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Laurier Archives hosts over 1,000 middle-school students
The Laurier Archives is a friendly, but normally peaceful, place – a haven for genteel scholars working silently to unearth secrets long buried in old documents and artifacts.
That atmosphere of pensive calm was obliterated this May and June, as over 1,000 middle-school students passed through the facility as part of Laurier’s annual JUMP program of campus visits.
“This is the first time we’ve been a part of JUMP, and we were thrilled by the opportunity to engage with these students and to give them a taste of archival work,” said Julia Hendry, head of the Laurier Archives. “It’s definitely made the Archives livelier than usual,” she added.
On each tour, Archives Assistant Andre Furlong showed off wonderments such as antique film cameras and wood-block negatives, early personal computing equipment, original hand-written correspondence by Sir Wilfrid Laurier, and printed volumes dating to the dawn of the printing press. The students guessed the age of various items, took an impromptu quiz on the holdings, and got to freely handle the materials after the presentation.
“This is great,” said Valerie Bean, a teacher at Goderich Public School, during one of the visits. “It’s showing the students the beginnings of the media world they live in today.”
The students were intrigued, baffled, and occasionally disturbed by the artifacts on display, often struggling to guess their age and provenance. They were amused by massive film cameras that held only eight shots of film and that could not focus on objects closer than five feet away (“No selfie range!” one girl in Bean’s class helpfully offered).
A boy named Kyle, aged 11, found himself strangely drawn to a computer from the early 1980s, its three-inch screen reading “Welcome JUMP Students!_” in ghostly green letters, the cursor at the end of the line winking steadily. “It’s kind of creepy,” he said.
Created in 1994, JUMP (which stands for Junior University Multidisciplinary Program) gives Ontario students in grades five through eight a glimpse of university life over the course of one to three days, during which they attend sessions on archaeology, astronomy, psychology and many other academic subjects.
Given the success of this year’s pilot program, Hendry is hoping that the Archives will be included alongside such subjects in JUMP from now on. “It really is a great opportunity to connect with possible future scholars and researchers at such a young age,” she said.
In the meantime, the students from Goderich, having finished their tour, were preparing to head off to dinner. They had just arrived on campus, and still had many sessions ahead of them, but it was clear that the Archives had made a strong impression.
“I liked the antique things,” said a student named Emma as the group was filing out. “I didn’t know what a floppy disk was before. It makes me feel lucky to be living now.”