Archives Praxis: Supporting Independent Study and Experiential Learning in Special Collections

Saturday, January 9, 2016: 3:30 PM
Regency Ballroom VI (Hyatt Regency Atlanta)
Monica L. Mercado, Bryn Mawr College
How might faculty and archivists encourage students to undertake a sustained engagement with local archives and special collections, beyond the one-time class visit? This paper will detail three recent independent study projects centered on the Bryn Mawr College Archives – "Black at Bryn Mawr," "Queering the Archives," and "Institutional Memory Toolkit" – designed by students and made possible by the College's Praxis Program, which gives undergraduates the ability to conduct semester-long fieldwork for credit at a wide variety of research sites. Reflecting student interest in unpacking the historical context for a number of current campus conversations, these projects and their public-facing products have had the added benefit of drawing the attention of the larger campus community to the College Archives and its rich but understudied women’s history collections. Through discussion of these three case studies, the paper will consider the role of History faculty, archivists, and librarians as supervisors and collaborators with undergraduate students; the possibilities these projects offer for developing contemporary collecting efforts and digital tools; and the opportunities and constraints of teaching with archives outside of the traditional classroom setting. As experiential learning offerings grow in popularity on our campuses, this paper argues that college and university archives can support undergraduate learning goals in new ways with benefits for multiple constituencies.
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