Preparing Your Students
for a Research Fieldtrip
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."
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.
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.