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Highlighting Your Collections

Page history last edited by Kathryn Otto 12 years ago

Home > Archivist/Librarian Section > Highlighting Your Collections


Helping Students Select Sources by Highlighting Your Collections


Oregon State UniversityInterested in doing something to attract History Day students, help them know what you've got, and highlight collections that fit particular themes?


Types of Sources

Students have a limited amount of research time in your archives. Save them time and frustration:

  • Select manageable amounts of materials and don't retrieve every relevant item. 
  • Vertical files and small collections work well.
  • Legibility is essential.
  • Materials should speak for themselves without need for a lot of context for interpretation.
  • Focus on visual impact. Photographs, single documents, posters, broadsides, maps, artifacts, and the like are most useful for student projects. 


Creating Topical Guides

One way to highlight relevant topics in your collections is to create a NHD-specific web page to assist students in identifying pertinent materials. As the NHD's annual themes rotate, these "history topics" pages can be left up and perhaps added to over time. Your web page might start with a list of larger subject areas, like "Agriculture," "Law and Order," or "Medicine," or use the annual themes as your starting point. Then list your institution-specific topics under the larger areas. Like individual archival collections, some history topics will easily fit under more than one subject.


Depending on how many history topics you end up with, you could then create a separate page for each one. If you start out with just a few topics, one can follow another on the same page. Each history topic might include an overview of the specific topic to whet the student's interest, a bibliography of secondary sources, a list of the primary sources you have to offer, and links to online resources including your catalogs and any digitized documents you have online. Because many topics can fit into just about any annual theme by just shifting the focus, most topics can be used every year. But you can also tailor your website's topics each year to the specific theme.


It may seem overwhelming to get startedso many topics, so little time! If you have had History Day students in the past, what topics have they been interested in? Which ones did you really have to do a lot of work on to find something? Maybe start with those. If you have topics that are perennial favorites among students, they can make excellent first topics. Those topics can then be used by you and your staff, as well as the students! Once you've gotten a few topics under your belt, coming up with new ideas will be easier. Soon, you will be looking at all of your collections with a new eye.


National History Day has created a list of sample topics for the 2013 theme.  And here are links to some history topics examples created by archives.


Using Social Media

Don't have access to your institution's website to create history topics pages? Not enough hours in the day to create some history topics pages this year? Try a blog instead. In a blog entry, you can highlight a specific collection instead of creating an entire topic. You can also include tips for doing research in archival material, using your specific archives, or advertise a NHD open house you're planning. You can also create a blog that just highlights photographs from your collection. And remember, a bunch of blog posts can turn into a history topic next year.


New to blogs? Check out Thing 1: Blogging on 23 Things for Archivists.


Some other ways to share information about your collections on social media include:

  • Sharing PowerPoint presentations about your collections on the web (Thing 5)
  • Facebook (Thing 6
  • Twitter (Thing 8
    • Your blog posts can be set to automatically upload to your archives' Twitter account and/or Facebook page, giving you a lot of online exposure with a single effort
  • Photo sharing using sites like Flickr (Thing 10
  • Widgets (Thing 15), like a Flickr badge or LibraryThing (Thing 33), that let you easily share some of your social media efforts right on your website 
  • Podcasts or vodcasts that let you share your collections/topics visually or via sound (Thing 16)
  • Video slideshows featuring your collections using sites like Animoto (Thing 17
  • Online timeline(s) that you create to feature your collections (Thing 19), and can even link back to your History Topics

Society of American Archivists Reference, Access and Outreach Section's National History Day Committee| Credits

The Society of American Archivists does not assume responsibility for the opinions and views published on this auxiliary site.


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