Archives , Preservation and Information Literacy students
by Heather Lovewell, former Archivist of SAU Library
When Information Literacy students visit the archives, we try to make the experience as lively as possible. As they enter and begin to circle the island where a variety of items from the collection have been selected and placed for their perusal, the archivist makes a point to hand each student something different. The mere act of physically touching a primary source seems to have the positive effect of breaking the ice, and the students immediately move into the first activity “You be the judge.” They are required to sort and classify the object they are holding into the category of University Archives or Special Collections which forces them to make some important observations about the piece and begin to verbal a description – critical components of archival record keeping. Ultimately, the exercise is a round-about way of introducing the students to the breadth of the collection without lecturing and listing items.
We talk about preservation when we play an Outburst or Family Feud like game which requires students to call out what the Ten Agents of Deterioration might be. Guessing items like fire, water, incorrect temperature, dissociation, and pests help spur a discussion about aspects of an archivists job and the intentional environment of an archives, but the discussion doesn’t stop there. We try to brainstorm about ways to preserve their time at St. Ambrose University because we no longer publish a yearbook, and we live in a digital and fleeting age. We talk about preserving their files, and knowing where their vital documents are – if you are legally an adult at 18, should your mother still be keeping your birth certificate and passport for you?
The experience wraps-up with every student holding something again – either a student handbook, catalog, campus map / aerial photograph, or old yearbook. They always enjoy sharing the antiquated rules from when we were a boys school run by priests and are a bit bummed when they see the inflation rate of tuition. Can they find their residence hall or a relative that is an alumnus? This is always a good time!