Mirror, Mirror On the Wall Show Me Documents That Represent Us All: Using Archival Records To Create Inclusive Lessons in the Classroom
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Studies have shown that children who see diversity in the stories they read have both a stronger confidence in their identity and show greater empathy towards others. This same principle can be applied to historical documents. Focusing on the dominate historical narrative can imply a greater value and ability of one group which is historically inaccurate and perpetuates discrimination. Archivists work with K-12 populations and their educators to introduce concepts of archival literacy and primary source research, but there is little discussion about deliberately injecting these interactions with historical records that show diverse narratives. For example, the legacy collections of academic archives focus on the founders of the institution who are often white and male, but these stories do not reflect the role of women and minorities who also contributed to the success and sustainability of the school throughout its history. Helping students K-12 find relatable stories in the historical records of colleges and universities may also promote applications to higher education from underrepresented populations who now see themselves as part of the institution’s narrative.