Last fall, we announced plans for bolstering the AFC’s outreach to higher education, making our resources more accessible to the college and university community. In part, this was motivated by the increased demand for remote and online teaching brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. In this light, our efforts have aimed to help instructors of all types, whether online or in a physical classroom, by providing them with resources to enrich their teaching and improve their students’ experience.
As the AFC offers a wide array of online resources that can deepen student learning – from digitized collections and recorded performances and lectures, to educational materials, such as story maps, podcasts, and the numerous in-depth posts on this blog – we know that some instructors may ask: “OK, there are hundreds of thousands of items online from AFC, but only one of me! How do I find material I can use?”
With this in mind, we set out to develop a research guide and complementary story map to help instructors access our extensive digital collections and online resources. And you might remember that our first step was administering a survey to our friends in higher education to learn how we can enhance access to AFC resources, and whose responses are outlined later.
But first: we are happy to present our newest research guide, American Folklife Center’s Higher Education Resources, and story map, The American Folklife Center Online, which are both dedicated to assisting instructors in exploring our collections and related materials, inspiring ways in which they can be integrated into teaching.
AFC’s Higher Education Resources Research Guide begins by presenting the Center’s print and online resources, as well as navigation pathways that can be taken to search the AFC archives and reference materials. It then suggests AFC materials that can be drawn on for higher education instruction, highlighting online collections and resources that underscore the relevance and timeliness of AFC materials, as well as their applicability in teaching and learning about the cultural traditions and experiences of diverse communities in the U.S. (and beyond), over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, through to today. Included also is a brief overview of Folklife & Fieldwork: An Introduction to Cultural Documentation, the Center’s guidebook for designing and conducting cultural documentation projects of one’s own.
With a similar aim, the The AFC Online story map offers an audio-visual guide to the center’s online resources, helping users explore the rich array of primary source and educational materials accessible from anywhere with an Internet connection. Thanks to story map technology, we were able to create two interactive maps that visually connect AFC archival collections — both digital and analog — to many of the places, across the U.S. and around the world, to which they relate. In addition, the story map presents an overview of other online resources that can be of benefit to researchers and higher-ed instructors, incorporating video performances, podcast episodes, and story maps, as examples. Complementing the research guide, the map presents navigation pathways that can be taken to search the Library’s online catalog and AFC archives as a step-by-step visual guide. Lastly, the story map takes a closer look at one AFC collection that was recently made available online, The Green Book: Documenting African American Entrepreneurs, which serves to highlight the timeliness and richness of the Center’s primary source materials.
Importantly, both of these new resources reflect insights gleaned from the aforementioned survey. Roughly two dozen instructors took the time to respond and share their thoughts on what would be most helpful to them for exploring AFC collections and resources, particularly those that have been made available online. In fact, 95% of respondents are interested in research guides to AFC materials that also offer instructions on how to navigate to them, using the Library’s online catalog, finding AFC’s growing range of online collections, and exploring AFC’s curatorial sites such as blogs and podcasts. The survey also revealed that barriers to exploring AFC resources include the need for easier access, and similarly, ‘not having enough information on what is available’, to paraphrase a comment provided by one instructor. As such, 80% agreed that “librarian-led training on research strategies for using online resources, including Library catalog, electronic databases, and [Research] Guides (librarian-curated topic-specific guides with links to relevant resources)” would serve to better meet their teaching needs.
In hopes to answer those needs, we present this research guide and story map…we hope you enjoy these new AFC resources!