The Archive: Seminar Overview

Hecht Box

The Ben Hecht papers as they arrived at the Newberry Library.

The Newberry Library invites graduate students in the humanities to apply for a seminar that will explore the theoretical, critical, and practical methods necessary to negotiate historical and literary archives. The seminar will be held on eight Fridays from October 4- December 6, 2019 (with no class on Nov. 8 or Nov. 29 ). The course will be led by Liesl Olson (Director of Chicago Studies, Newberry Library) and a team of Newberry archivists and curators. In Fall 2019, the course includes guest presentations by Brent Hayes Edwards (Columbia University) and Matthew Kirschenbaum (University of Maryland).

The seminar will provide graduate students with a set of tools essential to doctoral research in any archive. Students will learn to approach their own research with an attention to fundamental methodological questions; such as: how do taxonomies shape our critical understanding of a field? How do we organize information and knowledge? Students will acquire skills that will also broaden their opportunities for career diversity by exposing students to archival work at an independent research library. In collaboration with Newberry staff, students will conceive and write a processing plan for an unprocessed collection at the Newberry (in lieu of a research paper). All students will present their final processing plan to the seminar and Newberry staff at a colloquium event on the final day of the seminar.  This methodological work will be buttressed by a deep engagement with conceptual issues raised through a discussion of readings from historians, literary scholars, and theorists.

This seminar is part of a larger Newberry Library initiative which will culminate in 2020 with a symposium that will bring together seminar faculty, students, invited archival specialists, humanities scholars, and directors of graduate study at major universities to make public a larger discussion of the seminar, the findings of our work, and potential avenues for integrating archival practice more fully into doctoral programs in the humanities.

The course is ideal for PhD candidates in or beyond their third year of doctoral studies. The expectation is that students will spend at least one other day per week at the Newberry pursuing their own archival projects. A cohort of 15 graduate students will be selected to participate, and lunch will be provided each session. Travel funding for students outside of the Chicago area is available. The seminar will be offered again in fall 2020.

Support for this seminar was provided by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.