“UCR in the archives”

Teaching before #CovidCampus: Hist 197 – undergraduate research seminar, department of History, UC Riverside

This Winter quarter I taught an undergraduate research seminar. We spent most of the 10 weeks in UCR’s Rivera library – either at special collections or in the collaboration room of the Center for Teaching and Learning. 24 students joined the class, during which they organized a largely uncatalogued collection, and then worked in pairs on research projects based on that collection.

The students in Hist197 “UCR in the archives”, working collectively on their projects in Rivera library, Winter quarter 2020

The raw material came from the Chandler papers that are part of the University Archives at the University of California, Riverside – our home. This collection has about 18 boxes of unprocessed ephemera, photographs, pamphlets, posters, course material meeting minutes – a series of papers that Robert Chandler collected while he was a student at UC Riverside and UC Berkeley in the late 60’s and early 70’s.

Rivera library & clock tower, UC Riverside, one afternoon in March 2020, before #CovidCampus

I gave students a few readings on the role of archives and archivists, and they got some great talks from our University Archivist Andrea Hoff and Andrew Lippert the processing archivist, as well as Cherry Williams and Sandy Enriquez from Special Collections, and Robin Katz, who really brought the inner workings of libraries and archives into the classroom. But mostly, we gave students just the basics on how to treat archive material and do no harm – and then they were let loose (figure of speech – it was all very organized and orderly). What I wanted was for them to experience the wonder and confusion an uncatalogued archive can be. I also wanted them to make some of the decision archivist make daily. I wanted them to experience the consequences of those decisions at mid-term when they switched hats and became historians and researchers, and had to confront the consequences of the decisions they had made just a few weeks earlier on nomenclature and categories.

The class was a success – students were engaged and interested in so many aspects of the work they were doing, and I think it shows in their final projects. The links to a few of these (students explicitly gave me permission to share their work) are below. I think you’ll agree that they completed some pretty phenomenal projects!

This work was completed in less than 10 weeks – and it started with an unprocessed pile of documents spread across almost 20 boxes. Students not only cooperated on a google sheet that recorded & organized the contents of each box, folder and item (a google sheet which by the way is now helping the archival staff as they prepare to process the Chandler collection) – they also research its contents, AND many of them learned to use storymaps to do divulge the results of their research. The ESRI storymaps application can be a very powerful narrative platform, especially because it is so easy to use and integrates a variety of media. Other students used canva, and there is one prezi [sidebar: VR does not make me seasick – why does Prezi continue to make me hurl? Frame rate? I need to understand].

The themes range from environmental advocacy to diversity or the lack thereof on campus; California politics to campus sexual politics, student life, and campus politics; the Vietnam war (also here) and neighborhood skirmishes over urban planning. Other students (not included here) prepared a how-to kit on how to keep a community/student association archive; an in-depth look into Robert Chandler’s life; Japanese Americans at UCR and in Riverside after WW2; and a perspective on the Vietnam War from the perspective of university policies and public demonstrations.

Ultimately the quarter ended in a bang and in a whimper – the campus emptied the last week of the winter quarter as students were asked to stay home. Added to the stress and disruption, faculty scrambled to figure out how to post finals online, and students had to sort that out too. The students in this class managed all this AND got their projects up. We did not have much time to proof read or edit, but I don’t think that matters much. Their final projects are a phenomenal perspective into the issues and every day occurrences on the UCR campus and the UC at large during some pretty turbulent times. As I read the projects now, I can’t help but look at this work as a window into not just the early 70’s but also early 2020. The final projects are a testament to the students’ dogged determination to use their hard won skills in the archive and show them off under extraordinary circumstances.

I am enormously proud of the students from Hist197 Winter2020, humbled by their efforts and their commitment, and so grateful for the time we spent together. I hope they read this and know how much I miss them, and how nostalgic I am for the time we spent in the library.

And so, without further ado, the final projects of the students in Winter 2020 Hist197 “UCR in the Archives”

Intro to the class and projects: and overview of the course with links to all the projects, by Jennifer Sayre

A Breath of Fresh Air : local advocacy groups & environmental struggles in the 1970’s; by Spencer Moriel & Luis Perez

Back To The Future : Campus life in the 60’s & 70’s = 2020; Yoselin de la Torre Lopez & Jaqueline Reyes

Campus in Turmoil: Protests against the Vietnam war ; Andrew Jeong

Chamber of Secrets: ASUCR edition, 1954-2020; Yoseline Gutierrez & Abraham McNally

Duty Demanded It: a short biography of Robert Chandler – the man behind the collection, by Travis Garret

Opposition to the Amateur Politician: A Brief History of Reagan vs the UC system; Naomi Chaidez & José Mendoza Escoto

Sex, Drugs & Rock ‘n Roll: Stephanie Marchiano & Sarah West

Sorry We’re Racist; Lexiani Villarreal & Ayanna McDowell

The NIMBYs of Riverside: Jacqueline Stewart & Christa Cordova

Vietnam and the Iraq War: wars undertaken for security?; José Chicas-Hernandez & Matt Sontag

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