For the past five years, Sr. Helen Prejean has included DePaul University on her packed speaking engagement calendar, with activities ranging from small meals shared with students to in-class discussions to auditorium style lectures and panels. For those of you who have heard Sr. Helen speak or brought her into your class, you know she is genuine, impassioned, persuasive, and human.
Sr. Helen is not only a force to be reckoned with in person; the Sr. Helen Prejean papers reflect her intensity, dedication, and passion through correspondence, editorials, research files, book manuscripts, photos, audio and video recordings, and more. Special Collections and Archives has partnered with faculty since the first “Sr. Helen Week” in 2012 to combine an archival experience with Sr. Helen’s visit. Students usually have an instruction session before her visit and explore materials relevant to their course, and are then better prepared to engage in conversations with Sr. Helen in person. Often, we host these conversations in Special Collections and Archives one evening during her campus visit.
While Sr. Helen usually visits in April, her archival collection is here year-round and available to researchers and for instruction sessions. In fact, this is our most heavily used archival collection, with 200 researchers in the past five years, and more than 500 box requests for materials to be delivered to the reading room for researcher use. These statistics don’t take into account the times we use the collection in instruction sessions, ranging from first-year Honors and Liberal Studies courses and School for New Learning courses, along with English, History, Digital Cinema, and Women and Gender Studies and more. We’ve also worked with community-wide reading events, Catholic school classes, and high school and professional theatre groups.
Realizing that not everyone can travel to Chicago to work with the archival materials in person, we recently developed an online teaching kit that presents 20 primary sources from Sr. Helen’s archival collection and situates them within the chapters of Dead Man Walking. David Bates and John Gieger from the College of Education provided invaluable assistance in selection of sources and created guides for K-12 teachers, with specific activities for English Language Arts, Social Studies, and Theater.
If you would like to know more about how to use the Sr. Helen Prejean papers in your teaching or research, please explore the Dead Man Walking Teaching Kit, the 2013 digital exhibit “In Deeds and Words”, and the Sr. Helen Prejean papers finding aid. Archival collections are multifaceted and can be employed for learning experiences beyond the subject headings assigned to them. Special Collections and Archives staff are happy to discuss potential instruction sessions and which collections and activities best suit your intended learning outcomes. For more information on our instruction program, please contact Morgen MacIntosh Hodgetts, or submit a request for instruction.