Did you know that one of the best archives on the Spanish Inquisition in Mexico is in Tulsa? Neither did I until I interned at the Helmerich Center for American Research (HCAR) at Gilcrease Museum. My task was to search the internet and catalogs of other institutions in the U.S., Mexico and Spain to see which documents in the Gilcrease collection were absolutely unique, a copy of the original or a later edition. Most of the titles in the Hispanic Documents Catalog (HDC) are in Spanish, in some cases 400 year old hand-written Spanish. I translated them into English.
My idea of archival research in a research library setting was very nostalgic. I envisioned an old dark room in the back of a library with tall and large cedar wood doors with the walls filled with bookshelves of old books from the ceiling to the floor. I saw myself climbing up a tall ladder that wheeled across the book shelves as I looked for books. Instead I landed into “Back to the Future” of 21st century modern ways of researching for ancient documents–through Internet research! The research was done with the tap of a finger by typing in key words from the HDC to find similar sources on the Mexican Inquisition.
The Inquisition – Now that’s a loaded subject! To my astonishment, one focus of the research, was African slavery in Mexico during the 16th & 17th centuries. I found terms that were used to identify different groups of slaves, and how they were similar to those used in the U.S. Being the first one at HCAR to start this research project, the challenge of the old Mexican/Spanish language barrier stretched my language skills. Researching the history of slavery and the Spanish Inquisition in Mexico was one of the most fascinating experiences I have had. One that I hope to continue!
Museum Science and Management Student Marjorie Bontemps