As a Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Scholarship, my work on several projects at Southwestern University, including the Latina History Project and the Digital Texas Heritage Resource Center, is a culmination of my long-standing interest in archives and higher education.
I completed my PhD in English at the University of Texas at Austin in August 2013, after which I taught World Literature classes at UT and co-Chaired the Rapoport Center Human Rights and Archives Working Group. Over the course of writing my dissertation on fiction of the British Empire, I continually looked to archives for the incomparable sense of context they offer. Archival materials including the Anti-Slavery Reporter and Aborigines’ Friend, published out of London from 1840 to 1931, Leonard Woolf’s unpublished correspondence during the mid-nineteen-teens with E.W. Perera, Sri Lankan lawyer and activist, and various typed and handwritten drafts of Coolie (1936), published by Anglophone Indian writer Mulk Raj Anand, all provided valuable insights into how novelists like E.M. Forster, Leonard Woolf, and Winifred Holtby oriented themselves to literary and political collaborators in areas of India, Sri Lanka, and South Africa.
The more I used archives as a student, the more interested I became in using archives as a teacher. During a Graduate Assistantship at the UT Bridging Disciplines Programs, I learned about the growing trend toward inquiry-based learning in higher education. Recognizing the utility of archival research tasks for facilitating undergraduate research skills such as thinking critically, identifying and summarizing main ideas, recognizing the contingency of knowledge, delineating fields of inquiry, and building research questions, I initiated a project to expand support for undergraduate archival research at UT’s many glorious archival institutions. I created a series of resources for both students and educators on archives and interdisciplinary education, and developed an interactive Archival Research Workshop, which I have presented to undergraduate classes in English, History, and Government.
Spring 2014 was an especially fun semester in terms of archives and education. I integrated a substantial archive component in the two world literature surveys I taught. And as Archives and Education point-person for the Human Rights and Archives Working Group, I collaborated with Rebecca Lorins of the Texas After Violence Project (TAVP) to offer a team of UT undergraduate interns a meaningful opportunity to learn about digital archives by building them. The students processed interviews with people who have been affected by the death penalty in Texas, and archived them at the UT Libraries Human Rights Documentation Initiative (HRDI). This successful community engagement project provided a rich internship experience for the students while substantively advancing the mission of the TAVP.
Spring 2015 promises excitement as well as I continue work with the Latina History Project and the Digital Texas Heritage Resource Center. I will also embark on teaching a new course: “English 10-714: Freedom and Imprisonment in the American Literary Tradition: A Multidisciplinary Approach.” As part of their work for the course, students will engage with digital oral history collections including the Texas After Violence Project (TAVP), the StoryCorps Slavery By Another Name Oral History Project, and the Rule of Law Oral History Project. They will complete transcription, auditing, video-editing, and content-building tasks in collaboration with the Texas After Violence Project and the American Prison Writing Archive (APWA). Building, analyzing, and enhancing access to digital oral history collections will offer students unique community engagement opportunities in our wired classroom.
I established this blog to document and reflect upon projects that connect undergraduates with archives. I’m very excited about the capacity of archives—both digital and material—to enhance higher education. In the process of relating some of my adventures in archives and education, I hope to gain insights that will improve my own teaching and contribute to the broadening body of theory out there on the roles archives can play in higher education. Are you interested in archives and education? Let’s talk! E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow me on Twitter @archiveseducate, or contact me here: