blog about teaching with primary sources, too. Take a look at her blog – “A Very Old Place” – for some great teaching ideas.

I feel as if I have my very own Verizon network of primary source enthusiasts.


2 Responses to “The People You Meet”

  1. Kathy says:

    One of Bob’s favorite childhood memories is a family trip from Chicago to LA on Route 66. I know he will enjoy your article.

  2. Nancy says:

    I’m so excited to see the “big pictures!” 🙂

Leave a Reply