UWM Archivists Study Abroad in Scotland

Ellen Engseth is Curator of the Immigration History Research Center Archives and Head of the Migration and Social Services Collections at the University of Minnesota’s Archives and Special Collections. She also is adjunct faculty with the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee School of Information Studies. She writes about a recent study abroad class to Scotland, and is interested in hearing from others regarding international projects and professional development, or study abroad education….

I am interested in internationalism of the field, especially professional development and global literacy in the context of training and education. I’ve recently returned from teaching a study abroad class, offered through the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee (UWM) School of Information Studies’ Archival Studies program. I call the course ‘In the Scottish Archive’ to reflect its unique opportunity of learning hours behind-the-scenes in numerous repositories located in Edinburgh, Scotland; it is structured around on-site repository visits. The course centers on theory and/or practices of Scottish archivists and other information/records professionals. Our study enables us to compare and contrast between UK and US archival theory and practice, the extent of which is dependent upon knowledge of the latter. Before we leave the US and gather in Edinburgh, the students are introduced to the Scottish cultural and work environment through pre-travel readings. For two weeks in Scotland, this was furthered by a living and learning environment including structured lectures, class discussion, personal observation hours at repositories, and other forms of onsite learning. Broad goals for the course are to encourage international/global literacy, and inter-cultural confidence and interest in the next generation of professionals. Specific class learning outcomes include an ability to compare and contrast Scottish and US archival practice and theory, and international experience through interaction with colleagues and institutions in a foreign country. And for all of us involved, including myself as instructor, the experience can broaden the context of our US-based work, and suggest affinities and connections.

engseth-class-2014This year, ‘In the Scottish Archive’ visited the Digital Curation Centre, Edinburgh University Library Center for Research Collections, the National Library of Scotland, the National Records of Scotland/ScotlandsPeople Centre, National War Museum library, and Scottish Catholic Archives. In addition, we observed the Repository Fringe “unconference” on open access and digital curation, and met with Dr. Mary Choquette’s University of Maryland’s Follow the Fringe: Documentation and Preservation of Cultural Movements in Media course. (That course was documenting the world-famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival while visiting Edinburgh, and their class visit coincided, happily, with ours.) This year, ‘In the Scottish Archive’ discussion concentrated on professional training and associations, and the legal and political environment centered around the 2011 Public Records (Scotland) Act, Freedom of Information Act, and the Data Protection Act. Of course, much discussion was in the air regarding the September 18th, 2014 referendum regarding Scottish independence from the United Kingdom.

I know all of us involved thank the Scottish colleagues who spoke with us and shared their work. The people, and connections we make, are always the best part of this experience.

I am very interested to hear from others interested in research and writing on international projects, professional development or study abroad related education. Please contact me at eengseth@umn.edu.

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