The Friends of Skillman Library Fellowships provide hands-on learning opportunities intended to build research skills and understanding of archives, rare books, and special collections. Through sustained focus on bibliographic or archival material, the activity will focus on experiential projects with original historical sources held in Skillman Library.
This semester, Emma Hartman conducted research in the College Archives to trace the history of students with disabilities on the Lafayette campus, from the founding of the school in 1826 through to the present day. For her research, Emma used the Web Archives (accessible through the Special Collections webpage on the library website)and found that this resource includes much of which has not yet been documented in the physical archives and plays an important role in understanding recent history.
Using a tool called the Wayback Machine, Emma was able to access a digital archive of the World Wide Web to see how the college’s website appeared and functioned in the past. Tracking changes in web presence and representation through the Web Archives allowed her to supplement the work that she was doing with physical documents in the College archives.These documents helped explain previous administrative and student responses to changing laws surrounding disability rights. For example, Act 504 in 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, both had huge impacts on the campus that were reflected in archival documents. Yet, the most recent standard in disability rights law, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) was passed in 2008, and reactions to this set of laws could only been seen through the Web Archives.
While Emma’s full research project involved tracing this history across a much larger time period and all aspects of campus life, the Web Archives served as a unique research opportunity and a way to better understand the recent history of the college. She hopes her project will educate other students, and the campus community about an aspect of our college’s history that is not often spoken about, and also draw greater attention to the power of the Web Archives, which remains an under-utilized research tool for understanding recent history.
Students are invited to apply for one-semester, or summer fellowship with the Lafayette libraries’ Special Collections & Archives. Additional information, including fellowship duration, amounts, and application process, can be found at this link.