Students in the Archives

Posted on by Christina Marino

In the fall of 2014 I began to actively reach out to faculty and graduate student instructors (GSI) in an effort to increase use of the Environmental Design Archives by students. I read through course descriptions for undergraduate and graduate classes offered in the College of Environmental Design. For courses offered that directly related to material held by the Archives, I emailed or spoke in person with faculty members and GSIs and provided a list of relevant collection materials with links to digitized collection material on the Online Archive of California (OAC) when possible. 75% of faculty and GSIs contacted scheduled instruction sessions at the Archives. During the academic year 239 students toured the EDA from 13 different courses. As classes visited the Archives, I began to wonder what students were learning from these one-shot archival instruction sessions. 

Engaging faculty to bring their classes to use the EDA led to collaboration between Archives staff and faculty on curriculum, which led to teaching students with targeted collection material. To close the loop and to get a better sense of what students were taking away from one-shot Archival instructional sessions, surveys were administered.

To date I have surveyed 5 classes: CED’s American Architecture: The UCB Campus, Landscape Plants: Identification and Use, Landscape Graphics I, California Architecture, and Art History’s Berkeley Collects. Below are graphs and a summary analysis of the responses to 5 core questions: Experience with Primary Resources, Takeaways, Effectiveness, Likelihood of Returning, and Education Level/Field of Study.

EXPERIENCE WITH PRIMARY RESOURCES

For 52% of students, the instructional session at the EDA was their first exposure to an Archival repository. Therefore, it is essential that their first experience be a positive one that leads to an understanding of the value and importance of primary resources in relation to their current studies, their professional careers, and other future endeavors.

TAKEAWAYS

Students are taking away with them valuable information about how to access the resources available to them at the EDA (and other archives) as well as information contained in the archival records and drawings themselves, i.e. why and how they were created (drawing techniques) and the larger context of what information the drawings convey about the client, design aesthetic, program, function, and era in which they were created. 

EFFECTIVENESS

More than half of the students who took the survey thought the tour was adequate and did not offer any suggestions on how to improve it. However, the majority of the remaining responses touched on specific concepts and content they would like addressed-- predominately studying design development and how to access digitized collection material. This feedback has been immensely helpful, and in response I have created a guide to hand to students, which Assistant Archivist Cailin Trimble designed, describing how to access information about our Collections - both physical and digital. I have also begun to include more examples of design development in the projects I pull for student instruction sessions.

LIKELIHOOD OF RETURNING  

The chart below shows the likeliness of returning on a scale of 1 to 10, the vertical axis illustrates the percent of people indicating a level of likeliness.

It is great to see that 88% of students are likely to return to the Archives.

EDUCATION LEVEL AND FIELD OF STUDY

54% of students who toured the Archives do not come from a design or architectural history background. Therefore, the EDA might be the first place where they are introduced to records of the built environment. 

Conclusion

The survey project has been an extremely informative process, one that has yielded invaluable information about what students are taking away from one-shot archival instruction sessions at the Environmental Design Archives. This information continues to inform the material that is pulled for class visits, and how information about the Archives’ resources is presented verbally and through print (handouts). I plan to continue to survey classes that visit the Archives in an effort to collect more viable data and improve both instruction and the student’s experience.