For high school and college students, online instruction can open a door to archival research

Years ago, historian Tom Mullaney decided that he wanted not just to teach undergraduates about eras, cultures, and political shifts, but to involve them in the kind of work that historians do. With the Massively Multiplayer Humanities project, he redesigned several courses with the goal of engaging large numbers of students directly in historical research. He collaborated with Stanford librarians to give students access to special collections and archives on campus, while training TAs to coach them through the process of defining individual research questions. Now he envisions a future course that could extend the experience of archival research to high school and college students across the country. Students in the program would participate in an online class that would give them the tools to connect with local experts, define a research problem, and pursue research in collections in their own communities. 

Mullaney is a professor of Chinese history in the Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences and a Guggenheim Fellow. He spoke with Stanford Digital Education’s Jenny Robinson about his conviction that the practice of conducting research and shaping a narrative from it is essential to the ever-contemporary project of citizenship. His most recent book, Where Research Begins: Choosing a Research Project That Matters to You (and the World), co-authored with Christopher Rea, professor of Asian studies at the University of British Columbia, was published a year ago this April.