Janet Bunde is passionate about teaching in the archives. As the university archivist at New York University, she regularly brings students into the repository for their first experience. A past president of the Archivists Roundtable of Metropolitan New York and a member of the Congressional Papers Roundtable, she helped organize a second “unconference” on teaching with primary sources in conjunction with the 2016 SAA Annual Meeting in Atlanta. Bunde recently spoke with SAA about collaborating with educators in the archives and her favorite collections with which to introduce students. SAA: How were you involved in the second Teaching with Primary Sources unconference? JB: I served on the planning committee. I was fortunate to work with smart, motivated archivists and librarians from across the country whose attention to detail and to the big picture helped make the day a success. I also facilitated one of the discussion sessions on how to get the most out of one-shot instructional sessions. SAA: What first drew you to the teaching and education side of archives? JB: My father is a retired college professor, and my sister and I grew up on a college campus. (I think it’s no accident that both of us wound up working in higher education!) Teaching archives learners of all ages quickly became one of my favorite parts of my job. Whether I’m giving a tour of the repository to an after-school program for middle school students, teaching freshmen about university history through yearbooks and newspapers, or showing graduate students how to navigate archival description, I love connecting people who have questions with collection materials that can help them answer or refine those questions, and I love seeing them make meaningful connections to the materials they encounter in the archives. SAA: Describe your working relationship with the faculty and instructors at NYU. How did you cultivate this? JB: Working at a large institution like NYU means that I can’t know or even meet every faculty member and teaching assistant at the university. I take every opportunity I can to contact faculty who might be interested in collections when new ones become available, but I also attend a lot of events outside the libraries, meeting faculty and staff at lectures and events to talk about how they might use archival collections in their classrooms. Designing exhibitions and working with communications departments in each school also helps raise awareness about the university archives across campus and with alumni. SAA: What do you think are the biggest barriers to getting students into the archives? JB: Teaching spaces that exist within archives and special collections are often too few, and sometimes too small, to accommodate entire classes of students and enough collection materials to support hands-on instruction. Using your reading room for class sessions often means closing it to other researchers, and instructors often don’t have time in the semester to allocate more than one session to research or instruction in the archives. SAA: Do you have any favorite collections or documents with which you introduce students to the archives? JB: Recently I’ve been using the contents of a time capsule to get students thinking about finding aids and the complex relationships of parts to wholes within archival collections. Originally buried in 1964, this time capsule was filled by students at NYU’s University Heights campus with documents, recordings, publications, photographs, and objects that reflected their college experiences. After walking through the parts of a finding aid with the class, and talking to them about how archivists approach archival description, I give small groups of students an unlabeled box of materials, telling them only that the materials came from the same collection. I ask them to think about 1) how the materials might be related to each other, and 2) how they might describe these materials if they were creating a finding aid. Each small group reports back to the class, and then we talk together about what the collection might be and what ties they see between the materials each group had. After I let them know the materials were buried in a time capsule, we have a broader discussion about what they would put in a time capsule if they were tasked with creating one, which leads to conversations about evolving technologies and behaviors related to recording and circulating information. SAA: What advice would you give to archivists wanting to collaborate with teachers and classrooms in the archives? JB: Communicate early and often with instructors about when they want to visit, what collections they might want to use, and what their pedagogical goals for the instructional session are. Good communication leads to fruitful collaboration. Knowing early in the semester that an instructor wants to visit helps you book rooms and ensure the relevant collection materials are onsite and available for access. If students are expected to consult collections throughout the semester for a term paper, you might want to suggest to the instructor that you hold individual reference interviews with each student before they begin their research. How can you use primary sources in the classroom? Check out Teaching with Primary Sources, edited by Christopher J. Prom and Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe and featuring modules by Tamar Chute, Doris Malkmus, Sammie Morris, Ellen D Swain, and Elizabeth Yakel. These modules provide theory, practical guidance, and example assignments to get you started. Get your copy at http://saa.archivists.org/store/teaching-with-primary-sources. $29.99 List | $24.99 SAA Member
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