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“Speaking Volumes” Discussion Oct. 28 at LSU to Focus on Archives and History

10/18/2011 02:33 PM

BATON ROUGE – LSU Professor of History Sue Marchand, LSU History Department alumna Allison Cooper and Interim Head of LSU Special Collections Tara Laver will present “Speaking Volumes: Classroom Experiences with Archival Record Books” on Friday, Oct. 28, at noon a Hill Memorial Library.


The three speakers will provide their perspectives on a research assignment Marchand has used for the past several years in a required introductory course on historical research methodology.


This talk will be of interest not only to students and faculty, but to anyone with an interest in history. Attendees will have the opportunity to learn firsthand about the crucial role primary sources play in understanding the past.


The exercise they will talk about makes use of standardized record books found in LSU Libraries’ Special Collections that record daily events on a plantation in Amite County, Miss., in the 1850s, as well as the type and amount of work performed by individual slaves, births and deaths among the enslaved population and medical treatment they received, clothing issued and financial aspects of plantation business.


Laver will discuss the books as a type of standardized record, the history of their development by writer, agriculturalist, planter and entrepreneur Thomas Affleck, and why she suggested them as a body of evidence for the class’ assignment.


Cooper, who completed her Master of Arts degree program in 2010, will give a student’s take on the assignment, covering the challenges she and her classmates faced in using the collection, some of her conclusions and the overall experience.


Marchand will talk about what students gain from the assignment and how it fits into her teaching objectives.


“The assignment provides an introduction to primary sources and how historians conduct research,” Marchand said. “I ask the students to confine their conclusions to what they can deduce based exclusively on the information in the record books and selected contextual readings.”


“This collaboration is just one example of how professors are incorporating Special Collections materials into their classes,” Laver said. “We are always looking for other opportunities to work with them and their students.”


Attendees are invited to bring a brown bag lunch. Beverages and snacks will be provided.


The event closes out LSU Libraries Special Collections’ recognition of American Archives Month, an annual effort by the archival community to raise awareness about the value of archives and their importance in preserving our history.


For more information on LSU Libraries Special Collections, visit

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