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Online Course: Basics of Archives

Basics of Archives is an AASLH Continuing Education online course July 1 - July 26, 2019 hosted in the online classroom. This online course is about caring for historical records. This online course is taught by Charles Arp. The recently revised Basics of Archives online course is designed to give organizations and individuals who are responsible for the care of historical records an introduction to the core aspects of managing and protecting historical records collections, using appropriate principles and best practices.


DATES: July 1 - July 26, 2019

COST: $85 members/$160 nonmembers

OPEN REGISTRATION: January 31 - June 21, 2019



Course Logistics:

FORMAT: Online, self-paced course.

LENGTH: 4 weeks; 15-20 hours to be completed anytime during the four-week course period (dates above).

PARTICIPATION STYLE: Online chat. There are no required times to be online.

MATERIALS: There are no required texts for this course. All materials will be provided.

GRADING: Pass/Fail. You must complete all exams within the allotted four weeks in order to pass the course.

Description & Outcomes:

The newly revised Basics of Archives online course is designed to give organizations and individuals who are responsible for the care of historical records an introduction to the core aspects of managing and protecting historical records collections, using appropriate principles and best practices.

The course consists of seven lessons:

    • Archives and Archivists
    • Acquiring Your Collections
    • Processing Collections
    • Housing Your Collections
    • Access and Outreach
    • Digital Records
    • Digitization

Who Should Take This Course:

This course is a beginning level course designed for professional staff and volunteers of historical organizations and libraries with historical collections who have little to no experience with archival materials.


Charlie Arp has a BA and MA in history from Ohio University where he specialized in archival studies. From 1991 to 2003 he worked at the Ohio Historical Society (OHS) where he held a variety of positions including archival processor, reference archivist, Head of Reference, Assistant State Archivist and State Archivist. As Assistant State Archivist he was the digital projects coordinator and he formed and chaired the Ohio Electronic Records Committee, an interdisciplinary group formed to draft electronic records policy, guidelines, and best practices for state and local governments in Ohio.  As State Archivist he was a senior level manager responsible for the planning, coordination, and administration of the operations of the State Archives including the Local Government Records program and the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor Archives/Library.

In 2003 Charlie was hired by the Battelle Memorial Institute as Enterprise Content Manager. At Battelle Charlie pioneered managing electronic records in lieu of paper records. Charlie also supervised the Good Laboratory Practices (GLP) archives. GLP records fall under FDA regulations to ensure that the records documenting scientific research for substances put in or on humans are created reliably and maintained authentically over time. In 2015 Charlie tested and validated the use of an electronic management program to enable Battelle to create, manage, preserve and use electronic records as part of submissions to the FDA.

In early 2016 Charlie accepted an offer for early retirement from Battelle. Since then he has started an archival and records management consulting firm and is writing a book on archives.

Participant Feedback

“This course was exactly what we need to improve our rather small Collection and take it to another step. Thanks for all of the ideas and information. I am especially impressed with how well the course is organized and presented online. The site was very well thought out and presented no problems for me – a slightly challenged computer geek-wanna be.”

“This was a marvelous course and now I have confidence that I can do the work: material to reference and people to communicate with as needed.”

“I just wanted to say thank you for having this course.  It has really helped me decide what direction I want to make my education in and had definitely helped me with some of the smaller preservation jobs I take on at the library.”

Book Review: Teaching with Primary Sources

This review originally appeared in the Winter 2019 issue of History News.

Teaching with Primary Sources
By Christopher J. Prom and Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe (eds.)
(Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2016)
Reviewed by Marietta Carr

Primary sources have long been a critical piece of the curricula at all levels of education, but recent changes to education standards, approaches to teaching, and library and archives services have increased the demand for robust instructional services and access to archival collections. Archivists have responded with creativity, variety, and pragmatism in meeting their communities’ teaching and learning needs. Teaching with Primary Sources, edited by Christopher J. Prom and Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe, gathers some of the struggles archivists have faced and the solutions they have developed in delivering instructional services. The book is divided into three modules. Each module focuses on different aspects of the topic, ranging from theoretical frameworks to case studies and example assignments. As Hinchliffe explains in her introduction, the book is designed as a primer for instruction in academic archival contexts, but can be applied to cultural heritage organizations generally and used by busy educators looking for inspiration for impending primary source instruction sessions.

The first module lays out a theoretical framework of archival literacy and relates it to concepts and literacies commonly addressed in teaching and education literature such as information literacy, assessment, and domain knowledge. The second module moves into more practical ground by proposing solutions to possible barriers to teaching with archival materials. While the first module gives archivists the terminology and conceptual background necessary to engage with faculty, the second module is a how-to guide for implementing instructional services. The module includes tips for identifying resources like time and professional development, communicating with administrators and faculty, and creating lesson plans. The third module explores common themes expressed in case studies and interviews with archivists, college faculty, and a high school teacher. This module includes examples of assignments and class tools that can be adapted to each reader’s institutional situation.

Teaching with Primary Sources is an excellent overview of this trend in archival practice, especially for archivists with little formal teaching experience or training. Each module includes an appendix with suggestions for further reading so interested readers can delve further into the topic. There are several recurring themes that appear in each module. Perhaps the most prevalent theme is the authors’ emphasis on building relationships with educators. The authors point out that one of the most common instructional services is a single session within the context of a larger course. Strong collaborative relationships with faculty will make these sessions more effective and create opportunities to develop other types of instructional services. For example, one archivist reported that the professors he worked with revised their course learning objectives in response to feedback from archives staff. This theme also highlights two of the book’s weaknesses: a predominant concern for academic archival settings and a lack of input from K-12 teachers. The authors draw primarily from their own experiences as archivists in higher education institutions and interviews with other archivists and faculty.

While the academic archivist will benefit most directly from the authors’ advice, the book is written with the larger cultural heritage environment in mind and the authors’ solutions can be adapted to non-academic institutions. Online tools such as tutorials for accessing and citing materials can encourage college students to use non-academic archives. Creating programs for students in newer initiatives such as massive open online courses (MOOCs) and co-curricular programs in colleges’ education departments can benefit both the cultural heritage organization and the academic institution. The authors stress that selecting the right materials significantly impacts educators’ success in integrating primary sources into their curriculum or museum programming. For example, items with unique provenance or preservation histories will engage students and adult audiences and enable significant learning experiences. Educators must have clear and limited objectives for what they expect the audience to learn when working with their primary sources, recognizing that many individuals will likely lack necessary analytical skills such as visual literacy.

Marietta Carr is the College Archivist at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, OH. She holds an M.L.I.S from the University of Pittsburgh and an M.A. in History from Northeastern University, and can be reached at [email protected].

Are you interested in contributing reviews to History News? Apply here.

Gilder Lehrman Online Graduate Course Creates New Digital History Archive

AASLH Member Since 2002

An enterprising group of 700 teachers recently completed an innovative online graduate course, “Understanding Lincoln,” presented jointly by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the House Divided Project at Dickinson College. The results of this project now appear in a diverse and thoughtful collection of research and teaching tools. Registration for the second phase of “Understanding Lincoln” will open on March 15, 2014.

“Understanding Lincoln” began as a fall semester 2013 online course that attracted a cohort of 100 participants pursuing graduate credit from Dickinson College and an additional 600 auditors from four continents. Dickinson College history professor and noted Lincoln scholar Matthew Pinsker was the instructor. The Gilder Lehrman Institute’s director of digital projects, Lance Warren, served as course producer.

Participants engaged in live seminar sessions and interactive field trips, viewed an expert panel on Lincoln’s legacy televised by C-SPAN, and a special exhibit on the Gettysburg Address created for the Google Cultural Institute. Three participants also received an all-expenses-paid trip to Gettysburg for the 150th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, where they presented their final course projects during an open online session. All course participants were encouraged to 1 of 3 contribute close-reading content to a growing archive of web-based resources created during the course sessions. These tools were designed to align with the new Common Core State Standards. Perhaps most importantly, more than 50 course participants became contributing editors to a new, award-winning website devoted to promoting the teaching of Lincoln documents in the K-12 and undergraduate classroom.

EDSITEment, a project of the National Endowment for the Humanities featuring excellent online humanities content, ranked “Lincoln’s Writings: The Multi-Media Edition” as one of the “Best of the Humanities Web” in November 2013. These contributing editors, now rightly recognized as public historians, are bringing back to classrooms around the world not only their own insights, but also those of hundreds of colleagues. With “Understanding Lincoln” and the “Lincoln’s Writings” site, a new community of Lincoln scholars is born.

Course participants have been quick to praise the effort. “The rigor and intellectual engagement of this course was very impressive, as was the work of the other participants,” noted Emily Trono, a high school English teacher from Boston who earned graduate credit for the course. Woody Woodruff, a lifelong learner from New York participating in the free, open section of the course, found the process unique and profound. “I learned about Lincoln and the Civil War Era,” he reflected, “but I also discovered the power of learning through original source material, and that online courses can be a lot more interactive than I expected.” “I have seen the future,” Woodruff wrote, “and it is ‘Understanding Lincoln.’" The Gilder Lehrman Institute and Dickinson College will offer “Understanding Lincoln” again this summer, with registration opening on March 15.

The work of “Understanding Lincoln,” especially through the ongoing development of the new multimedia edition of “Lincoln’s Writings,” represents a new chapter of Lincoln scholarship driven by teachers, guided by historians, and assertively exploring the future of the president’s past.

The best projects from the “Understanding Lincoln” course are available here:

To view selected open course sessions from Fall 2013 “Understanding Lincoln,” go here:

To view the “Understanding Lincoln” virtual field trip to Gettysburg, go here:!112761

To view the exhibit on “Lincoln’s Gettysburg Addresses” featured at the Google Cultural Institute, go  here:


About the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

Founded in 1994, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is the nation’s leading nonprofit provider of K–12 teacher training and  classroom resources. Our programs promote excellence in the teaching and learning of American history. Gilder Lehrman programs include  Teacher Seminars, a national Affiliate School Program, online courses, Traveling Exhibitions, online materials, and more for teachers, students, and the general public. Visit to learn more.

About Dickinson College

Dickinson College, founded in 1773, is a highly selective, private residential liberal-arts college known for its innovative curriculum. Its mission is to offer students a useful education in the arts and sciences that will prepare them for lives as engaged citizens and leaders. The 180-acre campus of Dickinson College is located in the heart of historic Carlisle, Pa. The House Divided Project at Dickinson, directed by history professor Matthew Pinsker, specializes in building digital resources on the Civil War era for K-12 and undergraduate classrooms.

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
49 West 45th Street, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10036