Experiential Learning for History Students (Theme: Behind the Scenes in Archival and Rare Book Collections) (HIST*3560) | College of Arts

Experiential Learning for History Students (Theme: Behind the Scenes in Archival and Rare Book Collections) (HIST*3560)

Code and section: HIST*3560*01

Term: Fall 2022

Instructor: Kathryn Harvey and Melissa McAfee



- Kathryn Harvey, Archivist (kaharvey@uoguelph.ca)

- Melissa McAfee, Special Collections Librarian (mamcafee@uoguelph.ca)

Time: Monday/Wednesday from 2:30-3:50 pm

Location: Whitelaw Conference Room (room 246b, McLaughlin Library)

Course Description

Archival & Special Collections, located in McLaughlin Library, is a repository of rare primary resources, including archival collections, rare books, manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, art, audiovisual material, costume and set designs, architectural drawings, and ephemera. Our core collections include materials on Canadian theatre, landscape architecture, Scottish history, Lucy Maud Montgomery, culinary history, veterinary history, agricultural history, and local and campus history. (More information about our core collections is available here.) Materials in these collections date from the 14th century to the present day and are used by researchers from around the world, as well as by students in classroom assignments. 

This course will provide a rare opportunity to see first-hand and participate in the variety of work performed by the archivists and the special collections librarian in Archival & Special Collections. Organized in two segments, students will delve into the separate, but complementary professional practices of archivists and rare book/special collections librarians.

The first segment will focus on rare books and special collections covering topics such as how they are acquired, preserved, made accessible, and promoted to the University of Guelph community and beyond. In addition, students will collaborate on a digitization project to make selected rare and historic cookbooks in Archival & Special Collections’ Culinary Collection accessible in digital format on the What Canada Ate site. Students will learn how to create digital master files and derivatives of selected rare cookbooks and create records for them on our What Canada Ate site, an online repository of over 300 cookbooks as well as online exhibits. This work will support the curation of a new online exhibit by students in another course on food history during the Fall term. 

The second segment will focus on archives, which comprise collections of materials that document the work or life of an organization or person. Some examples of archival collections in our holdings include the Shaw Festival fonds (Theatre Collection), the Macklin Hancock/Project Planning Associates Ltd. Fonds (Landscape Architecture Collection), the Ewen-Grahame fonds (Scottish Collection), the Lucy Maud Montgomery Collection, and the Sleeman Family Collection (Regional and Early Campus History). This segment will cover topics such as the role of archives and archivists in society; how archivists acquire, arrange, describe, preserve, and provide access to materials (the core archival functions); professional ethics; the practice of monetary appraisal; outreach; and archival research. During this segment, students will learn the basics of archives’ core archival functions as well as some of the politics and social justice issues pertaining to archives. 

Method of Evaluation and Weights

Archival Arrangement/Description Assignment – 12%
Archival Project – 23%
What Canada Ate database project - 35%
Reflective pieces on assigned subjects – 20%
Participation: a grade derived from evidence of assigned reading; participation in interactive activity and discussion; and engagement in class – 10%

Text and Resources Required

No required textbook. Individual readings will be listed on the final course syllabus.

Course format

The class will meet for 80-minute sessions twice a week and, depending on public health guidelines, the course may be conducted partially in-person and partially virtually. 

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course, students will:

  • Learn how archives and rare books are acquired, appraised, and organized
  • Acquire knowledge of how rare books and special collection are made accessible and promoted
  • Acquire the capacity to convert rare primary source materials in their original print versions to digital formats using professional standards and “best practices”.
  • Acquire the capacity to develop an online repository of rare primary source materials 
  • Gain an understanding of the professional ethics of archivists and rare book librarians
  • Acquire the capacity to do research using primary resource materials.
  • Become knowledgeable about the power and limits of rare book and archival repositories
  • Understand the roles of archivists and rare book librarians (research help, teaching, outreach, etc.)
  • Recognize the difference between archival, rare book, and special collections repositories

*Please note: This is a preliminary web course description only. The department reserves the right to change without notice any information in this description. The final, binding course outline will be distributed in the first class of the semester.