Featured Class: Archives and Access

By Lindsey Garrant, ’20

One of this year’s Spring 2019 honors classes was focused on the central theme of archives, specifically the St. John Fisher College archives. Students worked with both physical and online archives, engaging in archival research in order to explore the role of archives in history.

In our early classes, we focused primarily on learning about the roles of archives and archivists in history, studying the barriers that archives can present when searching for the truth. We thought about how our lives and homes could be considered an archive. What did material objects say about your personality, your likes and dislikes, and more? Students studied the role of archives in shaping the past and narratives.

Students dove into physical archives with a sample box provided by Michelle Price, looking at various artifacts such as magazines from the 1900s, cruise ship passenger lists, books, and more. We studied the artifacts with a critical lens, asking several questions and doing external research to make sense of the artifacts that we were studying. To take this knowledge a step further, we studied boxes of postcards in the St. John Fisher College archives. We created a research proposal for hypothetical research that could be done with the postcards, which led into our final project of conducting primary research on archival materials. Through this final project, we are able to conceptualize pieces of a larger puzzle, which we can then use to learn more about St. John Fisher College’s history.

Dr. Rice said, “Students may think that knowledge is objective, and don’t realize how much of their knowledge is based on what is or isn’t in the archives. Through this course and research, students can learn the potential limitations of knowledge formation which will help them in all future research endeavors.”