Students studying outside the library

Everything old is new again

Wofford students using the digital liberal arts to create online historical collections

OnlineHist 382

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Wofford College students JoAnne Franklin and Monica Branch are studying old letters that were mailed to the college when it made the decision to desegregate in 1963.

"This isn't our time, but it's timely now," say Franklin, a junior psychology major from Denver, Colorado. "Studying old stuff allows you to reflect and make changes based on facts."

Both women are taking "Everything Old is New Again: Using the Digital Liberal Arts to Create Online Historical Collections" during Interim 2018. The class works daily with rare materials from Wofford's Sandor Teszler Library — from a 16th-century manuscript to Civil War diaries to letters and other historical objects and memorabilia. Each student is working individually and in groups on digitizing these historical materials.

"We're rediscovering and taking a closer look at various texts, then creating a digital archive so the information is accessible for others to explore and expand upon," says Branch, a junior English major with a business minor from Oakland, California.

According to instructors Emily Witsell, research librarian and instruction coordinator, and Luke Meagher, special collections librarian, the digital liberal arts is a growing field. It teaches collaboration, communications skills, respect for materials and team members, technical skills, creative thinking and much more.

"We proposed this class as a way to expose students to this field and to the library as a place where scholarship and experiential learning happen," says Meagher. "While working in the digital liberal arts, students learn to leverage their strengths and gain skills useful later in life."

Witsell says the students in the class have embraced the topic and have become fearless explorers of both the old resources and the new technology. "I hope some of them will take what they've learned during Interim and use their digital projects as launching pads for their major capstones or projects for other classes."

Interim, Wofford College's January term, frees students and faculty to spend the month focused on a single topic designed to expand the walls of the traditional classroom, explore new and untried topics, take academic risks, observe issues in action, develop capabilities for independent learning and consider different peoples, places and professional options. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Interim at Wofford.