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History Graduate Students Examine the Past Through Chemistry

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Where do history and chemistry meet? In a lab, most likely.

That’s what happened when a class of graduate students from the TCU history department took a hands-on approach to studying ancient ink.

In order to fully understand the methods and processes used to create the historical documents they study, Professor Hildago decided to give his students a chance to re-create ancient ink from scratch. To make it all possible, he partnered with the TCU chemistry and biochemistry department. Together, they examined the chemical compounds used to make iron gall ink.

Iron gall ink is a dark purple substance made entirely from products found in nature. In fact, it’s been used for centuries and was the same ink used to write the United States Constitution.

By studying the ink, students were able to gain insight into how people throughout history used their natural environments to create things they needed to advance their societies.

Second-year MA/ Ph.D. student Sarah Miller commented that interdisciplinary collaborations offer a unique way of learning, “It’s interesting to approach history in a different manner and get out of the normal discussion-based setting, and have a hands-on lesson”.

TCU strives to give students the opportunity to expand their perspectives through an interdisciplinary approach to learning. Whether it’s involvement in community projects¬†or creating ink in a chemistry lab, there’s always a chance to step outside the classroom and explore real-world applications of knowledge.

To learn more about graduate programs in history at TCU, visit our graduate programs page.