Interpreting History: Students Explore the Archives


The idea for this digital exhibition came from Dr. Shannon Duffy's HIST 5361: Historiography & Historical Methods course in Spring 2020.  As described in the syllabus, this class was designed to help students transition from a passive role as an undergraduate history major to an active academic historian. 

One of the assignments was for students to work with archival materials to gain hands-on experience conducting research in an archives, using archival materials, and consulting with archivists and librarians. Students were assigned to work with one primary document or artifact, provide background information about the item, put the item in historical context, and present the information to the public as a way to highlight archival materials available in the University Archives at Texas State University. 

Spring 2020

Archivist Laura Kennedy reviewed a variety of historical materials and selected seven collections with suitable materials from which students could choose.  Laura, along with reference and outreach librarian, Margaret Vaverek, were prepared to meet with students during class time immediately following Spring Break.  One student was not able to meet that week, so he made an appointment to review the materials before Spring Break ... and thus was the only student who was able to physically walk into the archives to select materials in person.

Because concerns about COVID-19 resulted in extending Spring Break another week and transitioning classes to remote learning for the rest of the semester.  Laura and Margaret met with the students in April via Zoom, and the assignment continued with students using digital versions of the documents.

While it was disappointing for students to not experience the hands-on review and selection of an archival document or artifact, the result of the assignment was achieved.  Students researched the documents, put the content into historical context, and presented on their findings.  With their permission, we have posted their work in this exhibition. 

Primary source materials - we have them!

For faculty who wish to incorporate an introduction to hands-on archival research, the University Archives holds a variety of small collections, individual items, and historical photograhs that may pique the interest of students who haven't worked with archival materails before.  Many of these resources also exist digitally and can be used either in a hands-on setting or virtually.  In addition to using materials for research, we have offered hands-on opporunities for students to touch physcial documents to learn the difference between vellum and sheepskin.

Please contact us via Ask an Archivist or through your subject librarian and let us know how we can help.  We work closely with Margaret Vaverek - feel free to reach out to her with qustions or for assistance with finding approprioate resources specific course assignments.

Ultimately, we hope this exhibition will grow as future historians discover some of the gems in the Archives and encourage others to explore primary source materials.