Date of Completion

Spring 2014

Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Darwin Stapleton


Despite changes in theory and approach, academic archivists continue to struggle in their attempts to meet the research needs of undergraduate instructors and students. College and university archives generally are not utilized to their greatest potential by undergraduates. One explanation is that one or both user groups may be unaware of the subject coverage of their university or college archives’ collections. Another possibility is that some instructors may not be aware of archivists’ willingness to collaborate with them on students’ research projects. Other instructors find it difficult to incorporate the use of primary sources and student research in the archives into their current teaching practices. On this point, archivists can be cautiously optimistic as there is evidence that younger, non-tenured history faculty tend to utilize primary sources more often in their teaching than older, tenured faculty.

This paper will undertake another explanation of the problem of underutilized academic archives and propose an agenda for resolving it. Undergraduate students generally do not have the requisite knowledge and skills for effective archival research. This lack of proficiency in basic principles of archival research prevents students from pursuing significant online and on-site research. Archival research skills and classroom exposure to primary sources are incommensurate in recent educational practice. As noted above, the use of primary sources in all levels of instruction is on the rise. Recent evidence of this is the Common Core State Standards Initiative, a set of national curriculum standards for K-12 students, adopted by many states beginning in 2010. They emphasize the development of research skills and critical thinking about primary sources. Doris J. Malkmus thus argues that students are “arriving on college campuses more prepared to deal with primary source documents than any previous generation, but they have not yet developed the skills to find and identify primary sources—whether online or in the archives.”