2006 Teaching and Learning Symposium

3:00-4:30 p.m., April 25, 2006
Mary Gates Commons


Session Description

Urban Archives: Collaborating with Undergraduates in Researching the City

Irina Gendelman, Giorgia Aiello, Tom Dobrowolsky - Communication

Urban Archives is an attempt to develop a cross disciplinary pedagogical curriculum that gives undergraduate students an opportunity to apply theory and methods through fieldwork, turning their city into a laboratory for the study of urban communication. We have been collaborating with several departments across campus such as the Information School, CHID, Communication and Landscape Architecture. Working as research assistants and in their classrooms undergraduate students participate in collaborative and experiential learning. Students use ethnographic methods, photography and archival research as tools to examine a variety of topics pertaining to the greater local community.

Since Fall of 2004, students have worked on topics such as highway culture in the city, political graffiti, political and public art, historic preservation, the effects of laws on public space and commercial archaeology. We have found that students are eager to take on the independent task of researching their own surroundings if they are given basic theoretical and methodological skills and an opportunity to see their research outcomes as part of a larger collaborative and public project. Urban Archives publicly exhibits the data that students collect through the UW Digital Collections database. Although the research collaboration is highly independent and thus requires initiative on the part of the undergraduates, we have been impressed by the quality, precision and depth of the students’ work. By means of assessing their work (data, journals, research papers, student feedback), we recognize that the pedagogical instruments adopted in Urban Archives stimulate students to engage in public scholarship within the Seattle community.