I am in the process of finalizing my syllabus for the research seminar that I will be teaching his fall at the American Antiquarian Society. You can read the course description here. I finalized the reading list, which will include the following titles:
- Louis Masur, The Civil War: A Concise History (Oxford University Press)
- Gary Gallagher, The Union War (Harvard University Press)
- Drew Gilpin Faust, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War (Vintage)
- Janette Thomas Greenwood, First Fruits of Freedom: The Migration of Former Slaves and Their Search for Equality in Worcester, Massachusetts, 1862-1900 (University of North Carolina Press)
- James McPherson, For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War (Oxford University Press)
- Judith Giesberg, Army at Home: Women and the Civil War on the Northern Home Front (University of North Carolina Press)
- Brian Matthew Jordan, Marching Home: Union Veterans and Their Unending Civil War (Liveright)
The seminar is designed to give students the opportunity to research a topic using the rich collections of the AAS.
This brings me to my question for those of you who have taught research seminars. The AAS has digitized a large number of primary sources relevant to this seminar. One could conceivably research a topic without ever stepping into the reading room. While accessibility to these collections is incredibly helpful, I want to encourage my students to spend as much time as possible in the reading room with the actual sources. As many of you know there is something special about working directly with an artifact that simply cannot be replicated digitally. There is a closeness with the past that is achieved in such a setting.
Unfortunately, I am not quite sure how to impart that experience of closeness or the epistemological relevance of direct interaction. Are there exercises that might help students early on in the class to better appreciate what so many of us who work in the archives understand instinctively? Perhaps comparing the experience of looking at a broadside or letter on the computer and then directly might help. Any ideas or thoughts are much appreciated.