Skip to main content

Special Collections & Archives Guide

Learn how to access, use and experiment with primary resources in the learning laboratory!

Class Visits and Teaching with Archvies

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 tailored small-group activities to facilitate active learning
  4. Model document analysis through directed, specific prompts

Scheduling a Class Visit
We welcome opportunities to teach and co-teach classes on primary-source and original research as well as to suggest and arrange relevant materials for your students to work with. We are also happy to work with you on class projects incorporating original research with our primary sources.

Class Visits and Research Assignments

Examples of Class Visits and Active Learning Exercises 
  1. Document Analysis Activity for a Single 1.5 hour Class Visit  

    • 15 Minutes: Introduction to what archive is, how it operates, and how researchers interact with the material. Brief introduction to document analysis and selected collection.

    • 30 Minutes: Document stations exercise- split the class into five groups and give each group their selected documents. Students analyze the documents and discuss them in their group. Worksheets are provided to facilitate discussion. Each group prepares a brief summary of their findings to share with the rest of the class during the wrap up. 

    • 30 Minutes: Wrap up- gather students back together and give each group 3 minutes to report back on their findings. The groups report in order of the dates of their documents to show causality and establish a chronological narrative. Instructor highlights the takeaways and segue to the next group. After the reports, spend 10 minutes in class discussions

  2. Civil Rights in Norfolk: A Scaffolded Approach 
    • ​​Students visit the archives three times to examine documents related to desegregation of schools and the Civil Rights movement in Norfolk as part of a scaffolded research project.
    • Students begin by analyzing a single primary source document; by their third visit to the archives, they examine an entire folder from the collection. Students begin to develop analytical questions during their first visit to the archives and to refine them in subsequent visits. Their work culminates in an end-of-term research paper.
       
  3.  Telling Norfolk Stories: Public Speaking Exercise in the Archives 
    • ​Students craft and deliver impromptu group speeches about primary sources examined in the archives.
    • The model can be used with any topic or set of primary sources; likewise, the public speaking component can be incorporated into non-communications courses
      • 10 Minutes: Standard archival introduction 
      • 20 minutes: Introduction to the selected primary sources
      • 30-60 minutes: Small Group Work
      • 10 minutes: Wrap up, prepare speeches
      • 20 minutes: Deliver speeches
      • 5 minutes: Wrap up, instructor feedback
         
  4. Bioethics and the Archives 
    • Students use the Florence Crittenton Home Collection to investigate issues related to the history of reproductive rights, attitudes, and ethics in Norfolk Virginia.
      • 10 minutes: Standard introduction
      • 15 minutes: Discussion about ethical principles and laws regarding medical records in the collection, including requests from children and mothers affiliated with the Crittendon Home.
      • 5 minutes: Students view digital footage from local news station WTAR about the Crittenton Home
      • 30 minutes: Document station exercise-split the class into five groups and give each group their selected documents. Students analyze the documents and discuss them in their group. Worksheets are provided to facilitate discussion. Each group prepares a brief summary of their findings to share with the rest of the class during the wrap up. 
      • 30 Minutes: Wrap up- gather students back together and give each group 3 minutes to report back on their findings. The groups report in order of the dates of their documents to show causality and establish a chronological narrative. Instructor highlights the takeaways and segue to the next group. After the reports, spend 10 minutes in class discussions. 
    • Final assignment could include a research paper, creative writing exercise, documentary, etc.

 

In addition to in-class use of special collections, the department's reading rooms also serve as research labs as students complete course assignments by engaging with primary recourses.

Examples of Course Assignments

1. Students visit the archives where they are introduced to a wide variety of primary sources related to their topic. Each student selects a source which will form the basis of a final research project. Over the course of several weeks, students analyze their chosen primary source and conduct additional secondary source research which they synthesize in a final paper.

2. Students use maps, city directories, newspaper archives as well as university and public library archives to construct histories of Norfolk neighborhoods, cultural movements, or other communities. The information and photographs are used to produce websites so that the public could have access to the information.

3. Students use the university archives to investigate how and why certain communities, student groups, educational practices, or geographic locations at ODU have changed. Students create a digital and/or physical exhibition and present their findings.

4. Students use rare books, archives materials, and digital film collections to study disease and other public health topics in Hampton Roads. Popular topics include yellow-fever, dentistry, and women's reproductive issues. Students create a short documentary or podcast episode about their topic.