Building a Research Journal: Newspaper Edition

Historians focus the bulk of a research project on primary resources. Primary sources are based on the written, photographic, or oral testimonies produced during a specific time period. Newspapers are a prime example of this aspect of primary source research. Newspapers actively report, interview, and consolidate information and community events, which were integral to the time periods they operate within. Thus, newspapers covering Prohibition provide a specific lens into the daily lives of people dealing with the consequences of Prohibition.

The University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) Department of History’s graduate students have teamed up with Honors College undergraduates to identify the key background information for building a research journal on Prohibition and female evening wear; which will be on display at the Las Vegas Mob Museum. Understanding the social environment that these women operated in, is key for identifying how and why they engaged in skirting law and order. This social atmosphere has been realized through research covering newspapers from four cities: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York.

Lee Hanover, a graduate student in UNLV’s History department, has been the project manager for the newspaper research. He has organized research on five newspapers in the four cities: Las Vegas Age, Las Vegas Review Journal, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times,and New York Times. The undergraduate students from UNLV’s Honors College have reviewed, compiled, and summarized key aspects of their research. Photographic snippets of their findings are posted below, and their experiences from the project follow:

Sydney Franklin: “This was the first time I ever had to use the UNLV library database to research newspaper articles. It was interesting to learn how to operate this database, and with practice I got quite good at it. The librarians are all very friendly and helpful, and made it easy for me to navigate through this database. I liked the clear order that Lee and my fellow undergraduates were able to establish through good communication. I would like to go and see the exhibit once it is finished!”

Kylie Johnson: “As a history major and future history professor, I know that research will be a big part of my life. I feel truly blessed to have contributed to such an amazing exhibit as Ready to Roar while still in my Undergraduate studies. I am slightly ashamed to admit that I had never heard of a microfilm before completing research for this project. I also did not understand how to access the newspaper databases. Through the careful and specific guidance of the Graduate student in charge of the research I was helping with (Lee Hanover), I gained valuable research knowledge that I know I will use in my future studies. I am eager to see how the exhibit turns out. I also learned a lot about the Prohibition era such as the different roles that men and women played, and even found an article about a man claiming that he was the one that brought the pipe to America! The one difficulty I had was with the microfilms. Figuring out how to view, crop, and save the different images was a little outside of my comfort zone, but not impossible. Lastly, I would like to thank Dr. Green and Lee Hanover for being great mentors. While they expected great work out of us as researchers, they did not hesitate to provide a specific direction.”

Jacob Ozuna: “This was the first time I have ever done research of this kind. The best part of the project was going through the microfilm and looking for articles. It was unlike anything I have done before, because it was so much more interactive than doing a search online. I think the hardest obstacle for me was not knowing what to do at first, but after asking a lot of questions, I was able to find stuff. Overall, it was a great experience, and I have learned of new places for information in my own research.”

Andy Kirk