Engaging neglected histories: First-year students, archives, and Wikipedia

Sara Davidson Squibb, Catherine Koehler, Jerrold Shiroma


At the University of California (UC)-Merced, the General Education program recently introduced Spark seminars, a first-year experience that invites incoming undergraduate students into the knowledge-making activity of a research university with a goal of fostering students’ intellectual curiosity, feelings of inclusion, and connections to place. To cultivate these dispositions, faculty are encouraged to create contexts for student research using campus and/or community resources. In spring 2020, Catherine Koehler, continuing lecturer in the Merritt Writing Program, approached University Archivist Jerrold Shiroma about the possibility of a pair of instructional sessions that would introduce students to archives and archival research through the UC-Merced Library Special Collections, in particular the library’s digital collection of newsletters authored by Japanese Americans incarcerated in temporary detention centers in the Central Valley during World War II. Koehler also wanted students to communicate their research to audiences beyond the classroom, which involved further collaboration with Shiroma to introduce students to Omeka, produce a digital exhibit, and, recently, partnerer with librarian Sara Davidson Squibb to develop a new Wikipedia page for the Merced Assembly Center. This article provides a description of these collaborations and outlines challenges, student learning, and future directions to integrate archival collections and library instructional projects with undergraduate teaching.

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Copyright Sara Davidson Squibb, Catherine Koehler, Jerrold Shiroma

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