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Exploring National Trends in the Catholic News Archive

This spring, students at Mount St. Mary’s University enrolled in HIST 297: The History of Mount St. Mary’s. For one of their research papers, the students were assigned to take a topic discussed in class and examine what was happening at the same time on a national level regarding their topic. All topics related to the nineteenth century and included themes such as
  • Catholic responses to slavery,
  • Higher education and the American Civil War,
  • Catholic responses to the Civil War,
  • The experiences of rural Catholic communities, and
  • Catholic seminary life 
Students were required to use at least three primary sources in their papers. To locate these primary sources, the students almost exclusively used the Catholic News Archive. Students found the Catholic News Archive to have a very user-friendly interface. Particularly helpful features were the ability to filter the search results by year of publication and by region. The also liked that the search results gave them access to the full issue of the newspaper rather than just the single article. Through this feature, several students enjoyed browsing the issue and seeing what themes were being discussed in the newspaper in context with the article they were examining.

From the perspective of the professor, the students’ papers were greatly strengthened by the use of primary sources found in the Catholic News Archive. The students were able to integrate the sources in a way that strengthened their theses and conveyed their understanding of attitudes and opinions at the time of publication.
Two students commented to me that they have already thought of ways that they will use the resources of the Catholic News Archive to assist them in other courses.

Submitted by Jessica Whitmore, Director of the Library, Mount St. Mary’s University
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