A different view of archives

Archives: your ally in the battle against plagiarism.


Okay, so this isn’t quite how David Bowie (a new prof in English here at UAA) phrased it, we took a little dramatic license.  But it’s basically the idea.  Professor Bowie visited us yesterday to ask about possibly having some of his future graduate students do linguistic analysis projects with archival materials here.  He said he has the students use archival and special collections materials for two reasons: one is that the students can work with unusual or uncommon documents and that can help hold their attention for the duration of the project and the second is that because the students are using unique materials, the chances that somebody has already done this type of work on them is very low and hence the opportunities for plagiarism are reduced.  Okay, so he said it much more eloquently and coherently and succinctly–we’re paraphrasing again–but we couldn’t write fast enough to capture his actual words.  But we think we’re presenting the gist of it.

All of us archivists have read a lot about the use of archives, the value of archives, and we’re always looking for that fabulous elevator speech, that concept we can use to really sell our work and our holdings to potential constituents.  We’re important, what we do is important, we know that, but we’re not always so adept at proving that.  And we’ve been spending a lot of time over the past few years really trying to figure out an effective approach to get students and faculty to understand the value of archival resources for research and for curriculum.  For almost every program taught here at UAA and APU, we can find something in our holdings that relates to the curriculum (we’re struggling a little bit with the math classes, but that may require a little more creativity: anybody want to help us figure that out?)  A lot of times, that argument about our value can turn esoteric, abstract, philosophic.  Not necessarily bad arguments to make, but sometimes you just need a strong dose of the pragmatic.  And this may just be it.

So Faculty: teaching a course?  Need your students to evaluate a document, photo, some other research resource?  Want to reduce the likelihood that whatever is being analyzed has already been analyzed by countless others?  Consider primary source materials in archival collections: unique, one-of-a-kind, less public exposure than secondary sources, and hundreds of thousands of items available at this one repository alone.  We’d love to hear from you.  And we’d really love to work with you and your students.

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