The University of Pittsburgh Libraries System (ULS), in collaboration with The Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences’ Office of Undergraduate Research is delighted to present an Omeka exhibit created by the 2021 student recipients of the Archival Scholar Research Awards (ASRA) program. To familiarize themselves with the corpus of research materials, the students closely examined an item/object from their ASRA primary sources and share their observations through their exhibit page.

The ASRA program began in the spring of 2016 to encourage undergraduates to engage with primary sources drawing from archives, rare books, and other distinctive collections in the ULS. Since then, the ASRA program invites undergraduate applicants to join a diverse community of scholars from across all disciplines. Awardees receive a stipend of $1,000 to support their primary source research; receive archival and research support from professional librarians and archivists; and participate in workshops and a spring term presentation. This training and these activities supplement the students’ independent research and provides an opportunity for them to grow as an undergraduate researcher.

Like everything else, the COVID-19 Pandemic brought the ASRA2020 cohort to a temporary halt. We quickly re-worked the remaining elements of the program to ensure that students could successfully complete their research projects in a virtual environment. We commend the ASRA2020 cohort for their fortitude, determination, and flexibility in continuing their research under challenging circumstances.

We quickly realized that moving forward with the ASRA2021 cohort, the program would look very different than in previous iterations, but we wanted to preserve the core values and opportunities that ASRA espouses. We made the difficult decision to offer ASRA2021 as a virtual program only and asked students to develop their original research activity making use of the ULS Digital Collections. The ULS is proud to have digitized primary sources consisting of rare books, manuscripts, archival collections, music, photographs, diaries, organizational records, etc. on a variety of topics. We are astounded at how wonderfully the ASRA2021 students embraced research in a virtual environment and found innovative ways to create community.