Crossing Borders: Why Archival Science Students Benefit from Interdepartmental and Transdisciplinary Coursework

Itza Carbajal and Emma Whittington



In 2010, Anne Gilliland and Kelvin White in studying the changing landscape of Archival Science pedagogy called for the field to “be subject to continuous critical reexamination, empirical testing, and consequent reshaping.” (White & Gilliland 2010, 235) Using critical reflections, this presentation aims to further analyze how archival education programs can better prepare students to understand their practice and its users by advocating for exposure to cross-departmental and transdisciplinary coursework.

This paper builds on the experience of being enrolled as graduate students in an upper division undergraduate course titled “Queer Archives” taught by Professor Ann Cvetkovich at the University of Texas at Austin. Through a multidisciplinary and multi generational class environment, students conducted archival research using Queer theory to guide the coursework objectives. Presenters enrolled in this course voluntarily as part of the elective degree requirement for a Master’s of Science in Information Studies at the University of Texas School of Information. The teachings within this sort of environment speak to issues beyond the scope of the course including the ways graduate students receive exposure to other disciplines and other professional trainings, as well as to the different perceptions of archives, archival materials, and the archival profession from non archivists.

These reflections provide a window to a deeper cognizance of how archival pedagogy can benefit from incorporating observational components — especially in environments that encapsulate a diversity of possible users. Whether an archival science student wishes to engage with visitors at a repository or through research and teaching, exposure to different user needs and expectations at an early stage can better prepare the student for the field. Given the limitations of archival user studies, these reflections can help “archivists more effectively serve their institutions’ users by knowing more about them” especially those new to archival research (Rhee 2015, 30). In addition, given the increased interest in furthering archival education, this presentation will expand ideas of how the archival profession can maintain symbiotic relationships that extend across educational backgrounds, disciplines, and professions.

Rhee, Hea Lim. “Reflections on Archival User Studies.” Reference & User Services Quarterly; Chicago 54 (4): 2015. 29–42.
White, Kelvin L., and Anne J. Gilliland. “Promoting Reflexivity and Inclusivity in Archival Education, Research, and Practice.” The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy 80, no. 3. 2010. 231-48. doi:10.1086/652874



Itza Carbajal is the daughter of Honduran parents, a native of New Orleans, and a child of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Itza lives in Austin, Texas currently pursuing a Master of Science in Information Studies with a focus on archival management and digital records at the University of Texas at Austin School of Information. Before that, she obtained a dual-degree Bachelor of Arts in History and English with a concentration on creative writing and legal studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Her curiosities as a researcher include the role of community archives in shaping collective memories, the use of archives as centers of power, archives and memory retrieval, the production of history, and the use of digital archives as a response to the historic erasure of marginalized peoples.

Emma Whittington, University of Texas at Austin