Three Questions with Kenneth Hafertepe
How important are Unique Collections in your teaching, learning or research?
I have been doing research on Texas history for more than thirty years, and I am so glad to have a resource like the Portal to Texas History available to me. The Portal brings directly to my desktop resources that in earlier times would require many trips to archive and special collections libraries. It also makes available for the first time the records of museums and the Texas Historical Commission, including photographs that document the appearance of museum exhibitions and of historic buildings from the 1960s and 1970s, which are by no mean original but often provide evidence of what buildings looked like prior to restoration or remodeling.
How have Unique Collections changed the way you approach your research, teaching or learning?
One of the best features of the Portal is that historic Texas newspapers are now searchable, and searchable by single words. This can have a profound impact. I have been researching a “marble man” – that is, a gravestone carver – in Houston, by the name of T. F. Byrne. Before the Portal I would have looked for evidence of Byrne in Houston newspapers and perhaps Galveston; the Portal does a statewide search in a matter of seconds. In searching for Byrne the Portal led me to an article in a newspaper of San Marcos, describing a monument in the local cemetery made by Byrne in Houston. The monument is unsigned, and I would never have thought to read the San Marcos paper looking for a Houston stone carver, but the Portal led me right to it!
What do you want others to know about your research, teaching or learning?
My research is informed by the concept of material culture – that is, that the things people of the past left behind are an important source of historic evidence. When history is driven only by written documents – letters, diaries, newspaper, government documents – many people are left out of the story. Material culture also broadens the subject matter of history – from politics, religion, and intellectual life to the nature of everyday life, and to the many different forms of creativity.
Dr. Kenneth Hafertepe grew up in Dallas, then attended Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. His graduate work was in American Civilization at the University of Texas at Austin. Since 2000, he has taught in the Department of Museum Studies at Baylor University. Dr. Hafertepe has written six books, co-edited two more, and has written many articles on American and Texan material culture. His most recent book, The Material Culture of German Texans, has won awards from the Texas State Historical Association, the Victorian Society in America, the Southeast Society of Architectural Historians, and the Philosophical Society of Texas. He was recently named a Fellow of the Texas State Historical Association.