An Authentic Archival Experience for the College Classroom in the Digital Age


One of the most treasured experiences of historians is archival research, and yet university professors frequently struggle with viable ways to include archival research in their lecture courses. Further, historians, who are generally focused on the content of documents, often fail to provide students with a sense of the process by which historical documents and artifacts are gathered, preserved, and made available. This essay describes a partnership among faculty at the University of Scranton, the Lackawanna Historical Society, Weinberg Memorial Library, Scranton Public Library, and Everhart Museum to create an archival-based digital project for a course on the Civil War and Reconstruction. The students from the course uncovered uncataloged Civil War–era documents and artifacts, preserved, digitized, and transcribed them, and organized them into an online collection. The project acquainted students with local, firsthand historical accounts; introduced then to the complexity of recreating history from archival sources; exposed them to careers in archives, museum studies, and librarianship; and forged a partnership between university students and local institutions.