by Marc Brodsky
This case study involves a collaboration that took place between Virginia Tech’s Special Collections and University Archives and a first-year experience (FYE) class in the History department. A transcription exercise was requested for this class of just over fifty students, along with a standard introduction to Special Collections. The resulting series of two, and then, three sessions provided archivists with the opportunity to examine their own expectations for such a large class of students inexperienced in working with primary sources. As the course instructor shifted her syllabus for the remainder of the semester to focus on multiple dimensions of the collection being transcribed, a need for flexibility on the part of all involved became both welcome and necessary. In the end, the archivists were reminded to never underestimate the power of primary sources, to always be aware of their duty to excite the imaginations of their students, and to recall the compelling nature of narrative as a tool of instruction.