Skip to Main Content

Instruction in University Archives & Special Collections

This guide provides information about the types of instruction sessions offered in the archives and how to book them.

Contact Me!

Profile Photo
Chloe Gerson
Chloe Gerson, Reference and Instruction Archivist
Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections, Goldfarb Library
Brandeis University
415 South St.
Waltham, MA 02453

Types of Instruction Sessons

We are delighted to work with you to design any type of instruction session that will best fit your learning goals and student level!  Instruction sessions can be as short as fifteen minutes or as long as four hours.  We are delighted to work with the Brandeis community, as well as local K-12 teachers and students and other neighboring colleges or institutions.  Our collections are open to all users.  We can design single session visits, or multiple visit sessions.  If original materials are to be used, instruction sessions will be held in the archives/library.  If digital surrogates or facsimiles are to be used, sessions can be done online via Zoom or other platforms as agreed upon based on University standards, or we can also make presentations in your own classroom.  

With an instruction session in the archives, your students will have hands-on access to Brandeis's rare and unique materials, and learn valuable primary source research skills.  Below are three of our most common types of instruction sessions (we can also create a hybrid version that combines multiple types):

Exhibit ("show and tell"): Based on your syllabus, we can curate an exhibit specifically for your students.  Our archivists can lead a discussion based on the exhibited materials, or we can do a short introduction and leave the lecture to you!

Active Learning: Working with one of the our archivists, we can design a session that incorporates one or more hands-on active learning exercises for your students using materials from our collections based on your learning goals

Presentations and Workshops: We can design presentations and workshops about any number of topics, such as The Elements of a Finding Aid or How to Research in the Archives, or a general orientation to the archives

How to Book a Session

The Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections Reading Room located on Level 2 of the Goldfarb Library is open to the public Monday-Friday from 10am-4pm, and closed on major holidays.  We are happy to work with you to schedule a time if your class meets outside of our Reading Room hours.  Our Reading Room can comfortably fit 18 people seated (up to 20 tightly) and up to 30 people standing.  If your class exceeds this amount, we can work with you to book classroom space in a variety of other rooms in the library.  When booking an instruction session, we appreciate a two week notice for class planning, but can make exceptions based on the type of session desired and availability of space and staff.  We are also happy to assist with creating assignments based on our materials.


Please contact Chloe Gerson, Reference and Instruction Archivist, for more information and questions, to schedule a class visit, or to make an appointment to talk to one of our archivists: 781-736-4657 /


Reading Room Procedures

We are excited that you will be holding an instruction session in University Archives & Special Collections!  Although we are part of the main library, our materials often need a little extra TLC due to age, fragility, and rarity.  We encourage our users to engage thoughtfully and critically with our materials, thus we ask all of our users to adhere to the following guidelines while working in the Reading Room:

  • Please do not bring food, candy, gum, or beverages (including water) into the archives
  • Please wash your hands before entering the Reading Room as you will be handling rare and unique items
  • Please handle all of our material gently and thoughtfully
  • Please do not use writing utensils other than a pencil
  • Please do not take photographs of any of the material without prior permission from the archivist 
  • Our materials cannot be checked out or borrowed, and may only be used in the Reading Room

For information and Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals, please see the Brandeis University Service Animal and Emotional Animal Support Policy (Brandeis University Office of Equal Opportunity).

Introduction to the Archives: an Online Learning Portal

Another way we invite instructors to integrate archives into their classrooms is to make use of the Introduction to Archives: an Online Learning Portal, a self-paced online learning module that can be used in the classroom or as a outside assignment.  This module is meant to be used for students in any department, from history to chemistry, and any grade level from undergraduate all the way up to grad level. 

Instruction Resources

Guidelines for Primary Source Literacy (developed by the SAA-ACRL/RBMS Joint Task Force, approved 2018)

Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education (adopted by ACRL 2016)

ACRL Visual Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education (approved by ACRL 2011)

Library of Congress: Resources for Teachers

Digital Commonwealth: Massachusetts Collections Online: Lesson plans

Teaching with Primary Sources Collective: Lesson plans

Further Reading on Teaching with Primary Sources

Bartlett, N., Gadelha, E., & Nofziger, C. (Eds). (2019). Teaching Undergraduates with Archives.  Michigan Publishing.

Badhe, A., Smedberg, H., & Taormina, M. (Eds). (2014). Using primary sources : hands-on instructional exercises. Libraries Limited.

Mitchell, E., Seiden, P.A., & Taraba, S. (Eds). (2012). Past or Portal? Enhancing Undergraduate Learning through Special Collections and Archives.  Association of College and Research Libraries.

Teaching with Primary Sources Collective: bibliography