Tired of lectures and textbooks? Learn outside of the classroom. The archives offers students and teachers opportunities to engage with primary sources and build knowledge in alternative ways. Consider Special Collections as the dream sequence that diverges from the main plot of the course, but enhances it and makes it more well-rounded. The numerous collections in the archives, particularly material related to Native Americans — such as the Raymond Nakai Collection and Florence Barker Collection — expose students to different historical and cultural perspectives not always found in the average textbook.

Dedication of Glen Canyon Dam by Lady Bird Johnson, September 22, 1966, Raymond Nakai Collection, NAU.PH.2006.16.3.36, Cline Library Special Collections and Archives, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona.

As chairman of the Navajo Nation from 1963 to 1971, Raymond Nakai delivered a range of speeches, founded the Navajo Community College, and participated in several events, including the opening of Glen Canyon Dam, that impacted the political and economic landscape of northern Arizona.

(Photo on left) Building a hogan and (photo on right) Girl's Club and Florence Barker.

Florence Barker worked as a nurse at hospitals and missions on Native American Reservations throughout Arizona and New Mexico from 1922 to 1952. She dutifully documented her time with Navajo, Halupai, Walapai, Havasupai, Acoma, and Laguna Indians through photographs and diary entries.

Florence A. Barker journals, ca. 1922-1938.

What students and teachers learn from Barker and Nakai is perhaps more important than the stories told by the two collections. Professors and teachers at local Flagstaff high schools and Northern Arizona University tend to ask students to critically interpret Barker's diaries or photographs of Nakai commiserating with nationally prominent politicians.

Shiprock, New Mexico, Fairchild Building Dedication, from left to right: Ella Nakai, Raymond Nakai, unidentified man in back, Julie Nixon, David Eisenhower.

Like any good story, educational use of the archives comes with several cliffhangers. What are the motives of the photographers and photographs? Are photographic subjects willing participants? Are there cultural biases or inaccuracies in speeches and diary entries? How accurate are the images and documents compared to typical textbooks? In this story, however, students, teachers, and other patrons (not a new season premiere) resolve the cliffhangers.

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