Fortune and Glory, Kid

I always seem to forget that I taught English to Middle Schoolers for a year, and yes, it was as just as weird as you would assume.

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What its honestly like teaching hormonal preteens

Working in a library I thought my teaching days were over, but I suppose you never really stop teaching. As a library on an academic campus Special Collections holds classes throughout the year to a range of disciplines using resources from the archive. The goal of these classes is not only to supplement what they are learning with the physical remnants of history, but to teach them about archives and how they can be utilized for both academic and personal uses. In preparation for next semester’s classes I have been working on creating instructional kits that we can pull and utilize for different classes so that we are always ready with lesson plans and objectives.

The most interesting thing I noticed while going through the case studies is that they all have one common theme- students no longer know how to use primary sources. A majority of the students who filled out a survey after the class were still confused about the archive and how to use it, buy why? And how do we change it?

From a teaching perspective I have a lot of theories, but most importantly I think we need to change when we teach these students about archives and primary sources as opposed to how. While Archivists and Librarians now are focused on finding college classrooms to bring in I think we should also be looking beyond our own campuses and start creating educational relationships with local Middle and High Schools. Let me throw some teacher facts at you.

  1. Students love field trips
  2. They actually listen to guest speakers better then they do their teachers
  3. They will go to libraries if you make it part of an assignment (and threaten their grade a little)
  4. Computer days are their favorite, get them in a lab and teach them how to explore databases that don’t include Google, then let them go crazy
  5. Kids these days can find anything on the internet thanks to social media, they can absolutely be taught to use these skills in the same way for research
  6. They would much prefer teaching themselves through physical history then sitting through another PowerPoint

So where do we start? Teach Middle School students about primary vs. secondary sources with a strong focus on primary. Show them how to use different databases and have them practice constantly to find new sources through different outlets. Take them on field trips to museums and treat the pieces as primary sources, teach them to talk about and describe things based on their historical context. As they go into High School keep widening the scope. Bring them to archival repositories and have them handle the material, keep practicing these skills with more hands on and unguided work.

What are the perks? Students are more inclined to do their own research and make their own judgments instead of relying solely on secondary sources. They can analyze and describe history from firsthand accounts and are more comfortable using an archive for any kind of research they will do moving forward. Finally, when they get to college and are back in an archives instruction class you can spend more time analyzing and discussing the material instead of teaching them how to find it.Image result for indiana jones x marks the spot

Of course, kids will always be kids, but encouraging them to be active in their own education and giving them these skills is incomparable. Encourage them to get out there, you never know what they might find.



Boxes in Boxes in Boxes

As the weeks have progressed here at Special Collections, so have I. I am still processing the John Weston Papers. I am at the point where I am arranging and foldering all of the materials in his collection, which can be surprisingly frustrating. For example, while arranging his manuscripts in alphabetical order I found another “A” titled manuscript that I had to shift all of my folders for. Luckily, I have also started on other projects to keep me sane.

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Me trying to figure out if I can fit one more folder into the box.

I have been working with our Collections Management Archivist to create a new system for our acquisitions. Basically we want a new system to help make processing our new collections easier and quicker to ensure access is readily available. This week, in implementing this new process I discovered a “matryoshka” collection, or boxes inside of boxes inside of boxes, the insanity!


“big box, small box, flat box, shoe box” — Dr. Seuss, probably

Surveying should be a fairly quick process, maybe 5-10 minutes a box, mostly depending on the state the collection came in. When materials are in envelopes or smaller boxes, it makes this process harder.  Once you get past that though, surveying shouldn’t be too stressful, you are more or less just opening boxes and looking at stuff. When surveying you want to ask yourself, what kind of shape are the boxes/materials in? Are there any immediate preservation concerns? Mold? Insects? AV or born digital materials? Is there an order? And of course you’ll want to take a quick note of what kind of materials are in the box. For students this can be confusing, how detailed should one be? This step is really just getting a feel for what you have and what you might be able to do with it, so don’t go too crazy and take note of every item in there, just get to know your collection.

I will have finished processing my Weston collection before my next post. Until then enjoy this GIF of me dealing with the more complicated boxes that I’ve saved until the end, wish me luck. Image result for indiana jones gifs

Indiana in the Archive

After a year of working at Special Collections as a Student Page I am excited to say that I, Kimberly Ramsey, am moving up in the archival world and will be finishing my last year in the Masters in Library and Information Science program as a Special Collections Graduate Assistant.

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*crowd cheers*

Working in an archive isn’t necessarily what I thought I would be doing. The Anthropology department never encouraged students to look into this field and I was so focused on being Indiana Jones that what happened to these materials after they had been collected didn’t even cross my mind, how young and naive I was. Luckily for me I’ve found my way here, call me Indy of the Archive if you’d like.

“That belongs in an archive” – Me

Now that you know a little about me, let me introduce you to my new friend, John Weston. Weston was a writer of a plethora of novels, short stories, poems, articles, plays and screenplays. Though a popular author, Weston also spent time working as a professor at different academic institutions, including the University of Arizona. There are 15 boxes of materials, and frankly they are pretty well organized, maybe he was an archivist too.


One of Weston’s very full, yet very organized, boxes.

His materials contain correspondence, play  material, photographs, and plenty of manuscripts. Weston kept all of his drafts which, along with the correspondence, really create a story of his time as a writer and how hard he worked and struggled to create the legacy he did.

15 boxes is a lot, and arranging them will definitely take longer then I had imagined it would, but I am none the less excited to keep working through his stuff while sharing it with you.

Catch me in the basement,