Earlier this week Skylee-Storm Hogan and I were invited to speak as part of an ongoing faculty professional development series focusing on collaboration. Our session focused on ways faculty can collaborate with archives, how archives can be brought into the classroom, and using archives across disciplines.
The workshop was relatively informal with Skylee-Storm and I briefly talking about our experience working with archives in classroom spaces, how to engage students with primary source research, and past successful collaborations. The rest of the workshop was spent discussing potential collaboration opportunities, approaches to teaching site and national specific history, and creative engagement possibilities.
One of the things our conversation touched on a number of times was the idea of archives as interdisciplinary and that archival work can be skill building for students across programs. This point is something I’ve talked about before, but I do really believe that the skills that students learn through engagement with archival material can be far reaching. During our presentation Skylee-Storm hogan talked about the development of primary source research skills, community outreach techniques, curatorial skills, writing, and presentation skills that were developed through engagement with archival material. These skills are not tied to a single discipline and are often connected to tangible projects as part of course work or employment.
During the session we also spent a considerable amount of time discussing community engaged research. This involved thinking about how a grassroots community based archives can be used to teach research methods, foster community connections, and how to build classroom examples around the archive.
Overall the conversation was heartening and really reminded me of the uniqueness of the archives that I work in. The Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre archive is deeply connected to a marginalized community. The survivor community has played a fundamental role in the development of programming and holdings since the establishment of the SRSC archive. This Indigenous community led approach to research and collecting is something unique and is something worth talking about. In an era where more and more institutions are looking at ways to integrate Indigenous content and Indigenous voices into the classroom space the holdings of the SRSC are increasingly important when talking about preserving the legacy of residential schools, community based healing, and teaching history from an Indigenous perspective.
The session also reminded me of the ongoing need to educate and advocate for archives. Even internally there is always more work that can be done to raise awareness about the extent of holdings and what services archives offer. That outreach piece is something that often feels like treading water – you might be repeatedly having the same conversation with different people – but eventually it does result in progress and if all goes well increased awareness and use.