Matt is an archivist doing mostly reference and instruction at the Legacy Center, aka the Drexel Med School Archives.
ABA: Hi, Matt. in a few sentences, tell us what you’ll be presenting at ABA.
Matt: I’ll talk about our new website, Doctor or Doctress? (doctordoctress.org). It’s a Pew-grant-funded online resource that helps high school students and teachers use primary sources to “do history” in authentic ways. There’s been a movement, largely driven by new educational standards, for teachers to incorporate more primary sources into the classroom so students are able to do things like analyze sources for historical narrative, evaluate and corroborate sources, and make conclusions based on evidence. So it’s a perfect time for archives to do more with K-12 students — this website project is about meeting these users where they already are: online.
ABA: What do you hope audiences will get from your talk?
Matt: That novice users of archives can benefit from context that doesn’t often come across in digital collections. Also, Teaching With Archives will make you a better archivist (and human).
ABA: On a scale from 1 – 10, (10 being hardest) how easy would it be for other archivists to implement the project you’re presenting here?
Matt: I’d go with 9.7 out of 10. Sorry for the long answer, but I have to break the reply into content and delivery. The content and pedagogical approach was not hard to develop but took a huge amount of groundwork and content creation — something that for most low-staff archives, you’d either need a grant to hire a project manager (like we did, the excellent Melissa Mandell) or you’d need to put other core repository activities on hold to pull it off. For the delivery and tech, we chose to build the site using Islandora, the open source digital repository system. With Islandora, if you’re doing anything other than use it “out of the box,” it absolutely requires a developer (like our also-awesome Chris Clement at Drexel Libraries). As with most projects, if we were to do it again, it would be significantly easier — not less work, but easier. We hope that what we learned will help others who want to connect students with their online primary sources — we’d love to talk with anyone who is doing something similar!
ABA: Describe your favorite collection or project in one sentence or less.
Matt: This project is my favorite — using archives for education in an online setting is the best. The need is there from students and teachers and we’ve been doing continuous user testing to try our best to meet those needs. It’s been very gratifying.
ABA: BONUS – which would win in a fight, an elephantine size duck or a hundred duck size elephants?
Matt: I know the answer but I refuse to endanger everyone and everything. Frankly, it’s immoral even to have asked it.
ABA: Anything else?
Matt: I’d be remiss not to plug a free event coming soon. The November 20 “Teaching with the Good Stuff” afternoon of talks and conversation about teaching with collection material. Free and open to individuals from all institutions and with all levels of experience. Check it out at http://philly2014.TeachWithStuff.org
ABA: Sounds great, we can’t wait to hear your talk!