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How to Use Archives in Your Instruction

Introduction / Space, Hours & Contact /  Planning  / Archives Orientations / Museum

Teaching with Primary Sources: We Can Help!

University Archives and Special Collections offers rich primary source material that takes students beyond the textbook. Although our focus is on Norwich history, we also provide students an opportunity to explore a variety of other subject areas, depending on their interest or assignment.

Our collections are here to be used and archives staff encourages instructors to incorporate archival materials into their courses. Students are always welcome in the archives and are treated as serious researchers whose time and work is valuable. Working in the archives offers students the increasingly rare opportunity to connect physically with original records. We believe this physical engagement is an important and exciting aspect of the experience of working with primary sources.

If you would like to use archival materials to support your assignments, it is necessary to contact us and plan ahead. Please read below for additional information.

Space, Hours & Contact

Both space for researchers and public service hours can sometimes be limited in the archives. It is very important to plan ahead for archival assignments.

These limitations mean it is essential to contact us as far in advance of assignments as possible. When we are aware of your intention to use the archives, we can avoid conflicts with other classes and better ensure a positive educational experience for all students using the archives.

You can contact us using by email or phone at 485-2947 at archives@norwich.edu.

Planning

Most classes using the archives plan an assignment or exercise supported by our collections. Assignments need to be designed in such a way that the collection(s) can support what you are asking of them. Otherwise, students will have a frustrating experience trying to elicit information that simply cannot be found here. It is essential that instructors examine the collections they are asking their students to use before finalizing an assignment. If you need help with ideas for assignments, you can search and browse this website for guides to our collections. It may also be helpful to look at previous assignments classes have successfully completed using archival collections. We are always happy to meet with you to discuss your ideas and goals for your students.

Please be aware that even if a collection sounds perfect online, the obligation to verify its usefulness resides with the instructor.

A copy of the course syllabus or assignment guidelines is useful to us in anticipating the heavier use that always ensues as deadlines near. These documents also help to acquaint us with what you hope to have your students learn from their archives work.

Archives Orientations and Services

Introduction to Norwich University Archives and Special Collections (Orientation Class)

We understand that archives can be an intimidating place for students and other first-time researchers. Although we encourage students to use the archives, we are also responsible for the safety and security of these rare or unique resources. Most of our collections can be handled under supervision; however, respect for fragile or unique materials and for their value as intellectual property is an essential part of archives education. In order to optimize the student’s experience, we encourage instructors to contact us about providing a basic archival orientation class. In this brief interactive session we look at examples of the kinds of materials that can be found in an archive while discussing what kinds of questions can be asked of and answered by primary sources. This class is taught in the Garrison Reading Room, which can only accommodate a dozen students at a time. For larger classes, it may be necessary to divide the students into smaller groups.

How to Use Archives Class

This second, more in-depth class is recommended for courses with semester-long research projects or assignments requiring students to use archival collections. This class is designed to build on the orientation class (above) and we recommend both classes for any course in which the students have had no previous exposure to historical collections. The goal is to teach students how to effectively perform research using archival resources. Specifically, students will learn:

  • The definition of an archive and how it differs from a library
  • How archives are collected and organized
  • How to access and use a variety of primary sources
  • How to incorporate primary sources into their research
  • Effective use of archives access tools to find relevant sources
  • How to critically assess and select relevant sources
  • Our rules and procedures

Individual Work with Students

In addition to classroom instruction, professional archives staff is available to work individually with students in the archives every weekday afternoon. See the left side of this page for current hours. Appointments are not necessary.

While we do provide one-on-one assistance to researchers, our staff is limited. Therefore, if you do not wish to take advantage of instruction offered by archives staff, you will be expected to acquaint students with reading room rules, hours of availability and access protocols. Prepare your students!

Do Your Own Presentation

If you prefer to do your own presentation using our collections, we are happy to assist you in your search for appropriate materials.

Using the Collections of the Sullivan Museum and History Center

Instructors who wish to use the collections of the Sullivan Museum and History Center must contact the museum staff for direction and assistance. The archives is a unit of the library, not the museum.

At Norwich, archival collections are primarily paper-based while the collections of the museum are primarily three-dimensional (objects).  The staffs of the archives and museum are happy to work together to make course goals possible and to ensure the student’s research experience is successful and satisfying.

Instructors should contact both the museum and archives at least one month in advance to discuss the nature of the proposed assignment, the collection(s) the students will be using and the number of students in the course.

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