Campus History Guidelines

This guide provides the instructions for our collaborative campus history assignment. You’ll pick a particular building or space on campus—you can consult this a list of options. We’ll each write a short history of that building or space based on archival sources from the Center for Southwest Research and Special Collections in Zimmerman Library. Librarians will help us find stuff, but it will be up to us to make good use of it.

We are arbitrarily, but defensibly, limiting our sources to what we can find at CSWR (which is the official archive of the University), so don’t worry about outside sources.

The University Archivist, Portia Vescio, is excited about our project and we are all invited to email her ( with any questions!

This project will demonstrate what collaborative digital history can and should be, as we’ll each contribute small articles that in themselves are not exactly profound, but collectively add up to something really useful that one person would be hard pressed to do nearly as well in a reasonable time. It will also help us critically reflect on the challenges in moving from analog archives to digital essays that take advantage of the medium to tell a compelling story.

Rather than post these on your digital portfolios, we’re going to make a separate website together with some technologies that demonstrate the collaborative, open source potential for digital history.

Research Process

  • You’ve already picked a place and added your name (in the author column) and building/place (in the place-name column) to our UNM Campus History Index
    • Ignore all the other columns for now
    • Note that the data on this page will be used on our collaborative website, take care with details!
  • Go to the Center for Southwest Research in Zimmerman Library. To get there, enter Zimmerman through the main door, then make a U-turn to the left. Note all the cool archival stuff in the display cases.
  • Proceed to the round service kiosk, where you check in with whoever’s there store your bags in the lockers (the desk person will give you a key). You can take whatever you need into the reading room, except food/drink and bags.
  • Go in the Reading Room, say hello to the librarian at the reference desk, and tell them you’re doing research on your building/place for your digital history class. They will point you to the shelf of books on UNM Campus histories. Here’s a synopsis:
  • Skim through the relevant sections of these books (i.e. the parts that correspond to the life of your building) to get a sense of the culture and concerns of the University around the time your building was built or remodeled or whatever.
  • Ask the librarian for a manuscript request form.
  • Find a computer, and navigate to the Rocky Mountain Online Archive Advanced Search
  • Enter the name of your building or place (you need to spell it correctly), and USE QUOTES if it’s multiple words (or you’ll get results with ANY of the words)
  • For the Institutions field, pick “University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research and Special Collections”
  • Once you click on an item from the search results, note the “Collection Number” near the top of the page and put that on your form.
  • Use Cmd/Ctrl F search for your place-name on the webpage, and note the box or boxes that have archival material.
  • Using that information, fill out the Request Form available at the front desk of the Reading Room and give it to the librarian. It usually takes about 10 minutes to get a box, depending on how busy they are.
  • Have fun rooting through the history of your place! You never know exactly what will be in the boxes or how useful the stuff will will be for your essay, but that’s the thrill of the hunt.
  • You should consult architectural drawings and campus plans, which go on a separate space on the form (but it’s clear what to do), but leave that for later.
  • Take good notes, get good quotes, take pictures with your phone for your own reference so that you can examine stuff outside the reading room.
  • USE THE SCANNER in the reading room to create quality digital images for your digital essays.
  • When you have to leave, you can have your box kept out in the reading room for quick access at a later time.
  • If you need to do basic edits to your photo (cropping, rotating, resizing, etc), you can use any software you want. If you aren’t sure what to use, try the free and online editor at

Research Tips

  • Be aware that your building may have been called something else. Records documenting its construction and early days are obviously not going to refer to it by the modern name you know, so make sure you’re searching all relevant names or alternate names. What is now known as Mesa Vista Hall was most commonly known as the 400-man dorm when it was built in 1950.

  • Remember that you are basically never searching the full text of archival documents (as we talked about in the text mining sections of the course), which for the most part have no digital existence. Someone has collected this stuff and labeled it, so items that pertain to two buildings may tagged or filed in only one place. Be creative in your searching.

  • When you get your box, poke around at first to get a sense of what’s there. It’s pretty fun just to see the documentary history at your finger tips. But as you start looking through the folders, be systematic! Be careful about noting what you’ve seen and what you haven’t and what’s interesting and what’s not. Think about the story you want to tell.

  • Your essays are pretty short, but you still need to have a sense of the whole history to figure out what to include or focus on, so you can’t just look through enough material to write 600 words. Well, you can, but such laziness will be reflected in your low grade for the assignment.

  • If the history of your place is long and complicated—some places on campus have histories that are far more complex than you might guess—you need decide what your scope will be: either a comprehensive but shallow history, or a more chronologically narrow but deeper history. Both have their merits, so choose what you’re more interested in researching and writing about.

Essay Requirements

  • ~ 600-800 words minimum (a little shorter than our others on purpose) but no maximum.
  • Written in plain text using Markdown for formatting (review the links on the syllabus if you don’t know what this means but don’t worry about it as you’re starting)
  • 3 historical photographs (more is better)
  • 2 images of primary sources (more is better, esp if you have a variety of KINDS of sources)
  • 2 modern photographs (via your phone if you can’t find any) of your building/space. It’s very effective to try to replicate a perspective of a historical photo to show change over time.
  • IMAGES IN YOUR ESSAYS MUST BE HIGH QUALITY SCANS/PHOTOS. Of course you can take lots of low quality pics for your own research process.
  • Informative captions on your images that don’t merely describe what the image is, but why it’s significant.
  • Your captions must include a citation to its digital home (via a hyperlink), or the box where you found it.
  • Subheadings to delineate your main topics and make your essay more skimmable.
  • You can start writing in MS Word if you want to, but eventually we’re going to use different technologies for publishing our essays. In the meantime, DO NOT SPEND ANY TIME FORMATTING YOUR ESSAY or embedding images or anything like that. Just write and decide what images to use.
  • Ultimately, your essay needs to be written in Markdown and uploaded to our GitHub repository, but don’t worry if that makes no sense as you get started. Everything you need to know/do is already on the syllabus and will be covered extensively in class.
  • Bibliography at end of essay that outlines the sources you used.


  • Write something you or your friends would want to read
  • Aim for informal sophistication
  • Demonstrate your expertise through description AND analysis

Questions to keep in mind

  • Who is our audience(s)?
  • What do they know?
  • What do we want them to know?
  • How do we want them to think differently about space on campus?
  • How does space and our perception of it and its history effect our perception of UNM and your future degree?
  • How does your space represent larger campus culture or changes generally?

Spatial Footprints (we’ll go over this in class)

Since this is a SPATIAL history, we should have a map interface to what we’re doing. So, we need a way of creating a clickable space on a web map. I’ll handle the technical details, but you need to tell me where your building/place is.

  • Go to Google Maps.
  • Click the 3-line menu icon in the upper left of the search bar.
  • Click on “Your Places”.
  • Click on “Maps”.
  • Click “Create Map” at the bottom of the window pane.
  • Search for your building name or otherwise make sure the space you are researching is in your browser window. Close the pop-up if you get one.
  • You can see the map layer you are creating is titled “Untitled Layer”. That’s not helpful. Change that to the name of your building/space, and make sure it matches your essay exactly, like mesa-vista-hall.
  • Edit your map title to be the name of your building. You can use spaces if you want! This is helpful for later retrieval and editing, but isn’t tied to anything like the layer title.
  • Click the little arrow to the left of “Base Map” at the bottom.
  • Choose the Satellite view and see if that’s easier than the map view for your building.
  • Find a zoom level that allows you to see your place all at once, but as zoomed in as possible.
  • Click the “Draw a Line” icon under the search bar (it looks like a broken triangle).
  • Click “Add line or shape”
  • Trace out your place that you want to appear on our map. You are making a polygon, so make sure that your starting and ending points are the same, otherwise you’ll make a line and that’s not what we want.
  • If you need to adjust a point, click the hand icon and drag whatever point you want to move.
  • Click the 3-dot menu icon next to your MAP TITLE.
  • Click “Export to KML/KMZ”.
  • Choose to EXPORT YOUR LAYER, not the map.
  • VERY IMPORTANT: Check the “Export to KML…” box (the bottom of the two).
  • Upload the KML file (from your Downloads directory or wherever it ended up) to our kml folder in our repository.
  • Wait a few minutes, and see if your polygon shows up on our map interface. If not, double check your file made it into the kml folder and that the filename (minus the .kml extension) matches your essay exactly.


  • 0-4: Technically the assignment is done, but doesn’t tell a cohesive story, has very limited images, or clearly rushed writing.
  • 5-9: Displays a respectable level of effort, but generally underwhelming.
  • 10-16: Shows potential, but falls short in scope or execution. Usually this score represents a solid effort that is missing a critical component or is sloppily done. For instance: too few many images, weak captions, no real consideration of space, or campus development generally
  • 17-20: Carefully and engagingly written; interesting images that give a sense of the archival history of UNM; tells a compelling story in a short space about the building, its space, and its relationship to campus; makes broader points about the potential of collaborative spatial history