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Teaching with Special Collections and University Archives

Teaching with Archives and Primary Sources

Why Teach with Special Collections & University Archives?

Studies have shown that bringing students to the archives has a positive effect on student engagement, performance, and, in some cases, student retention. Teaching with archives improves student engagement and performance through high-impact educational practices advocated by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). 

Our Teaching Philosophy

  1. Define specific learning objectives for the visit to the archives
  2. Thoughtfully select documents from the collection (the fewer the better)
  3. Design customized, small-group activities to facilitate active learning
  4. Model document analysis through directed, specific prompts

Additional Resources about Teaching with Archives

Learn more about our teaching philosophy, archival literacy guidelines, and the impact of engaging students with archives:

  • Teach with Stuff:  this site is intended to be a clearinghouse for info on opportunities like unconferences, workshops, Twitter chats, and meetings of library, archives, and museum professionals to learn more about teaching with collection materials.
  • TeachArchives.Org: Based on an award-winning project at Brooklyn Historical Society, shares our teaching philosophy and findings with a global audience of instructors, administrators, librarians, archivists, and museum educators. Use this site to teach students ranging from middle school to graduate school.
  • Guidelines for Primary Source Literacy: (PDF – Links to an external source and may not be accessible) These guidelines articulate the range of knowledge, skills, and abilities required to effectively use primary sources. While the primary audience for this document is librarians, archivists, teaching faculty, and others working with college and university students, the guidelines have been written to be sufficiently flexible for use in K-12 and in general public settings as well.

Class activity in special collections

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