NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – Smith College recently introduced the Archives Concentration, a distinctive offering at the undergraduate level and one that will provide students with an understanding of the collection, preservation and interpretation of historic material.
The plan of study draws on the campus resources of the Sophia Smith Collection – one of the oldest women’s history archives in the nation – as well as the College Archives and the Mortimer Rare Book Room.
“Students will learn about the institutions and repositories that shape knowledge and understanding of our collective pasts,” said Sherrill Redmond. “They'll learn how to tell if an online document can be trusted and they'll experience the more tangible pleasures of deciphering a 19th-century woman's handwritten letters in the original.”
“We expect a few will get hooked on reading other peoples' mail for fun and will find themselves pursuing careers in archives work, librarianship or scholarship,” she added.
Annually, 15 undergraduates will be accepted to the program, with the first participating students admitted for the 2009-10 academic year. Each will be required to take five courses in prescribed areas, pursue two practical experiences and complete a capstone research project during her senior year.
The concentration responds to the college’s interest in helping students negotiate the open curriculum, which does not assign any course requirements beyond those necessary to complete a major or minor. Students will accomplish the concentration in tandem with the academic requirements for their majors.
In advance of the first applicants, the college approved two courses to be offered next year. Those are:
“What I Found in the Archives.” An introduction to the theoretical and practical questions of building archives; issues in collection development; what to collect; methods for locating sources, legal, ethical and donor-relation issues related to access; and collection, preservation and access challenges presented by the digital age.
“Exploring the Archives.” A hands-on introduction to archival work through research and field trips to local historic sites, libraries, museums and archival collections.
Students in the program will be assigned an adviser from the concentration’s Advisory Committee, which is made up of both faculty members and library staff.
Applications are due each spring by March 15; decisions and notifications will be made by April 15. Students are encouraged to apply for the concentration by the spring semester of their sophomore year.
Smith College educates women of promise for lives of distinction. One of the largest women’s colleges in the United States, Smith enrolls 2,800 students from nearly every state and 62 other countries.