The second iteration in Ithaka S+R’s Teaching Support Services project investigates the teaching practices and support needs of instructors who work with primary source materials. Today we are excited to publish the project’s capstone report.

Still in the pandemic but beginning to glimpse life on the other side, now is an opportune time to begin to envision not just the future, but the many potential futures of how instruction with primary sources will adapt and change. While the research for this project took place prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we believe that an in-depth understanding of instructors’ pre-existing practices provides a basis to assess how pedagogy has evolved, or should evolve, in response to the disruption caused by the pandemic. 

Of particular interest in this respect are the views instructors expressed regarding the format of primary sources, physical or digital. While much of the literature in the library and archives professions focuses on physical resources, often with the implicit assumption that physical resources are inherently superior, it was clear that instructors did not necessarily share this view. Instead, instructors saw physical and digital materials as serving different ends and supporting different aspects of their teaching. The fact that many special collections librarians, archivists, and museum professionals were forced to experiment teaching with digitized materials under lockdown may provide a fruitful basis for expanding the teaching and support opportunities collections professionals can provide in the future. In this report, we highlight such differences, disconnects, and synergies across a variety of issues so that the various stakeholders involved in teaching with primary sources can better support evolving pedagogical practices.

This project was carried out with generous support from ProQuest, which sponsored the project, and in collaboration with 26 institutional partners. Each partner, including ProQuest, fielded local research teams that conducted interviews with instructors on their campuses and wrote their own local reports. These reports, linked below, provide the necessary complement to our own capstone report by providing a window into how the various issues we surface in the capstone are inflected in a variety of institutional contexts. Paula S. Kiser and Emily K. Cook from Washington and Lee University have also reflected on the value of collaboration and how the project has impacted their work and teaching with primary sources on their campus in an accompanying blog post.

Looking to the future, we are continuing to explore how the disruption of COVID-19 has impacted the instructional practices of those who teach with primary sources. Most notably, thanks to funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we are building on the findings from this project in a new project, currently underway, that will articulate instructors’ experiences of teaching with cultural heritage materials during the transition to remote instruction during the pandemic. We are also currently in the process of developing a project that will examine instructor practices and needs related to streaming media. If you are interested in your library participating as a research site, please email


Research teams and local reports


Bowling Green State University

Colleen Boff, Stefanie Hunker, David Lewis, and Michelle Sweetser, “Supporting Primary Source Instruction in the Undergraduate Classroom at Bowling Green State University: Summary Findings,”

Brandeis University

Chloe Gerson, Laura Hibbler, and Matthew Sheehy, “Teaching with Primary Sources: A Local Report by Brandeis University Library,” 

Brigham Young University

J. Gordon Daines III, Matthew J. K. Hill, Maggie Kopp, and Dainan M. Skeem, “Supporting Teaching with Primary Sources at Brigham Young University: An Ithaka S+R Local Report,”

Brown University

Heather Cole, Sarah Evelyn, Patricia Figueroa, and Holly Snyder, “Strengthening Primary Source Pedagogy and Engagement at Brown,”

California State University, Northridge

Liz Cheney, Jamie Johnson, and Nicole Shibata, “Supporting Teaching with Primary Sources at California State University, Northridge,”

Dartmouth College              

Daniel Abosso, Joshua Dacey, Myranda Fuentes, and Morgan Swan, “Supporting Teaching with Primary Sources at Dartmouth College: A Report coordinated by Ithaka S+R,”

Illinois Wesleyan University

Meg Miner, “Supporting Teaching with Primary Sources at Illinois Wesleyan University,”

Indiana University, Bloomington

Maureen Maryanski and Carrie Schwier, “Supporting Teaching with Primary Sources at Indiana University: An Ithaka S+R Summary Report,”

Johns Hopkins University

Margaret Burri, Heidi Herr, and Jessica Keyes, “Supporting Teaching with Primary Sources,”

Lafayette College

Terese Heidenwolf and Lijuan Xu, “Supporting Teaching with Primary Sources at Lafayette College,”

Northern Michigan University

Catherine Oliver and Marcus Robyns, “Teaching With Primary Sources: A Report for Ithaka S + R from Northern Michigan University,”

Pennsylvania State University

Steve Borrelli, Jennifer Meehan, Rebecca Miller Waltz, and Julie Porterfield, “Ithaka S+R: Teaching with Primary Sources,”

Princeton University

Rebecca Friedman, Kelly Godfrey, Sara Logue, and Gabriel Swift, “Teaching with Primary Sources at Princeton University: A Summary Report,”


The research team at ProQuest interviewed instructors at Arkansas State University, Cambridge University, Florida International University, John Jay College, Mount Mercy University, Texas State University, University of Manchester, University of Maryland, University of Oklahoma, University of Redlands, University of Arkansas – Fort Smith, University of Cincinnati, and Winston Salem State University. Sarah Brennan, Andrew Laas, and Barbara Olson, “Teaching Undergraduate Students Using Primary Sources,”

Texas A&M University

Tina Budzise-Weaver, Joel D. Kitchens, and Kevin M. O’Sullivan, “Teaching with Primary Sources: Report From Texas A&M University For Ithaka S+R,”

University of Arizona

Lisa Duncan, Mary Feeney, and Niamh Wallace, ““The Real ‘Aha!’ Moments”: Teaching Undergraduate Students with Primary Sources,”

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Cara Bertram, Cait Coker, Ruthann Miller, and Linda Stepp, “Ithaka S+R Study on Teaching with Primary Sources Local Report for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,”

University of Kentucky

Jay-Marie Bravent, Danielle Gabbard, Deirdre Scaggs, and Matthew Strandmark, “Teaching Undergraduates with Primary Sources 2020 Research Study Report,”

University of Miami

Shatha Baydoun, Christina Larson, and Roxane Pickens, “Supporting Teaching with Primary Sources at the University of Miami,”

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Emily Kader, Sarah Morris, Jason Tomberlin, and Ashley Werlinich, “Teaching With Primary Sources at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,”

University of Pittsburgh

Diana Dill, Carrie Donovan, Jeanann Haas, Berenika Webster, and Clare Withers, “Teaching with Primary Sources at the University of Pittsburgh Summary Report of Local Findings,”

University of Sheffield

Peter Barr, Arantza Barrutia-Wood, and Catherine Bazela, “Supporting Teaching with Primary Sources,”

University of Southampton

Katie Atkins, Eleonora Gandolfi, and Matt Phillips, “Supporting Undergraduate Teaching with Primary Sources,”

University of Virginia

Krystal Appiah and Brenda Gunn, “Supporting Teaching with Primary Sources,”

Washington and Lee University

Emily Cook and Paula Kiser, “Teaching with Primary Sources at Washington & Lee University: Humanizing History and Engaging with the Topics of Today,”

Williams College

Lisa Conathan, Lori DuBois, and Anne Peale, “Teaching with Primary Sources at Williams College: A Summary Report of the Ithaka S+R Teaching with Primary Sources Project,”

Yale University

Melissa Grafe, David Hirsch, Bill Landis, and Sara Powell, “Support Services at Yale University for Teaching with Primary Sources: An Exploration of Instructor Rationales and Needs,”