Center of Southwest Studies

Behind the Scenes:

An activity guide for (high-school-age and above) virtual visitors to the Center of Southwest Studies

Through its partnership with the Colorado Digitization Project, the Center of Southwest Studies has digitized thousands of  images selected from various collections for viewing on the Web.  This page contains an educational introduction to the Center and its digitally accessible images.

Welcome to the Center of Southwest Studies!

Who We Are...

3 words describe the Southwest Studies Center's functions (a fourth one is public programming):

  • library

  • museum

  • archives

1.  A person working here probably has always enjoyed reading (and organizing) a lot of books.

2.  A person working here may have assembled model airplanes when he/she was young.

3.  The sort of persons who work here probably liked doing jigsaw puzzles when they were little.

...and What We Do

In general, 

1.  Librarians organize published materials and help people use them.

2.  Museum curators appraise, preserve and provide access (primarily through exhibit) to three-dimensional artifacts.

3.  Archivists appraise, preserve and provide access to historically significant documents.

The remainder of this guide/ exercise is organized into these three categories of library, museum and archives.  The purpose of this guide is to expose you to some elements of what we do and the collections we make available.  You may wish to focus on just one of the three sections at a time.


Here's an information access project for you: using the Online Public Access Computer (OPAC) and the Web-based collection inventories.

  1. Using the subject section of our online catalog, search for a book on one of the following topics: Navajo or Santa Fe.  Note the title and call number of the book you identified.

  2. Then, do the same search using one of the following collection inventories on the Web.   Myra Ellen Jenkins Collection

Theodore Hetzel field notebooks descriptive list, 1954-1964

  1. Note the web page URL and brief description of the historical materials you identified.

  2. How did the results of your OPAC search compare with what you found by using the online collection inventories?

  3. Which method of access do you think is better? (circle one) OPAC or online collection inventories?  Why?  Which one gave you answers faster?  Which one gave you more information?



  1. Warp threads are the (vertical) rolled ones; weft threads are the ones parallel to the floor during weaving.  An easy way to keep this straight is to think of a jet pilot heading straight up as the plane heads toward warp speed, and weft rhymes with left.  Zoom in on one of the textile images at or and look for the warp and weft threads on a textile.  Describe what you found.

  2. Weaving design styles in Navajo textiles--looking at the pictures of textiles at the above two website links, find an example of each of the following styles, and describe/sketch them here.

  Geometric (especially produced during the Navajo Classic Period, 1750-1875, and in the Historic- Transitional Period, 1870-1935)

Outside border (Navajo Regional/ Rug Period, 1900-1935)

Pictorial (all periods, 1860s-present) (perhaps start with the Navajo Contemporary Period, 1960-)



  1. The Center of Southwest Studies has about 1,000 pottery vessels, some dating back to 600-800 A.D. (the Basketmaker III/ Pueblo I period).   So, how many years old are our oldest pieces of pottery?  

  2. Now, do a keyword search in OPAC to find a description of an artifact that dates from the Pueblo period.  To do this, go to and do a keyword search for  the phrase "Pueblo period" (using the quote marks so it searches for just that phrase-- it disregards the Roman numerals) as a keyword.  Make a note of the accession number of the artifact.

  3. Then, open one of Homer Root's beautiful ledger books online and use that accession number to find it described at a page you can reach through one of the following 5 links (note: he used a simpler system like 6519018 but we had to expand it when we hit Y2k, so we format the accession number as 1965:19018)--

Volume 1

Accession #s 1958:01001 through 1963:01021 

Volume 2

Accession #s 1963:07001 through 1964:17039 

Volume 3

Accession #s 1965:01001 through 1966:01013 

Volume 4*

Accession #s 1966:02001 through 1968:02007 

Volume 5**

Accession #s 1964:04001 through 1969:01003 

--see if you can find one of Mr. Root's oil drawings of a Basketmaker pottery item.  Describe it or draw it.  

  1. Go to and read Mr. Root's description of the challenges he faced in how to describe the Center of Southwest Studies' artifacts in a day before computers and the Web.  How well do you think he did his job?

  2. Compare the results of your search in OPAC with your search of the Homer Root ledgers.


Three important facts about making traditional Southwest pottery:

1.  No potter's wheel.  Pinching and coiling were two pot-making methods used by people of our area.  Find two pots on the Center's images website of drawings by Homer Root -- one pot made by pinching, the other by coiling, and sketch or describe them.   (Hint:  try

2.  No glaze.  (According to the Center's Curator Emeritus Ellen Cargile, who wrote Understanding and Executing Arts of the Southwest, 1976, which is the source of much information in this guide) "A glaze is a liquid suspension of finely ground minerals which is applied to a piece of pottery after it has been fired once." (p. 17)  Can you find this glassy surface coating on any pottery drawn in Homer Root's ledgers?  Describe what it looks like, or use a pencil to sketch it.  What does the glazing tell you about that pottery?

3.  Fired in an outdoor consumable kiln, using wood as fuel at first, then manure.  What would be the advantages of this system?  What would be the drawbacks as compared with using a modern kiln furnace?


Why did the traditional Southwest woman make pots and baskets?   Select what you think is the correct answer, and explain your choice:

  1. As a tool for her own personal use.

  2. To sell.

  3. To display one day in a museum such as ours.



Access case study:  Original vs. Microfilm

  1. Read something of interest to you in 1) a large historic newspaper and 2) a roll of microfilm.  {Ask for these at the reference desk in the Southwest Research Library when you visit us--just to the right down the grand hallway in the new Center of Southwest Studies building.} Make a note of your findings.

  2. We have 5,000 rolls of microfilm; most of these fit into the five cabinets just next to the microfilm viewing room.  In this day of automation and digital display, what are the remaining advantages of storing records on microfilm?

  3. What are the disadvantages of microfilm?  What did you prefer about using the original rather than the microfilm?


Preservation: The Reasons

One of the many collections of photos at the Center of Southwest Studies is the Ansel Hall collection.  Story has it that he gave the famous photographer Ansel Adams his first camera -- and introduced Mr. Adams to the woman Mr. Adams married!  We've put on the Web Mr. Adams' thousands of photos from the expedition he and a number of other young men took to the Rainbow Bridge-Monument Valley area in 1933-1934-- before Lake Powell was created.  These photos show us a white man's early view of indigenous Native American life in the Four Corners region.  The photos show the young white men who went on this expedition (funded by the Ford Motor Company), and they also show Native Americans in pre-Western settings.  Take a look in one of his photo albums at 

Vol. 1

Vol. 6

How do you think providing digital access to these albums will help us to preserve them better?

Vol. 2

Vol. 7

Vol. 3

Vol. 8

Vol. 4

Vol. 9

Vol. 12

Because we want to preserve these historic records for as long as possible, we have a few rules in the Southwest Research Library.   Can you think of the reason for the following rules?   Write it down.

1.  Use pencil, not pen.

2.  No food or drink in this room.

3.  The items (except for some of the books, ones that aren't rare) never leave this room--they must be used here.

A thought-provoking question to take with you:

Can we preserve something to last forever?            Why, or why not?

What do you think this means about the work we do?


We invite your comments and we welcome your suggestions regarding this guide and about the Center of Southwest Studies in general.  Thank you!

 Hours for visiting the Center of Southwest Studies

A Call for Donations

Most of the items you see described were donated to the Center by individuals.  Qualifying donations made to the Center through the Fort Lewis College Foundation are tax deductible.

Behind the Scenes

Issue Number 2,  revised January 4, 2002

The Center of Southwest Studies is a division of Fort Lewis College charged with gathering, preserving, and making available for use historical and ethnographic materials pertaining to the College, the Southwest, and Native Americans of the Southwest.


Staff contacts

For further information regarding image access at the Center, contact:

Todd Ellison, Certified Archivist
Center of Southwest Studies
Fort Lewis College
1000 Rim Dr
Durango CO   81301-3999

Want to do research at the Center of Southwest Studies?  This table provides links to relevant pages:

How to access the Special Collections

Overview of the Special Collections;
collection inventories

Tips for doing long-distance reference at the Center of Southwest Studies

Copyright statement

E-mail Reference Request Form

The collections are located at the Center of Southwest Studies on the campus of Fort Lewis College.  Interested researchers should phone the archivist at 970/247-7126 or send electronic mail to the archivist at: .   Click here to use our E-mail Reference Request Form.  The Center does not have a budget for outgoing long-distance phone calls to answer reference requests, so please provide an email address if you wish to receive a response from the Center.

Digital images home

Guide to doing research at the Center of Southwest Studies

Center of Southwest Studies home

Page revised: June 11, 2003