Every winter, the students in the Invitation to Inquiry Seminar visit the University of Oregon’s Special Collections Library. Manuscripts Librarian, Linda Long, teaches an instructive and engaging class on archival research, introducing students to the concepts of scholarly archives, special collections, finding aids, etc.
The last part of the class is open for the students to walk around the room examining the various rare books and manuscripts that Linda has brought out for them to see.
This class session is one of my favorites each year because it is such a pivotal moment for the students. For instance, most students have not been to the University of Oregon’s campus before. Although many of them will transfer to UO, at this point the campus is a large, unfamiliar, and confusing space.
After the special collections class, students have a point of reference on the campus. They also begin to realize that the library resources at UO are available to them now and they are welcome to use them at any time.
A second moment of awareness that occurs on this trip is just how extensive academic research can be, how many sources of information are out there, and that there is no end to what can be researched. Viewing 13th and 14th century manuscripts emphasizes the long research history they are now a part of while the online research opportunities including access to Archives West reveals how contemporary research benefits from an ever-expanding access to materials.
Linda Long and I plan to meet to find ways to incorporate archival research into the Honors Program.