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The Dream Team: Students, Digital Media, and Archives

Two of our MBDA students, Chelsea Risley and Meg Ratliff, presented a poster on their work with MBDA at the 2015 Association of College and Research Libraries Conference in Portland, Oregon. Below is their abstract; poster coming soon.


The Dream Team: Students, Digital Media, and Archives


Sustainability applies to digital archives in several ways, including the development of sustainable, earth-friendly preservation practices; generating interest in local and broader community histories; and continued growth of the project itself.

As the name implies, digital archives preserve correspondence and other artifacts in digital formats, which are more easily cared for as well as more accessible. Digital archives, and this institution’s project in particular, generate interest in the local community’s history as well as the larger context of state, regional, and early twentieth century history. The accessibility of the project allows students, academic professionals, and community members to utilize the collection for research purposes, innovative lesson plans, and archival training. It brings together a group of people with interest in and knowledge about the individuals and time periods included in the collection, and maintains important community figures’ influence on the community far beyond their lifetimes. Built for sustainability, the project is designed to continue and grow after the original directors’ involvement, with a minimal demand on the supporting institution. While the project required significant expertise in the initial stages, it has progressed to allow continual growth led primarily through undergraduate student involvement.

This student involvement actually enables the function of the digital archive. Undergraduates do the day-to-day work of scanning documents and providing metadata for them. This approach provides opportunities for younger students to do work typically reserved for graduate students. The project also provides chances for student publication on the website, as well as chances for presentations on research projects or papers at academic conferences and other community and college organizations.

This digital project allows the library to propel student success. Library staff can work closely with students in research projects to benefit the library and the college as well as the student’s individual careers. This project provides a support system for student scholarship that includes library professionals with many different backgrounds to help the students in their research, their work with the digital archive, and their post-graduation plans. Several students from our team plan to pursue post-graduate degrees and careers in the fields of history, digital humanities, museum work and education. This is in part due to the support system provided by the staff and by direct experience in these fields gained through work on the digital archive project.

The high level of community engagement required by this project also fosters student success. The digital archive incorporates crowd-editing, which allows people from all over the world to access the documents in the collection and provide metadata for them, making all types of people part of the research and preservation process. The students also lead local community outreach programs to get people involved in the project and teach them about the benefits of studying local history. The community engagement of this project will increase as educational materials relating to the collection are developed by the undergraduate student workers and made available for distribution to teachers and other community organizations.


Learning Outcomes:

1. Gain insight into the impact of digital archives in local communities beyond academia.

2. Understand the benefits of direct student involvement and leadership to the library and student success.

3.  Learn more about preservation practices and how digital archives sustain the influence of and interest in history in addition to the actual collections. 

Crowdsourcing provided by the Crowd-Ed plugin