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Preparing Your Students for a Research Fieldtrip

Before Your Trip: Prepare your Students
Because of the size and scope of our collections, researchers come from all over the United States to use the Library and Archives at the Wisconsin Historical Society. In order to make sure that your students' experience is as rewarding as possible, students should not only familiarize themselves with resources in the library or archives, but also have the opportunity to “pre-search” online catalogs before they arrive.

Library vs. Archives
: Archival research can be extremely rewarding for students of all skill levels since the materials they handle are authentic primary documents. The experience of working with professional archivists in a world-class research facility is a unique and memorable experience if the student is prepared. Often, students who visit the Wisconsin Historical Society become frustrated if they attempt to use the archives in the same way they use a library. Since the Archives collects different types of resources, archival collections are more limited than those in a library. A basic understanding of what Archives can offer will help students focus their efforts and avoid confusion when they participate in a research workshop.

Online Catalogs: With millions of items in our collections, it can sometimes be challenging for new users to find exactly what they want in our online catalogs. Give your students a chance to familiarize themselves with the Library Catalog and ArCat before they come.

  • Library Catalog (formerly MadCat): Searches materials in libraries across campus, including the Wisconsin Historical Society Library. Be careful to note the PHYSICAL LOCATION of each book in the library catalog—if it is not located in the Historical Society Library, it will not be accessible the day of the workshop. In some instances, National History Day staff members can retrieve publications from other libraries if requested with at least one week advance notice. See activity below for more information on using the Library Catalog.
  • ArCat: Searches only materials in the Wisconsin Historical Society Archives. For information on using ArCat, from the page above follow the link "ArCat Search Hints."

Fieldtrip Preparation Activities: The following activities will help to familiarize your students with the library and archives as well as the online catalogs before they arrive.

  • Research Lesson Plans (PDF): Students will learn about the difference between a library and an archive and the different types of sources that might be available in each. Students will also work with and locate sources through our online catalogs before their arrival at the Wisconsin Historical Society.
  • Research Roadmap (PDF, 48KB): Before arrival, have students use the online catalogs to search for resources on their own topics. Have them pre-select library and archive materials they want to use while they are here and complete a research roadmap for effective research.
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