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Incorporating archives into your learning and teaching activities: Archives Projects

Guidance for course and module tutors exploring how to incorporate archives into learning and teaching activities, with pointers to available online resources

“Archive material is a fabulous starting point - individual documents are like signposted roads, heading to a variety of intriguing possibilities.”

Sara Sheridan 

Archives Projects

Getting students involved in projects developed around interaction with archival material is a unique learning experience.

These types of projects allow students to develop key competencies such as critical thinking; they give students opportunities to use their subject knowledge for public engagement activities; and they provide students with small-scale research management experience.

More specifically, asking students to undertake a combination of different archives projects requires them to exercise the following:

Disciplinary knowledge, including:

  • development of subject knowledge
  • awareness of wider subject context
  • application of a new research methodology
  • use of research management skills
  • consideration of copyright implications

Critical thought, including:

  • understanding of perspective and bias
  • source analysis
  • appropriate selection of content

Technical ability, including:

  • knowledge of digitisation processes
  • ability to use design software
  • engagement with modern channels of communication

Communication skills, including:

  • ability to write succinctly and clearly
  • application of narrative skills to tell interesting stories
  • ability to adapt writing style for diverse and non-academic audiences
  • sensitivity in language use

Below are some examples of possible student projects which could be designed around archival material:

Public engagement

Possible projects include:

  • Social media campaigns - group work to develop a series of posts based on archival material, relating the posts to current social and cultural issues or to relevant anniversaries
  • Physical or digital exhibitions - group work to research, prepare and deliver an exhibition based on archival collections of relevance to a given subject area
  • Blog posts - individual students write posts based around a selection of archival documents to highlight different aspects of a topic
  • Educational resources - students work in groups to create an educational resource based on archival collections of relevance to a given subject area


Possible projects include:

  • Student forums - students search for and select a number of archival documents to form the basis of a critical exploration of a given topic
  • Student debates - students are each assigned an archival document, relevant to a given topic, and must assess what perspectives are represented by their document in order to debate the issues related to the topic with the rest of the group

Independent writing

Possible projects include:

  • Research essay - students undertake research, using an assigned collection, to explore what perspective relevant material within the collection presents on a given topic
  • Source analysis - students undertake a close analysis of a pre-selected number of documents, to explore the wider context of a specific subject or issue

Work with Hull University Archives (HUA)

HUA staff are happy to:

  • provide further advice regarding the collections available at Hull History Centre for use in projects such as those mentioned above
  • facilitate arrangement of time slots and working spaces should academic staff wish to bring groups of students to undertake research at Hull History Centre
  • investigate possibilities around the use of Hull History Centre exhibition space for the staging of student exhibitions and engagement activities
  • collaborate on social media campaigns by facilitating 'student take-overs' of the History Centre's social media platforms 
  • work with colleagues in academic departments to develop tutor-led learning opportunities based on Hull History Centre collections

In addition...

HUA runs a volunteer programme for students of the University of Hull. We offer 10 week placements working on a variety of projects including the following:

  • Listing of subject files from the Liberty Archives to improve accessibility and knowledge of the collection
  • Listing of port files from the Mission to Seafarers Archive and selective digitisation of material for use in online engagement activities
  • Research into the history of the University of Hull in preparation for the university's centenary

We would love to work with academic colleagues who wish to create volunteering opportunities for their students.

Email us for a chat: