Undergraduates in the Archives – Question 5
Kevin Gotkin, Benjamin Hebblethwaite, Timothy B. Powell, Suzy Taraba, Sarah Werner
5How do you integrate archival work, logistically and practically, into your curriculum?
As an undergraduate I felt like the archive primed me to search for pristine differences between the past and present. It was as if the past was a foreign country I was visiting while in the archive and that I had to translate into a more modern language. Yet the evidence I worked with was rarely so easily explained on the page.Read this Response
The Vodou Archive is being unveiled currently (spring of 2012) in my course “Introduction to Haitian Vodou.” On a weekly basis, different parts of the archive will be highlighted and students will be expected to visit the digital library to read or view the assigned materials. In order to stress the importance of The Vodou Archive as a digital library, I will also require that students write essays about some of its components.Read this Response
I have only recently begun experimenting with using archival materials in the classroom, so I am still learning how to achieve the best results. Initially, I began by limiting student involvement to two or three weeks of the semester. I found that, practically, the students did much better when they worked in groups, in part because of the potential for some students to be more engaged than others, and in part because the students enjoyed being part of a team.Read this Response
Archival work is my curriculum. Integrating it into the broader university curriculum has been a long-term project. The year I started at Wesleyan, I began an intensive, perhaps even aggressive, approach to bringing classes into Special Collections & Archives (SC&A). The first step was to find a close connection between our holdings and Wesleyan’s curriculum. To do this, I studied the course catalog carefully and matched holdings to what was being taught.Read this Response
In addition to what I have already addressed, I will just add that if you want to include archival work in your courses, you need to work closely with your librarians. Before you assume that students can have access to any rare materials, or that they can take notes on a rare book, or compare multiple manuscripts, check your special collections’ policies.Read this Response