Penn/Historical Society of Pennsylvania Teaching Alliance

Into the Archives: Enhancing Instruction and Learning

The University of Pennsylvania and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP) have formed an alliance aimed at enhancing the academic experience of Penn students. The initiative supports the development of courses that have meaningful, intriguing and well-mentored archival research opportunities as core components and offers the opportunity to use the vast collections of HSP.

Course Development Grants

As part of the program, Penn and HSP archivists will provide close guidance and support, including to instructors without previous experience teaching or using archival sources. The following types of courses are encouraged:

  • courses where the topic effectively meshes with HSP primary-source strengths
  • team-taught courses
  • courses taught cross-department/cross-school
  • Academically-Based Community Service (ABCS) courses
  • courses that bring Penn students together with local public high school teachers and students for community heritage and/or National History Day research projects

Course development grants of $3000 are available to faculty and lecturers. Proposed courses should:

  • be primarily at the undergraduate level (appropriate graduate seminars are eligible)
  • incorporate class trips to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (located at 13th and Locust Streets)
  • be capped at 12-15 students for maximum mentoring

The initiative is supported by the Office of the Provost and Penn Libraries.

How to Apply

1. Determine a general course topic. Instructors can propose adding an archival research component to an existing course or conceive an entirely new one. Potential subjects are noted below; additional ideas are encouraged.

2. Contact Dr. John Pollack, Curator of Research Services, Kislak Center for Special Collections (, with an idea for an Alliance course. Dr. Pollack will help hone the instructor's idea and then refer them to archivists at Penn and HSP to identify specific relevant collections at HSP. Instructors should use HSP collection search tools to learn more about the contents of the relevant collections.

3. Instructors should discuss their proposed Penn/HSP Alliance course with their department chair, notifying the chair as to which semester the in-load course will be offered.

4. Instructors should then use Curriculum Manager to propose a new course or propose a change to an existing course. When submitting the proposal via Curriculum Manager, faculty should make sure to:

  • indicate the intended semester for the course to be offered.
  • identify whether the course is an ABCS course (add the ABCS attribute), and if so, potential community partner or a request for Netter Center help in identifying a community partner
  • identify the course as a Penn/HSP Alliance course by adding the “Penn HSP Alliance” attribute
  • explain how an archival research experience will fit with and enhance the course in the rationale for the proposal
  • include a list of potential HSP collections that will be used

The deadline for course proposals is rolling.

Proposals will be reviewed by an Alliance Academic Planning Committee appointed by the Office of the Provost and are subject to school approval protocols.  Recipients of grants will then work with Penn and HSP archivists to further develop the course. Grant recipients should submit final syllabi of courses to the Vice Provost of Education and will also be asked to provide feedback on the course at the end of the semester.

About the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania is a premier library of historical records, with 600,000 books, pamphlets, serials, and microfilm reels; 20 million manuscripts; and over 300,000 graphics items.  The holdings include treasured documents, such as the first two drafts of the U.S. Constitution, but also notable are extensive collections on slavery, abolitionism and the Underground Railroad and on immigration and the formation of diaspora communities.  The collections stretch in time from the early colonial period and encounters of European settlers with Native Americans to the twenty-first century and contemporary urban crises and protest movements.  They span as well spatially: local, regional, national, and global developments can be examined.  And the range of subjects is manifold: constitutionalism, citizenship, political divides, reform movements, and wars; science, technology and medicine; global commerce; industrial, mining, transportation and banking development; religion and ethnocultural conflict; family history and community heritage; architecture and urban planning; arts and popular culture; racial, gender, and class identities and divides; and more.

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