Interview with Isabela Morales, Part I

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By: Isabela Morales, PhD candidate at Princeton University


Isabela Morales

Hello! Thank you for agreeing to share with Cool@Hoole readers how your research experience in the Division of Special Collections at UA shaped your career.

First off, would you mind telling us a bit more about yourself?

Not at all—My name is Isabela Morales, and I’m currently a third-year PhD candidate in History at Princeton University.  My major fields of interest are the 19th century United States, African American history, and the American West.  I’m originally from Southern California, but I majored in history and American Studies at the University of Alabama and graduated in 2008.

What led you to do research in the Division of Special Collections?

When I came to UA I knew almost immediately that I wanted to study history.  I remember sitting in orientation paging through the course catalogue and realizing that all the classes I found most interesting were in the history and American studies departments—after that there was no question what my majors were going to be.  Then when I was a sophomore I took my first research seminar, which turned out to be one of my most formative and fortuitous college experiences.  Most of the previous papers I had written in high school and college up to that point had been based on secondary materials; this was the first time I had used primary sources to develop an historical argument, and I found the prospect of crafting an original narrative from these sources more exciting than any work I’d previously done.  I was hooked, bouncing in my chair at the microfilm reader whenever I found something particularly interesting.

The next year, I took another research seminar in the history department, this one taught by Professor Jenny Shaw.  The goal of the course was to produce a paper based on original research relating to the topic of American slavery.  In the first seminar, I’d based my project on microfilmed newspapers from InterLibrary Loan—this time, Professor Shaw encouraged the class to use the archives at Hoole. That was another new (and intimidating) experience, but it’s how I found the sources that provided the basis for my seminar paper, as well as the dissertation I’m working on now.

Come back on Wednesday to read more about Morales’ project!


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