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Teaching with primary sources

Resources for primary source pedagogy at Brown and beyond.

Incorporating primary sources into your course

Students in the John Hay Library examine Egyptian papyri and other artifacts.

Primary sources can transform student learning and enhance a variety of courses, from the humanities to the sciences. Curators and subject specialists can help you meaningfully incorporate materials from local and online collections for in-person or virtual learning.

The library can help you:

  • Design in-person or virtual sessions with interactive activities tailored to your course goals to help students explore and engage with primary sources. Library staff can select materials and lead the session or work with you to develop successful strategies.
  • Create worksheets, writing prompts, and other resources to guide students through the analysis of a single document, or present a collection of items to explore based on your course topic.

For general questions relating to classes and teaching, please contact Heather Cole, the Head of Special Collections Instruction.

Please fill out this form to request a class session.

Class sessions at the John Hay Library

The John Hay Library

Hay Library staff collaborate with faculty at Brown and other universities to provide hands-on, in-depth and interactive introductions to using primary sources, as well as semester-long opportunities for research and engagement. We often hear that Hay visits are the highlights of the semester!

Beginning in fall 2021, we are once again able to offer in-person class visits at the Hay Library; we also continue to offer virtual synchronous instruction or assistance with asynchronous content.

To request a class session, please fill out this form. If you have not previously taught a session at the Hay, or are teaching a new class, we recommend meeting with a Hay Library staff member to discuss requesting materials and class format.

Classes can take many forms, and we're happy to tailor the session to your class goals. Classes are most successful when tied to an assignment or final paper/project, whether worked on in the class session (such as a writing prompt), involving individual student visits to the special collections reading room (please talk to staff before assigning these visits to your students), and/or follow up visits with the entire class.

Our schedules and rooms fill up quickly; we ask that you request your class session at least two weeks in advance. Requests for materials must arrive at least one week in advance of the session to give staff time to gather everything. To request material, please create in account in our online system, and use links in BruKnow to request individual items. (Let us know if you need help requesting).

Note for fall 2021: The Hay's lone elevator will be completely out of service from August-October. We ask that all class requests be made at least two weeks in advance; also please let us know in the fields below if you or any of your students require an accessible classroom space.