One minute, there you are back in the old days, rifling through, say, some of Mother Jones’ colorful letters condemning the empty-brained dictators, and then, poof!, here you are sitting in front of your computer reading online versions of same.
As mentioned in an earlier post, my job originated with University Archivist Timothy Meagher’s decision to commit resources to an in-house online educational program using our collection materials. When I began working as Education Archivist in 2005, it was to create and promote educational websites. An educational website is, by the way, not a digital collection. Where a digital collection is a digitized set of materials with supporting identification data, our educational websites target history teachers and their students by posting not only primary sources, but interpretive information that aids users in understanding the context of the source as well as the source itself. Hence our educational sites center around specific historical themes and feature chronologies, background sections contextualizing the topic, primary source descriptions and questions, further readings sections, “so what?” points intended to illuminate the historical significance of the site topic and connections to the National History Standards, which most teachers use to plan their curricula.
We select site topics based on collection strengths and what we know about what high school teachers, in particular, teach. As John Shepherd notes in an earlier blogpost, our collections are strong in the twentieth century U.S. Catholic experience, particularly national Catholic organizational life, Catholic intellectual life, Catholics and Labor, and Catholics and immigration. We currently have 22 themed sites featuring hundreds of documents, images and audio. But please don’t take my words for it. Visit our would-be saints, sinners, and everyone in between yourself.