A tale of two talks

October 23rd, 2009 by Sue Donnelly, Archivist

Term is now in full swing and this year the Archives team are getting involved in teaching – supporting departments in guiding students about to embark on a dissertation through the new world of archives and archivists and also using archives to add to the experience of learning about particular subject areas. The sessions split into two formats.  The first provide students with a guide to using and tracking down archives. The second are an opportunity for students to use and handle archival materials relevant to their courses.

Students using archives.

Students using archives.

This week I joined two  different classes in the Economic and International History Departments.  On Tuesday evening my colleague Paul Horsler and I  joined a class of  third year economic history students to introduce them to the Library’s primary sources. We gave them plenty of information about the wealth of our collections and links to useful websites and databases but for an archivist something was missing without the opportunity to see and handle the actual archives. We’ll be doing this with the second year classes in two week’s time.

On Wednesday lunchtime I attended a seminar for students on the Dual LSE\Columbia Masters programme in the International History Department. This was a more informal event and many of the students had already worked in archives around the world. My part was an introduction to the collections at LSE, explaining Sidney Webb’s vision of a ‘laboratory for the social sciences’ and also explaining the role of the archivist. This was followed by Heather Jones, Erica Wald and Paul Keenan talking about their experiences of using archives around the world including France, Germany, India and Russia. The general feeling seemed to be that archive services in the UK had a much greater public service ethos and commitment to supporting users. There was also plenty of opportunity for students to ask questions and comment on their own experiences of using archives which ranged from Chicago to Eritrea.

While I hope it was useful for students to learn a bit more of what an archivist does and the strengths and limitations of our role, I also benefitted from learning more about the experience of being researcher, the things that are really annoying (limits on the amounts of material to be seen in a single day seemed to be the major irritation).

The Archives team are doing several more sessions over the coming term and are planning to review the classes during the Lent term.

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