Higher Ed Seeks to Create Living History for Students and Community

Jun 06, 2011

History isn't merely being taught in college courses. Scholars on many campuses are preserving documents and recordings that allow students and community members to see, hear, and even touch a part of history themselves.

By Jessica Lyons


How Are Schools Preserving History?

History has long been used as a tool for generations to learn about, and from, the past. Recognizing the importance of this, there are some higher education institutions that have made it a part of their mission to preserve historical documents and records.

In May of 2011, George Washington University's Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library added a large amount of historical documents to its collection, the archives of the National Education Association. The materials, which fill over 3,000 boxes, represent more than 150 years of the organization's history. The collection includes documents and records, and is open for the public and researchers to view.

Through its Institute for Oral History, Baylor University seeks to use sound recordings and transcripts to document what people have witnessed. Established in 1970, the institute uses oral histories to preserve 'the stories of individuals who helped create the fabric of history and whose lives, in turn, were shaped by the people, places, events and ideas of their day.' Some of the projects the institute currently has underway focus on the founding of William Cameron Park, Waco, Texas philanthropists, arts and culture, Baylor University and the economic history of Texas.

The events and stories of the Holocaust are being documented at The Harriet and Kenneth Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center and Archives, which is part of Queensborough Community College. The center's mission is 'to use the lessons of the Holocaust to educate current and future generations about the ramifications of unbridled prejudice, racism and stereotyping.' This is accomplished through documenting survivor testimony, exhibits and lectures. The center also has a survivors' speaker's bureau.


What Does This Mean for Communities?

Typically, the materials these institutions have, and the events they hold, are open to the public. Therefore it's not just a school's faculty and student body who can take advantage of the information. Community members can use this information to learn about the past, whether they're a researcher working on a particular project or someone who's just curious.

Local schoolchildren might also be able to attend special programming to help reinforce what they're learning in class. In addition to organizing field trips, schools could invite speakers, such as the ones from Queensborough's Holocaust center, to share their first-hand experiences. This is sure to bring history to life for the kids.

Looking for some reading materials to feed your appetite for history? Check out these historical fiction books.

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