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Out of Storage and into the Classroom: Enriching the Curriculum with a Campus Archive

by Samantha Sauer, Archivist/Curator/Assistant Professor of History at Illinois College, and Jenny Barker-Devine, Associate Professor of History at Illinois College on

Naomi Niemann (Class of 2019) shares her work digitizing and transcribing an unpublished manuscript by Edward Beecher, first president of Illinois College, June 2017. Photo: Samantha Sauer.

The Workshop
In June 2017, the Khalaf Al Habtoor Archives at Illinois College hosted faculty members for a hands-on workshop, Archives à la Carte. Funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities,the two-day workshop included individualized research appointments throughout the summer. The inaugural workshop was designed to engage participants with collections and enrich the curriculum. Participants in the workshop were a diverse mix of junior and senior faculty, representing a range of disciplines.

In an effort to provide a flexible learning environment (and avoid workshop fatigue), the workshop included two half-day sessions. The first day broadly focused on “Archives 101,” emphasizing best practices in collections care and handling, touring the campus archive and museum, and overviewing the institutional history of archives at Illinois College. Reviewing the institutional history was key to establishing a knowledge base about the collections and available resources.  Illinois College is the oldest degree-granting institution in the state, founded in 1829. In 2014, Illinois College dedicated its first archive, a state-of-the-art facility, thanks to an NEH Challenge Grant that was matched by individual donations and foundation funding. The grant also provided long-term support for campus and community scholarly research.

The second day of the workshop focused on research applications, emphasizing digital resources and accessibility.  With this information in hand, participants then scheduled research appointments throughout the summer with workshop leaders.

Participants apply olfactory senses to experience vinegar syndrome as part of the archives workshop, June 2017.  Photo: Jenny Barker-Devine.

Emerging Experts
Because Archives à la Carte emphasized curricular enhancement, workshop leaders included Illinois College students in order to demonstrate the transferable skills undergraduate students may gain in handling documents and adapting to new technology. Archive intern Naomi Niemann (Class of 2019) presented during the workshop, serving as an emerging campus expert. Niemann, a junior majoring in communication and rhetorical studies and minoring in history and German, shared her knowledge about digitizing and transcribing an unpublished manuscript.

Illinois College students also offered research support to workshop participants. Alexis Zazueta (Class of 2018) conducted student-faculty research throughout the summer, collaborating with workshop participant Dr. Diana Grullón García. Zazueta, a senior majoring in business administration with a concentration in sports management, conducted research with Dr. García.  By engaging students in the archives, faculty members present students with unique learning opportunities, equipping them with hands-on experiences and practical skills.

Alexis Zazueta (Class of 2018) and Dr. Diana Grullón García conduct research, June 2017. Photo: Samantha Sauer.

The Big Picture
Long considered a “hidden gem,” the Khalaf Al Habtoor Archives seeks to enhance campus awareness and accessibility of the archive. The archivist continually works and collaborates to encourage and manage the inclusion of collections to support the curriculum.

The Archives à la Carte workshop increased campus awareness of the archive through initial advertisement of the workshop, both in reaching out to connect with prospective faculty participants, as well as collaborating with campus departments to produce and distribute workshop information.  The workshop itself provided a strong point of contact, bringing together senior and junior faculty members for the half-day sessions. What helps set Archives à la Carte apart is its project-based nature. Faculty applied to participate with the understanding that they would craft course assignments using the archival collections. Throughout the summer’s research consultations, proposed projects evolved and new projects emerged as participants discovered new content, resources, and possibilities.

The workshop also focused on the themes of accessibility and preservation. Emphasizing digital applications in the workshop connected with other campus initiatives. For example, faculty were encouraged to utilize Shared Shelf, a digital asset management system made available to Illinois College through the Council of Independent Colleges’ Consortium for Digital Resources for Teaching and Research. The workshop also provided further opportunities to debut a new Public History concentration that features a Digital History course.

Campus awareness and accessibility work continues. In late September, faculty participants will present a summary of their research and projects at an on-campus symposium. The lightning round format will allow each presenter to highlight findings, while also allowing for questions and discussion from other members of the campus community.  Workshop leaders conducted a pre-workshop survey of participants and look forward to sending out a follow up survey following the symposium, which serves as the conclusion of the workshop. The 2017 Archives à la Carte workshop tested the waters and established a promising foundation for future faculty workshops, as well as continuing to engage the campus community with the archive and its collections.

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