Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) Unconference

This morning I kicked off my week at SAA with the TPS Unconference. The first morning workshop: “Trigger Warnings” addressed key issues related to presenting mature content to archival and museum users. Most interesting to me was the presentation about the AIDS America traveling exhibit that was displayed at Kennesaw State University. Katy Malone discussed the self- care aspects of curating and performing outreach for such an emotional and personal topic. Jill Anderson shared her experiences sharing primary sources in a course that addressed issues including date rape and abortion. 

During the discussion, important questions were raised including :

How can we best reach our users when confronting controversal or emotional content?

When we use the term trigger warning, or issue a trigger warning, are we warning against the maturity of the content, or making a judgement about the lifestyle choices conveyed through that content? 

How do we curate exhibitions, develop classroom instruction sessions, etc. that leads to meaningful analysis of content, and not a judgment about the content?

Ad the curator of the AIDS Education Collection and the AIDS Education Posters Collection I frequently present these materials to different audiences in different contexts as part of my work at the University of Rochester. Most recently, I’ve worked with the Modern Languages and Cultures librarian to develop a translation project with faculty and students in Spanish, French, German, and Japanese classes to translate and transcribe posters and materials in the collection to make the materials more widely discoverable to an international research community. As we continue the project this fall, I will be interested to see how the issues raised during this workshop apply to the translationa project and our work with these important collections.

The second morning workshop shared primary resource sets produced by Digital Public Library of America. Key take-aways from their collaborative project working with educators have been:

1. Primary resources are valuable for education, and educational engagement is valuable for archives.

2. It’s best to match the strength of your collections with courses and topics taught.

3. The best projects are those that are co-designed in collaborations with educators.

To this I would add, that the best lesson plans and sessions are those in which each collaborative partner, be it a faculty member or librarian, or archivist consider themselves to be an equal partner in the design process. Each has value to add. 

4. Primary sources reach there full collections when paired with meaningful inquiry, with questions and activites that engage in critical thinking skills. 

5. Primary sources are meaningful with a small amount of items presented, rather than showcasing all possible items.

In my experience,in addition to traditional instruction, this take-away also applies to exhibit work, digital projects, and other outreach activities. 

6. Collect feedback, revise, and try again! 

Never give up!

What have your experiences been?

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