SAFA Class Visits to the Archives
SAFA Class Visits to the Archives

Students and Faculty in the Archives centered around class visits to the archives. Over the course of two academic years (2011 – 2012 and 2012 – 2013), 65 courses made 100+ visits to Brooklyn Historical Society. Over 1,100 individual students benefited from a hands-on experience with primary sources. (If we look at “bodies through the door,” we count over 2,000 students!) More than 100 students returned to the archives on their own after a SAFA visit, and professors requested 1,000+ items from BHS collections.

Planning and Managing SAFA

Managing a project of this size and scope required a lot of advanced planning. Hosting hundreds of undergraduates each semester required SAFA staff to consider BHS’s scheduling needs and space limitations, the already-finalized academic calendars at participating colleges, and the time and labor needs for our particular project. Staff also wanted to be sensitive to the busy schedules of participating faculty and other staff. Below, read about important logistical issues to consider when planning a similar program. You’ll also find an outline of the deadlines and workflow that made the SAFA project a success.

Scheduling: Logistical Issues to Consider

Scheduling SAFA class visits differed from the museum education programs already in existence at BHS, particularly our robust K-12 programs. SAFA’s intended audience consisted of college students, and universities schedule courses well in advance, so staff had to work around already-established class times and dates. Managing the preset schedules of up to 18 faculty required a lot of creativity and flexibility.

Staff also had to plan SAFA visits around the needs of BHS, a busy museum, public programming center, and library and archives. SAFA courses required a more robust visitor services presence; impacted the education department’s ability to run K-12 tours; affected library staff, who all work in the expansive reading room in which class visits would take place; and taxed the limited space (which became even more limited during a renovation) in BHS’s landmarked Brooklyn Heights building.

SAFA staff determined that class visits should not take place during the hours that the library was open to researchers: Wednesday – Friday, 1 – 5pm.1 On Monday and Tuesday, class visits took place all day. On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, students and faculty only visited in the mornings. There were only a handful of class visits which absolutely had to meet during public hours.

Because most colleges have preset course times and dates (Monday-Wednesday-Friday or Tuesday-Thursday sections; classes that begin or end at idiosyncratic times), specific slots filled up quickly. The different scheduling patterns at the 3 different campuses, moreover, sometimes made for awkward overlaps in scheduling. Sometimes, staff would have to ask a class to end a few minutes early, or arrive a few minutes late.

The easiest visits to schedule were for early morning and evening classes, when they would cause the fewest disruptions in the building. At other archives, however, arriving at work as early as 7am or staying until 9pm might not be a viable (or attractive) option for staff.

College courses will tend to cluster around certain weeks as well, making scheduling a challenge. No one wants to come in the first or last week of the term, so mid-semester weeks were in high demand. Faculty were informed early on that staff would book their visits on a first-come, first-served basis.

The size of a class also affected scheduling. Classes smaller than 15 students could sometimes fit in an anteroom near the library, which meant visits could take place when the library was open to the public. Courses with more than 30 students proved challenging in BHS’s relatively small reading room. Some participating faculty were able to arrange to cap their courses at a lower number than usual, which greatly improved their and their students’ experiences. Other faculty with larger classes chose to split their students into two groups, and to conduct the same activity on two different days.

Getting hundreds of undergraduates in and out of BHS efficiently remained challenging throughout the project. Because archives visits were often scheduled when the building was closed, staff would meet classes at the door and let them into the building.

When facilitating students’ entry, it was sometimes difficult to notice a stray passer-by who might accidentally or intentionally slip into the closed building with the class, raising important security issues. Our experiences show that a robust visitor services component is a central part of such a program.

1) As of 2014, BHS has expanded its library hours. Othmer Library is now open to the public Wednesday – Saturday, 1 – 5pm

Scheduling: Workflow and Deadlines

By the end of the 2011 – 2012 academic year, project staff established a timeline and workflow for scheduling and hosting SAFA classes.

Before the Semester
Before each semester commenced, project staff held individual meetings with each faculty member to go over the envisioned agenda and objectives for their visits. The meetings were almost always held at BHS. Faculty were required to schedule their archives visits before the semester began, and staff encouraged them to do so at that in-person meeting or shortly thereafter.

Scheduling classes up front helped BHS, but it also really helped instructors better plan their curricula and design their in-archives visit.

Individual faculty-staff meetings were one of the most essential parts of SAFA. Throughout the grant, project staff scheduled and ran a total of 75 individual meetings with faculty. Initial meetings were more exploratory, and later meetings more reflective. Throughout the project, most meetings focused on finalizing details for the upcoming semester.

These regularly-timed meetings do not reflect the many additional meetings that staff held with participating faculty on an as-needed basis.

3 Weeks before the Archives Visit
No later than 3 weeks before their scheduled visit, participating professors were required to submit call slips for individual collection items (staff used a Google form; see Useful Tools for more details) and to email a visit agenda with objectives for their visit.

Agendas included time breakdowns for each aspect of the visit, document groupings and logistical directives, and an explanation of the role that SAFA staff would play during the visit.

If staff did not receive call slips, agendas, or objectives 3 weeks before a scheduled class visit, they canceled the visit. Happily, of the 100+ scheduled SAFA visits, only 1 was canceled because required materials were not submitted.

Over the first 2 semesters of the grant, experience taught project staff that 3 weeks (if not more) was necessary to prepare for a class visit – especially with an average of 25 class visits each semester. For each visit, staff

  • located and pulled materials
  • created citations for each item
  • assessed for copyright
  • prepared supplementary lectures or presentations
  • determined logistical needs for each visit and planned reading room setup
  • liaised with other BHS departments

The Week before the Archives Visit
1 week before the archives visit, staff finalized citations for each pulled document and posted them online so the class could easily access them. For consistency and accuracy, staff asked professors to use the citations provided, not their own. The day before the visit, staff asked instructors to email the in-archives handouts created for students.

The Day of the Visit
At each class visit, SAFA staff provided individual citations that accompanied each document. Staff tailored the layout of the documents in the reading room to best suit the visit and course objectives. They also provided information on all rights restrictions and permissions so students and professors would know whether research photographs they took of the primary sources could be published (usually online in blogs or via social media).

When the class arrived at the archives, staff met students at the door, gave a standard 10 – 15 minute introduction, and, along with the instructor, facilitated the visit.

During the 2012 – 2013 academic year, the above deadlines and policies were laid out for SAFA faculty in this document.


SAFA Class Visits 2011 – 2013

Fall 2011

Long Island University Brooklyn Campus

Professor
Course (click for syllabus)
Visit(s)


ENG 16: English Composition I
3 sections
“Pathways to Freedom” year-long learning community
group split in half
3 Oct 2011 or
5 Oct 2011

31 Oct 2011 or
2 Nov 2011
oral history workshop:
26 Oct 2011



New York City College of Technology

Professor
Course (click for syllabus)
Visit(s)










 

St. Francis College

Professor
Course (click for syllabus)
Visit(s)

27 Sep 2011
4 Oct 2011
18 Oct 2011
8 Nov 2011
15 Nov 2011
22 Nov 2011
walking tour:
11 Oct 2011



27 Oct 2011
3 Nov 2011
10 Nov 2011
17 Nov 2011

12 Oct 2011
17 Oct 2011
21 Oct 2011

4 Oct 2011
22 Nov 2011
walking tour:
11 Oct 2011

Spring 2012

Long Island University Brooklyn Campus

Professor
Course (click for syllabus)
Visit(s)


COS 50: Core Seminar
3 sections
“Pathways to Freedom” year-long learning community
group split in half
8 Feb 2012 or
15 Feb 2012
oral history workshop:
7 Mar 2012

HIS 2: World Civilizations since 1500
3 sections
“Pathways to Freedom” year-long learning community
6 Mar 2012

New York City College of Technology

Professor
Course (click for syllabus)
Visit(s)




St. Francis College

Professor
Course (click for syllabus)
Visit(s)



24 Feb 2012
27 Feb 2012
5 Mar 2012

7 Feb 2012
21 Feb 2012
oral history workshop:
19 Apr 2012

Fall 2012

Long Island University Brooklyn Campus

Professor
Course (click for syllabus)
Visit(s)


ENG 16: English Composition
3 sections
“Pathways to Freedom” year-long learning community
24 Sep 2012
pre-visit:
19 Sep 2012


HIS 1: World Civilizations, 1500 – 1860s
3 sections
“Pathways to Freedom” year-long learning community
25 Sep 2012

New York City College of Technology

Professor
Course (click for syllabus)
Visit(s)

9 Oct 2012
pre-visit:
4 Oct 2012


SPE 1330: Effective Speaking
ENG 1101: English Composition I
“Telling Brooklyn Stories” learning community
1 Oct 2012
pre-visit / walking tour:
19 Sep 2012

GRA 2330: Digital Photography I
section 1
section 2
2 sections of same course
27 Sep 2012 or
3 Oct 2012


St. Francis College

Professor
Course (click for syllabus)
Visit(s)

9 Oct 2012
23 Oct 2012
pre-visit:
27 Sep 2012


23 Oct 2012
30 Oct 2012
20 Nov 2012 *
pre-visit:
18 Oct 2012

15 Oct 2012
17 Oct 2012
24 Oct 2012

2 Oct 2012
16 Oct 2012
13 Nov 2012 *


Spring 2013

Long Island University Brooklyn Campus

Professor
Course (click for syllabus)
Visit(s)

group split in half
4 Apr 2013 or
9 Apr 2013


COS 50: Core Seminar
3 sections
“Pathways to Freedom” year-long learning community
27 Feb 2013

HIS 2: World Civilizations since 1500
3 sections
“Pathways to Freedom” year-long learning community
13 Mar 2013

New York City College of Technology

Professor
Course (click for syllabus)
Visit(s)

5 Mar 2013
pre-visit:
28 Feb 2013


GRA 2330: Digital Photography I
section 1
section 2
two sections of same course
17 Apr 2013 or
18 Apr 2013



St. Francis College

Professor
Course (click for syllabus)
Visit(s)

26 Feb 2013
2 Apr 2013
pre-visit:
14 Feb 2013



4 Apr 2013
16 Apr 2013
18 Apr 2013
pre-visit:
2 Apr 2013

27 Feb 2013
1 Mar 2013
8 Mar 2013

26 Feb 2013
7 Mar 2013

 

* Visits indicated with an asterisk were rescheduled due to Hurricane Sandy. The date above reflects the rescheduled visit date, not the originally scheduled visit.

To cite this page:
Julie Golia and Robin M. Katz, “SAFA Class Visits to the Archives,” TeachArchives.org, accessed [insert date here], http://wwww.teacharchives.org/project/class-visits/.

Authors

Julie Golia
Historian / Founder and Editor, TeachArchives.org
Brooklyn Historical Society
view author bio >
Robin M. Katz
Archivist / Founder and Editor, TeachArchives.org
Brooklyn Historical Society
view author bio >