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Experiential and CBL Case Studies

As active historians, we work to bridge in-class learning with hands on experiences by engaging with primary documents, historic sites, and museums. 

Sometimes, like in HIST 2201E, this involves visiting local London museums such as Eldon House, Museum London, or Fanshawe Pioneer Village. Other courses have involved more extensive field trips to places like the Toronto Police Museum, Oberlin College in Ohio, or the Ford Museum in Michigan. On these trips, students learn about the processes of collection, conservation and curation, and how history is presented in the public sphere.

For example, in HIST 3801E, the Historian’s Craft, students worked with archival documents in the Huron College Archive and the Huron Diocesan Archive  transcribing archived documents and writing finding aids for the Huron Library catalogue. Students then interpret this archival material for a wider audience in a series of Huron Heritage Minutes, which are published via Scholarship@Western.

Using interdisciplinary research networks with colleagues in cultural studies, education, and communications, we also encourage students to tie their course work to larger research fields.  For example, students in HIST 2301E, studying 19th-century antislavery movements in Canada, worked with local archives, historical societies, churches, local heritage groups, and other community partners, here and in the US. The class did fieldwork in the archives, digitizing, transcribing, and annotating manuscript materials that have been tucked away in distant libraries since the nineteenth century.  Then the class created a research website to publicise their work, and hosted a public event at Huron focused on the links between 19th-century and modern antislavery movements.  

Project websites:
London Anti-Slavery Research Project - http://www.huronantislaveryhistory.ca/about.html

The Letters of Hiram Wilson - https://hiramwilson.wordpress.com/about-us/

The Diary of Thomas Hughes - http://www.uwo.ca/huron/promisedland/hughes/diary.html

Recent videos:
Anti-Slavery in 19th Century London - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUQYzx7WcdU

History at Huron 2301E in Oberlin - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5W3PHSlBrzg

Kenneth Grossi - Huron Visits Oberlin College - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKu4rJw8YeU

Community-based learning develops practical skills and asks students to think about evidence and argument. It also focuses attention on questions of interpretation, historical memory, and historical amnesia. What aspects of the past are celebrated, what parts are forgotten, and how is historical knowledge constructed and invested with meaning? In posing such questions, community-based learning engages a moral and historical imagination. Students leave CBL projects with an understanding of the contemporary relevance of historical study, and are transformed when they see that the undergraduate classroom speaks to a world beyond itself.