Three NMSU Library interns spent the summer diving into local papers

By Tiffany Acosta

As a child the anticipation of Christmas morning can be difficult to recreate, but for three NMSU students that feeling returned in summer 2019. 

Through the J. Paul Taylor and Mary Daniels Taylor internship program at the NMSU Library, Luke Devine ’18, Melissa Perez and Clara Roberts ’18 spent two months combing through boxes, not knowing what historic treasures could be discovered. A $7,500 gift from the Friends of the Taylor Family Monument funded the trio’s work in the NMSU Library Archives and Special Collections to process the Taylor ’42 ’54 ’63 ’85 papers. 

The Taylor papers are a unique part of the library’s special collections, providing artifacts that help illuminate the history of the Mesilla Valley. Processing a collection can be rigorous work, which happens in phases including appraisal and accessioning, arrangement, description and re-housing. 

“The three interns we had this summer made a huge contribution toward getting Mr. Taylor’s papers ready for use by researchers,” says Dennis Daily, associate professor and University Library, Archives and Special Collections department head. “They created box-level inventories for the bulk of the collection, which we will use as we move forward with arranging the materials and preparing them for open access.”

The majority of the work completed by Roberts and Devine, public history graduate students, and Perez, studio art and anthropology senior, was inventorying the contents of the boxes to help in the intellectual arrangement of the materials. 

“It’s little fun things you find that makes it fun when you are going through hours of legislative paperwork,” says Roberts. 

“I wasn’t expecting a lot of variety in the content of the collection,” Perez says. “When you open a box, you don’t really know what to expect, until you open it. For me that’s great because I would get so excited after getting so many papers. I would get excited to find a cassette or a VHS tape or even a pencil sharpener.”

Despite the challenges of sorting through 200 boxes of materials, all three interns agreed having the opportunity to meet Taylor and learn about his life was the highlight of the program. 

“The internship was amazing,” says Devine. “I really enjoyed the hands-on aspect of the internship. Working with J. Paul Taylor and visiting with him, he’s so knowledgeable about Mesilla. It’s really amazing.”

Taylor, who is now 99 years old, worked for more than 30 years as a teacher, principal and associate superintendent in the Las Cruces Public School system. He also served for 18 years as a representative in the New Mexico legislature following his retirement from education.  

He and his wife Mary Daniels Taylor, who died in 2007, have made more than 85 donations of papers, research materials, manuscripts, photographs and audio recordings since 1978. 

“Our parents’ wishes are to provide the public with the opportunity to enhance its understanding of Mesilla Valley’s history, and how it has been instrumental in shaping the state of New Mexico and the Borderlands,” says Mike Taylor, one of the seven Taylor children. “In particular, the numerous records dealing with Mesilla and its residents from establishment in the late 1840s up through the recent past will greatly help in demonstrating the great contributions Mesilleros have made to the region.”

Daily says the goal is to have the descriptive guide to the collection available online and to provide access to the materials in the reading room of the Branson Library by the end of 2019.

Clara Roberts (left standing), Melissa Perez and Luke Devine (left seated) agreed that during their internship meeting J. Paul Taylor during their internship with the NMSU Library was the highlight of their experience.

Clara Roberts (from left), Melissa Perez and Luke Devine spent summer 2019 sorting through 200 boxes of materials in the J. Paul Taylor papers.