The Role of Archives and Special Collections in K-12 Instruction

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The Role of Archives and Special Collections in K-12 Instruction
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Kimberly Hirsh
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With the publication of Studies in Historical Method in 1896, Mary Sheldon Barnes introduced the “Source Method” of teaching history to secondary educators (Cherry, 2010). In this method, students investigate and develop an understanding of history by interacting with primary sources, documents generated in the period of history students are studying. It was not until 1986, however, that a work in the literature of archives articulated the potential for collaboration between archivists and K-12 educators, when Ken Osborne asserted, “if archives are to realize anything like their educational potential, there will have to be a good deal of joint planning and consultation between archivists and educators” (1986, p. 28). Over the past thirty years, many cultural heritage organizations, including state archives, the Library of Congress, and special collections library members of American Research Libraries have undertaken K-12 outreach activities (Cherry, 2010; Visser, 2006). Such activities can serve not only as educational outreach but also advocacy opportunities for archives as institutions and archivists as a profession (Dickson & Gorzalski, 2013). This literature review examines archival and special collections outreach for the K-12 audience, providing a rationale and identifying opportunities for such outreach, describing the current landscape of digital K-12 archival outreach projects, offering examples of non-digital K-12 outreach projects, highlighting projects that exemplify integrated and collaborative approaches, and comparing proposed models for future outreach projects