This presentation was given at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library Research Seminar VI, “The Engaged Librarian: Libraries Partnering with Campus and Community." October 7-9, 2014 in Urbana, Illinois.


This paper is a report of a collaborative research project that identified the competencies undergraduate history majors should have related to finding and using archival materials. The boundary-spanning collaboration involved archivists, librarians, and history faculty.

Historians have long relied upon archives as essential source material, and recent studies confirmed the continued significance of archives to research in this field. However, there is no detailed listing of the archival research competencies that college history students should attain. Without a clearly defined list upon which history faculty, archivists, and library liaisons to history departments agree, teaching about archives research is difficult and often either inconsistent or non-existent. The purpose of this study was to develop a list of archival research, or “archival literacy,” competencies that could be incorporated into the undergraduate history curriculum by history faculty, librarians, and archivists.

The mixed-methods study was conducted in two phases. Phase 1 took place in 2012-13 at one large public research university. It consisted of a review of the literature, compilation of a first draft of archival literacy competencies, review of course syllabi, in-depth interviews with history department faculty, and comments from those faculty and recent graduates on a second draft of archival competencies for history students. The study population in Phase 2 expanded to the history department faculty, archivists, and history liaison librarians (or equivalents) at a stratified random sample of U.S. baccalaureate, masters, and doctoral/research institutions. This involved the viewpoints of different stakeholders at different types of institutions.

The report on Phase 1 of this study will be published in American Archivist in November 2014. The data for Phase 2 of this study were collected from February through April 2014. The report on Phase 2 that includes the final list of archival literacy competencies has been submitted to a journal.


archival literacy, information literacy, archives, collaboration, undergraduate students, history

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