Melbourne University students somewhere in France

The University of Melbourne Archives (UMA) is one of the largest non-government collecting archives in Australia. In 2012 we began a teaching and student engagement programme which sought to bring our collections into the classroom and support the University of Melbourne’s research and teaching goals. Since the establishment of the program, hundreds of university students have delved into the collections through a variety of projects, including research essays, blog posts, exhibition displays and creative writing pieces.

One of the initial classes was an intermediate French language course. In the class, students accessed and discussed diaries, correspondence and memorabilia of Australian soldiers who fought on the Western Front in World War One. Following classroom discussion of the context and guided interaction with the material, students were given the assignment of writing a blog post on an aspect of their choosing. The blog has been running for two years and has attracted the interest of the French embassy in Australia and local museums in France. An exhibition based on the students’ work will mark the centenary of the arrival of Australian troops on the Western Front in 2016.

In this paper, Access and Outreach Archivist Katie Wood will use the experience of developing the Somewhere in France blog to discuss broader lessons that the UMA outreach team has learned since the establishment of the teaching programme. These include: attracting the interest of academics, facilitating access to collection material in order to maximise student engagement, developing a teaching manual, and evaluating different technological platforms for showcasing student work and archival collections.

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