Case 5: Exploring Ephemerality, Biases, and Silences in Archives

by Erin Dix

Seeking to deepen students’ primary source literacy skills beyond what can be gained in one-shot instruction sessions, this case study explores the course “Archival Discovery,” taught by University Archivist at Lawrence University in 2017, with particular emphasis on the themes of ephemerality, biases, and silences in the archives. The class included discussions of assigned readings, and hands-on exercises with materials from the Archives’ collections. The case study calls particular attention to two themed days during the course, “What do archivists do?” and “Archival silences.” Using qualitative assessments, including student feedback during discussions, and daily written reflections, the University Archivist was able to gauge student learning. As a result of this course, the author notes the importance of teaching these primary source learning objectives, even tangentially, in other primary source instruction sessions.

Access: Exploring Ephemerality, Biases, and Silences in Archives