Workplace Learning (Theme: Rural Diary Archive) (HIST*3480) | College of Arts

Workplace Learning (Theme: Rural Diary Archive) (HIST*3480)

Code and section: HIST*3480*01

Term: Summer 2023

Instructor: Catharine Wilson


Credit Weight: 0.5
Prerequisites: 7.50 credits including 1.50 History or equivalent credits
Instructor & Workplace Supervisor: Dr Catharine Wilson
Instructor consent required. Interested students should contact: Dr Wilson at 

Course Synopsis:

Would you like to immerse yourself in daily life in the past? The Rural Diary Archive website showcases over 200 diarists and is a crowdsourcing site. Your experiential learning opportunity will involve transcribing diaries online. Your volunteer work will make these hard-to-use but highly useful documents more accessible for researchers now and in the future. You will also help develop content for the website by selecting tweets for posting and contributing to a glossary of nineteenth-century terms. In connecting this work experience to your academic discipline, you will write a series of short critical reflections and a research paper which includes an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of diaries as primary sources.  

Method of Delivery: Fully in-class on campus

You will be conducting independent work and attending four scheduled class meetings throughout the semester (their day and time to be determined during the first week of class). The in-person classes will not be recorded for later viewing, so students are expected to attend all in-person components. 

Learning Outcomes:

By the successful completion of this course, a conscientious student will have learned to:

  1. identify and critically assess diary writing and keeping practices
  2. read and understand 19th-century handwriting & vocabulary
  3. transcribe
  4. research 
  5. assess the strengths and weaknesses of diaries as sources
  6. communicate compelling history for use in a social media platform 
  7. identify and explain daily life in 19th-century rural Ontario
  8. know the value of public engagement 
  9. reflect upon their work in a critical manner

Methods of Evaluation and Weights:

Class Participation - 5
Transcriptions - 30 
Weekly Critical Reflections - 15
Contributions to the Glossary & Tweets - 20
Final Essay/Document Analysis - 30 

Texts and/or Resources Required:

No Required Textbook. Your transcribing will take place online at: You will find useful resources there and ones on courselink.

Project Timeline 

Week 1: Pre-arranged group meeting with Professor Wilson to view the diaries. Instructions will be established, and training started for reading cursive, transcribing, researching the diarist, and selecting tweets and glossary items.  You will also learn about the questions/tools with which to mine diaries for meaning. You will start with a moderately easy diary for the first five weeks.

Week 3: Meeting. Dr. Wilson will review your transcription work 

Week 7: Meeting. First collection of weekly Reflections is due covering weeks 1-6, and you will raise your transcribing skills by advancing to a more difficult diary.

Week 10: Meeting. We will discuss your progress on the final essay. 

Week 11: Your complete sets of tweets and glossary items are due. 

Week 12: Your complete set of transcriptions is due. 

Week 13: Your essay is due and your second collection of weekly Reflections covering weeks 7-13. 

*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.