An archive stores knowledge so that it can be used and benefit of all. It is a place where people can go to gather firsthand facts, data, and evidence from sources such as letters, reports, notes, memos, photographs, and other primary resources.
The varied content and format of archives makes them a perfect learning resource for a wide range of subjects. Archives can be used in schools and colleges to teach a range of subjects including History, English, Drama, Geography and Science.
The main reason for using archives in education is they provide access to primary sources of information. Primary sources are the firsthand facts and information that people go to in order to understand a concept in detail.
Primary sources are a gateway to the past, a peek into the documented evidence of history. They help identify patterns that might otherwise be quite hard to discern on the basis of present events alone.
Primary sources offer a critical perspective to support students in interpreting how past events may have contributed to our current world. Having access to these primary sources is therefore quite essential, and this is where archiving comes in. It is a way of looking into the past to understand the fate of our future.
Archives can therefore provide learners with original materials that can help them get a clearer hands-on experience in the subjects they are studying.
Where the archives offer first-hand accounts, these learning experiences will remain with the students for a long time, which they can use in real-life applications elsewhere. (See Edgar Dale’s Cone of Learning diagram.)
In addition, using primary sources makes sure that students are more accurate in their research, hypotheses, and conclusions. Archives offer them access to the records and relevant information they would need to complete their tasks with ease and convenience.
Doing digital archive projects with students requires them to develop their subject knowledge within a wider context, it helps them establish research skills and consider copyright implications. Archives encourage critical thinking by understanding perspective and bias, while analysing information sources and selecting relevant and appropriate content. Students will also acquire technical skills and increase their ability to effectively communicate their findings.