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Class Instruction

Working with our materials gives students a unique experience using original primary source documents and a taste of the college's Swedish roots.


About Instruction

We encourage Augustana College students and classes to use our materials. We can plan an in-person or virtual experience, or a hybrid of the two. We're also happy to help classes from other institutions. 


We've held instruction sessions for all kinds of classes, including First Year Inquiry, History, Computer Science, Geography, Scandinavian Studies, and more.


Both introductory and in-depth instruction can be designed, and include hands-on use of the materials.

A typical single class session

Offers students a general overview of Swenson Center materials and procedures; experience handling rare and fragile items; experience examining, interrogating, and interpreting documents, photographs, and/or AV materials.


Return visits

Can offer students a greater understanding of the collections; experience confronting challenges like handwritten documents and incomplete documentation; offers students the chance to undertake archival research and learn about primary research methodology through first-hand experience.

This Introductory Video (made by a student!) gives you a quick background on what we do at the Swenson Center.


Yes, many of our resources are in Swedish. However, most of our recent records are in English. About 41% of our library materials are in English and 77% of our archival collections are at least partially in English.

We have also used the language challenge as a feature for some classes. How can we examine documents when we may not read the language? What other clues can we discern? 

Activity/Assignment Suggestions

Augustana faculty members are welcome to apply for our Faculty Research Stipend to explore our collections. 

We are also happy to help you develop creative ways to use our collections. Here are some ideas:

Stations Activity

Each student or group is assigned a different "station" to look at a different primary resource. Students learn to observe and ask questions of their resource (photographs, letters, sound recordings, maps, and artifacts) guided by Document Analysis Worksheets. Students then present their resource to the class. Students gain confidence in using primary resources by practicing how to extract information, think through contextual understanding, and make informed judgments from the sources. This exercise can be tailored so students look at sources relevant to their course subject. 

America Letters

Students are assigned to read one or more "America letters" (letters the immigrants wrote to their families back in Sweden). We discuss motivations for migration and motivations for letter writing. Discuss the letter as an important artifact. 


Students read diary excerpts of Swedish immigrants. Students note what information the source provides and what questions it raises. Students could be assigned to write their own diary entries. 


Students examine and analyze the text of one or more sermons or speeches. Content could be tailored to a religion or public speaking course. 


Students examine a few themes in our extensive scrapbook collections of newspaper clippings. Students can explore that historical theme, or think about the materials as artifacts. What can we learn about the person who constructed these collections? 

Natural History

Students look at descriptions and images of animals or plants in our scrapbook collections. How do these descriptions differ from those in resources today?

Children's Literature

Students look at examples of literature written for Swedish immigrants and Swedish-American many generations later. How did the themes in this literature change over time?

Learning English Resources

Students examine books and course materials Swedish immigrants used to learn the English language. Imagine you were an immigrant at this time using these resources. What do the lessons tell you about life at that time? 

Journal Analysis

Each student could be assigned a different defunct journal to analyze as an artifact and a resource. How might a historian make use of this journal? 


We have unpublished and published poetry in literary magazines and religious journals, including some for children. Students could interpret the poem and its message to its intended audience.

Business Records

Students use account books and ledgers to determine business practices and expenditures. Students could also examine insurance records. 


Students read (or act out) a Swedish or Swedish-American play or script. Students analyze the historical context in which it was written or performed.


Multiple Editions

Students could analyze changes in different editions of the same work, examining its interpretation and presentation.



Students analyze ads from magazines (our periodicals section) or Swedish-American newspapers to determine how marketing has changed over time. 


Travel Narratives 

Students analyze a travel narrative from the Justina Lofgren papers or other collections. Depending on the discipline, students could look for descriptions of human interactions, local flora and fauna, or writer reflections.


Sheet Music

Students analyze sheet music from our American Union of Swedish Singers and other collections. Why was this music published? How does this edition differ from earlier or later arrangements? Who was the audience? What does the music tell us about this moment in history? Students could also perform the music.

What to Expect

  • Upon arriving, students will sign in 

  • Everyone must store their bags, coats, and other belongings away from collections

  • While the proper care and handling of materials will be covered, instructors can help prepare for a visit by asking students to:

    • Wash their hands before class begins

    • Reviewing our Reading Room Policies

    • Be aware that all food and drinks are prohibited in the reading room (if anyone forgets, they can stash the items in the Archivist/Librarian's office until after class)

Virtual Visits

As instruction moves online (whether during a pandemic, snow day, or just a different type of experience) we offer virtual learning experiences. We’re happy to offer a tailored experience for your class where we show materials on camera, offer digital surrogates, or give virtual tours.

Please plan this experience well in advance as set-up and digitization make take significant time.

Plan a Visit

Interested? Contact us to make a plan. 

Or simply submit an interest form.

Class visit

Next Steps

1) Your request is received

2) You will talk with staff to discuss the visit goals and date

3) You will provide staff with relevant course materials (syllabus, etc.)

4) Staff will follow-up to finalize plans (as needed)

5) Class visit!

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