Students Create Digital Online Exhibits of Donnelly Library Archives

1950s King Lear theater image

Marie Gallegos plays the role of Goneril in a 1950 Highlands University Koshare Players production of King Lear. The photo is part of the new Donnelly Library digital online special collections exhibits.

Las Vegas, N.M. – History of the Las Vegas community and Highlands University come to life, thanks to a digital online special collections exhibits project the university’s media arts and technology students created for Donnelly Library.

Graduate media arts students in Lucia Duncan’s spring semester 2018 class, Synthesis of Media Arts and Computer Science, created online web content like historical videos and pictorial slideshows as part of a service learning project for the university’s Donnelly Library.

“The librarians at Donnelly have always wanted to enhance our library webpage with digital exhibits that highlight our less visible and rare material in a visually exciting way,” said Leslie Broughton, a Donnelly librarian who is the head of collections and instruction. “Words alone don’t do justice to the treasure trove of historical material in Donnelly’s  archives and special collections. This project is especially timely given Highlands’ 125-year anniversary.”

To access the new digital exhibits at Donnelly, go to the library’s main webpage at and click on the link at the top of the page that says online special collections exhibits.

“My students were very impressed with the wealth of information in the university’s archives and the valuable original documents,” Duncan said. “They found it rewarding to make these resources more accessible to the public with the hope that the library can leverage the project to seek more funding for preservation.”

Broughton said the media arts students explored the material at the library before choosing the subjects that interested them.

“One key to the excellent projects the students developed comes from their individual choices and enthusiasm for the subject matter, which is conveyed in their creative, imaginative and professional work,” said Broughton, who worked with the students throughout the project and edited their exhibit text.

Broughton said it’s exciting how the students’ captivating and engaging work gives the public a glimpse into the local history that is preserved in the Donnelly archives.

“For example, we now have on our Donnelly website a video about historic Fort Union by Jacob Erickson, a photographic slideshow about the history of the Highlands Theater Department by Jess Evans, a video by Erick Rangel about the history of Highlands’ ill-fated Springer Hall that burned down twice, and a photographic slideshow highlighting Las Vegas history by Elaine Querry,” Broughton said.

Jess Evans, a Las Vegas native and media arts graduate student, said it was fascinating to delve into the Highlands Theater Department archives in Donnelly Library to develop her slideshow project.

“I was surprised by how large and vibrant the Theater Department was in the 1940s and 1950s at Highlands, which seemed to be its golden era,” Evans said. “The photos in particular are remarkable because the majority are professional-quality production photos rather than snapshots. This project really connected me to Highlands in a meaningful way and it was rewarding to collaborate with the library staff.”

Miriam Langer, department chair for the Media Arts and Technology Department, said the idea for the Donnelly project came from a Mellon Foundation grant the department received in 2017 to use historic public domain photographs to encourage community conversation.

“This Donnelly project is the latest example of media arts’ ongoing mission to use technology in creative ways to preserve the rich heritage of our region,” Langer said.

Broughton said Donnelly Library looks forward to more online exhibits that shed light on local history.

“We know any future exhibits would also demonstrate the talent of our media arts students and bring into focus the wealth of history hidden in the library collections,” Broughton said. “We see this as the promising start of something bigger.”