World War II Poster Project

Welcome to PaperandPixels.org, home of the World War II Poster Project and information about the Paper and Pixels model of pedagogy. 

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In an effort to find creative ways to develop students’ research, information literacy, and technology skills within the context of a course, David Del Testa (Assistant Professor of History, Bucknell University) and Abby Clobridge (Librarian and Digital Initiatives Group Leader, Bucknell University) developed the World War II Poster Project. This project was a six-week learning module embedded in an introductory history course, History 100: Thinking about History, the focus of which for this iteration was “World War II.” Throughout the unit, students worked hands-on with original World War II-era posters from the University’s archives in order for them to become proficient at the process of describing, researching, analyzing, digitizing, and cataloging them, and carry those skills forward to the rest of their college careers. For the culmination of this project, students wrote papers and built a small, publicly-available repository of digital images of the posters and notes about their research. The best student papers are included in a digital library (http://luna9.bucknell.edu). The World War II Poster Project has led to the development of two distinct pedagogical models both of which can be (and are being) adapted by library staff at other institutions, independent of the posters themselves. 

The first model is one of intense collaboration between faculty, librarians, archivists, and technologists. One of the objectives of the unit was to expose students to the array of library services to which they now have access, along with introducing them to specific members of the library/technology staff to whom they could turn for assistance at any point during their enrollment at Bucknell. Furthermore, students were able to see the teaching and library staff as professional equals serving different roles in students’ learning. The team served as a model of shared expertise to students while encouraging them to work in a similar fashion, applying individual strengths and approaches while sharing knowledge and supporting each other’s work. 

The second pedagogical practice developed by Del Testa and Clobridge through this project is the “pixels and paper” model. In this model, students create linkages between digital media and physical artifacts by working with a mix of “analog” sources and “digital” technologies. Learning modules are structured around this hybrid of analog and digital to encourage good historical practice and analysis. This praxis could be applied to any object (physical or digital), as long as it is ‘real’ and can serve as the basis of academic scholarship. For instance, a set of political cartoons which could work in a political science or history class; election buttons or posters; postcards or objects from various locations and periods of history.

The richness of the World War II Poster Project in particular comes from a holistic approach for the students: their experiences linking the material and digital worlds; the relationships they created between their individual work and that of the group; and finally, their experiences creating knowledge as professionals.