Merritt wins fellowship to document mercury and silver mining history in Spain and Mexico
Karen Merritt, public health educator, street photographer and SEA Semester alumna (W-98), has been selected to receive this year’s Armin E. Elsaesser Fellowship award. Karen plans to use the award to investigate and document the “invisible history” of 16th and 17th century mercury and silver mining in Spain and Mexico, which she describes as one of the “longest continuous maritime transport endeavors in history.”
Examining the cultural history and environmental legacy of mercury and silver mining and transportation during Spain’s “Silver Age,” the project represents a convergence of Karen’s interests: health, science, engineering and photography.
Karen will travel to a former mine in Almadén, Spain where an estimated 6,500 metric tons of mercury were extracted and brought to Mexico for use in silver mining between approximately 1550 and 1700. She will also explore the site of silver mines in Zacatecas, Mexico. Karen is interested in the long-term environmental and societal consequences of the Spanish silver era and, through photos and text, will research and document conditions in Almadén and Zacatecas through the lens of the mining history of those locations.