Basic Resources

Save Our Stories: Engaging with Digital Collections is an easy way to introduce students to the excitement of working with archival materials, regardless of subject, field, or discipline. As you think about how to utilize the project into your courses, or how to participate in the contest yourself, we encourage you check out some of the resources made available here.

To kick start your thinking, we’ve put together a heuristic that you can use to brainstorm ideas: Handout for Creating Archive-Based Assignments.

While completing the handout, we also suggest that you review The University of Southern Mississippi Digital Collections to see what collections are available.

For those new to the collection, we also suggest watching the virtual tour of the Digital Collections, which provides a useful overview of the collections available, as well as how to search and navigate them: Digital Collections Virtual Tour.

If you’re looking for archival material not found in the digital collections, check out Special Collections at Southern Miss. You can also plan class visits or have a librarian come to your class to discuss available resources.  For more information about Special Collections, contact Jennifer Brannock at or 601.266.4347.


Example Projects & Assignments

A good place to see some examples of archival-rich essays is the Library’s “Items of the Month” feature. Although short and mostly written as expository essays, these examples provide a useful overview of the possibilities involved when writing about archival objects.

We also wanted to share a few example assignments based on the SOS project. Hopefully they provide you with some ideas and inspiration.  Feel free to adapt them as you wish.

Digging Up Disney (by Dr. Joyce Inman)

Archival History (by Dr. Craig Carey)

Mississippi in the Sixties (Charles Hunter Joplin)


More Suggestions

Regardless of the angle or approach, the goal of Save Our Stories is for students, faculty, and community members to experience the excitement of locating, describing, and narrating an archival object from the USM collections while lending their hand in curating these objects for the public. The opportunities for research and expression are vast.

Other sample essays might include the following: a photograph of a childhood toy and an explanation of how it contributes to our understanding of American childhood; an undocumented photograph of an area in the Pine Belt and an essay describing that area today; a political cartoon and a rhetorical analysis of its historical relevance; a photograph from the civil rights collection and a creative essay inspired by the image; a manuscript letter and a description of its literary significance; and more.

The possibilities are virtually endless:

  • Explore a cookbook to determine how the culinary culture of a community defines it
  • Use American Civil War letters to learn more about life at war
  • Look at the steps involved in the creation of a children’s book exploring the minds of authors and illustrators
  • Read 1950s newspaper columns directed at farm wives to explore the role of women on the farm and in the family
  • Learn more about the curriculum implemented in Freedom Schools and how that may differ from what would be created today
  • Read a 1920s food register and diary about life as an “inmate” at the Jefferson Davis Soldiers’ Home. What does this say about the diets in nursing homes at the time?
  • Listen to oral histories by civil rights activists to learn how they impacted the movement and how the movement impacted them
  • Look through industrial publications from the 20th century to explore the different graphic design elements used in the materials
  • Read a children’s book that ties in to a movie, television show, or celebrity. How do these books work to promote reading as well as entertainment?

If you have any questions about the project, please contact Dr. Craig Carey ( or Dr. Joyce Inman (