The Filson Institute: Filson Undergraduate Research Program and Teachers as Scholars

By Brian R. Pollock
Educations and Special Events Coordinator


The Filson Undergraduate Research Program is a new educational initiative designed to enhance college classroom teaching and learning by using The Filsonís research collections as a resource and springboard for the discussion, study, and reflection upon course-related topics in the arts and humanities, especially history. Combined with The Filsonís existing Fellowship and Internship programs, the Undergraduate Research Program offers opportunities for engagement, learning, and research in our collections from the undergraduate to postdoctoral levels.

As participants in the program, college professors and students reconnect with the world of primary sources and rare materials in the fields of history, art history, history of music, anthropology, literature, historical geography, historic preservation, architectural history, and political science.

Professors and students become more aware of The Filson as a cultural asset and a resource for teaching and lifelong learning. This program encourages students to learn more about their community within the contexts of the region and nation. This will create a stronger sense of place and community identity.

Participants on all levels will benefit. As preparation for their classes, college professors do research in The Filsonís collections to identify appropriate primary-source materials for use in their student research projects.

Visiting scholars work alongside the professors and appropriate Filson curatorial staff to teach new and more effective approaches to learning through primary-source materials. Visiting scholars, with demonstrated effective use of primary-source materials, help to place the local and regional within the national context.

Students will be exposed to leading scholars of the period under study in their course. The program allows access to such sources as manuscript letters and journals, censuses, maps, newspapers and county records. Exceptional student essays will be juried by a panel of scholars with the annual winnerís essay published on our website.

The Filson Undergraduate Research Program consists of on-site classes for college and university professors and their students designed to enhance professorsí course offerings and student learning. This program allows professors and undergraduates the opportunity to learn from visiting scholars and to use one of the regionís leading historical collections.

A companion to our Undergraduate Research Program, THE FILSONíS TEACHERS AS SCHOLARS PROGRAM seeks to make teachers of public and private high schools more aware of the value of primary-source material in their classroom use. Patterned after the successful ďTeachers as ScholarsĒ program at Chicagoís Newberry Library, The Filsonís program holds seminars for small groups of teachers. This provides them with opportunities to discuss, study, and reflect upon specific topics in history, the humanities, and social studies with an established scholar in a research setting.

This series of seminars for secondary schoolteachers provides knowledge of and access to one of the premier history research centers in the Ohio Valley. Seminar leaders offer teachers the opportunity to discover new techniques and local resources that illustrate national themes, resulting in hands-on activities that enhance classroom teaching for successful participants. Through teacher training, The Filson creates the first step in a tiered approach to research that extends to college undergraduates in The Filson Undergraduate Research Program and to graduate and postdoctoral levels in the fellowship and interns program.

In this setting, the teachers become colleagues and scholars, engaged in discussions to learn from each other and gain cross-disciplinary perspectives. This program encourages and stimulates teacher scholarship while nourishing the teacher and studentís love of history.

Our online catalogs can be keyword-searched so that both teachers and students can access collections by computer from any location. The recent completion of the ďFirst American WestĒ project, a digital library initiative sponsored by the Library of Congress, brings over fifteen thousand scanned pages of manuscripts, rare books, maps, and pamphlets together from the collections of The Filson and the University of Chicago special collections. Teachers can assign research projects to their students based on virtual ďtripsĒ to the Filson from any computer.

Established scholars, skilled in the use of primary-source materials in both research and teaching, lead the seminars. These scholars expose area teachers of history and social-studies to the benefits of the historical collection at The Filson so they can pass the learning on to their students.

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A special thank you to the C. E. and S. Foundation for its generous assistance in making both of these programs possible.

For more information on The Filsonís Undergraduate Research Program or Teachers as Scholars Program, please contact us at (502) 635-5083

Volume 3, Number 3

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The Filson Historical Society
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