Undergraduates in the Archives – Taraba 5
5How do you integrate archival work, logistically and practically, into your curriculum?
Head of Special Collections and University Archivist – Wesleyan University
¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 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. I wrote detailed letters to each faculty member whose course seemed to connect well to our holdings. Although I used the same basic form for each letter, I tailored each one with a specific list of items I would show to the class if they would come in for a visit. (At the time, a letter still had more impact than an email message.) In the first year alone, this effort resulted in twenty-four class sessions for nineteen different courses and a total of 276 students. As the program has grown, certain trends have emerged. Perhaps not surprisingly, the largest number of requests for class sessions comes from the American Studies, English, and History departments. Faculty in African American Studies; Astronomy; Classical Studies; Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; Music; Romance Languages and Literatures; Science in Society; and Studio Art are regular participants as well. We have also hosted classes in atomic theory, computer science, dance, German, government, and sociology. By now, I have worked with upwards of one hundred different faculty members (including visitors and non-tenure-track faculty) to bring classes to SC&A. This often includes helping them to design assignments that reinforce or build on the visit to SC&A, while enhancing the pedagogical goals of the course and promoting the use of our collections. At this point, the program needs very little advertising to sustain itself, although I do still send reminders to some faculty to schedule a class visit, and I encourage new faculty to consider the possibility when our holdings are a good match for their courses.
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