Teaching with Archives & Special Collections


Examples of topics supported by Western’s archives and special collections include:

  • Art and photography
  • Artists’ books and books as material culture
  • Campus history and Western’s built environment
  • Children’s literature and poetry
  • Comix and graphic novels
  • Communication, journalism, and media studies
  • Cultural resource management
  • Environmentalism and sustainability
  • Exploration of the Pacific Northwest
  • Film and TV in the Pacific Northwest
  • Historical attitudes toward gender, class, race, and ethnicity
  • History of books and printing
  • The Holocaust
  • Indigenous peoples and place
  • Industrial and economic development in the community and region
  • LGBTQA+ experiences
  • Medieval manuscripts
  • Place-based learning
  • Recreation and mountaineering
  • Research methods and historiography
  • Student activities and activism
  • Women, gender, and sexuality studies

The primary sources we collect are valuable teaching and learning tools that can support and enhance instruction in a variety of subjects.

Engaging with archives and special collections allows students to:

  • Become familiar with primary source research and understand its importance.
  • Enhance knowledge of course material through hands-on, active learning.
  • Directly encounter sources from other time periods and world cultures.
  • Find inspiration for creative and innovative projects.
  • Improve critical-thinking, communication, and collaboration skills.
  • Acquire investigative skills essential to future study, employment, and decision-making.

To provide opportunities for students to discover and use our unique collections, we offer a range of instructional activities including virtual orientations, in-class presentations, and onsite visits to our facilities.

If you are interested in discussing or scheduling a class session or talking about possible assignments, please contact us directly at archives.speccoll@wwu.edu.

Two students looking at a historical newspaper at the archives.

Online Learning Opportunities

We invite you to explore the following online instructional videos about archives and special collections, including how to find and access them at Western and beyond.

Introduction to Archives & Special Collections: Primary Sources for Teaching, Learning & Research

An introduction to primary sources, including those available through Western's Archives & Special Collections, with information about how to use them in teaching, learning, and research.

Finding Historical Primary Sources Beyond Western's Archives & Special Collections

Strategies and resources for finding primary sources in Western Libraries' circulating collections and at other institutions.

Discovering Resources Through MABEL: Training for Students and Instructors

Training on how to use MABEL, Western's digital assets management platform, to access select digitized content from Western's Archives & Special Collections.