Saturday, August 30, 2008

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes

When Michael Clark and I wrote for the Modern Language Association's volume on Integrating Literature and Writing Instruction about efforts to bring more first-year undergraduates into the library and the initial panic that these initiatives caused, we were asked not to use a metaphor that compared the anxiety of the institutional protectors of the archival collections to the terror associated with a cheesy futuristic disaster movie:

Just the idea of sending over 1,000 first-year students to the library seeking information about the same books and topics in the same week provoked doomsday scenarios among librarians reminiscent of scenes from Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, which had been filmed partly on the steps of the main library building in the early 1970s.

The idea of comparing undergraduates to apes understandably offended the sensibilities of the editors, but viewers of the actual movie know that the simian characters are actually the noble heroes in the plot.

Today, I had the pleasure of recounting my very positive experiences working with my former colleague, archivist Bill Landis, who is now at Yale. Landis designed hands-on exercises for students to explore the university's Political Literature Collection that ultimately produced some excellent examples of undergraduate research. Although my subject expertise involves digital access to library materials, I've always been committed to facilitating contact with physical documents and inhabiting archival spaces. Also on this panel about teaching undergraduates with primary sources were Kerry Scott of the U.C. Santa Cruz library system and Jesse Silva, who created a series of online tutorials about congressional research for U.C. Berkeley students.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home