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Development of United Nations Educational Resources

Posted On May 03, 2022 | 11:29 am | by alysonw | Permalink
Amherst Folger Humanities Fellow Campbell Hannan reflects on the interdisciplinary process of developing educational resources on Dumbarton Oaks and the United Nations

By Campbell Hannan

In the fall of 1944, the four most powerful nations in the world met at Dumbarton Oaks to discuss the formation of what would become the United Nations. Our cofounder Robert Woods Bliss was a respected diplomat with close ties to the State Department and Secretary of State Cordell Hull. He offered the space to Hull as additional headquarters for the State Department during World War II, which Hull later considered the perfect site where international ambassadors could meet in peace. Delegates from the United States, United Kingdom, Soviet Union, and China met for two sessions over two months that culminated in a set of proposals and the naming of the organization. The proposals, known as the Dumbarton Oaks Proposals, outlined the membership, goals, governance, and future of the United Nations and textually are almost identical to the United Nations Charter.

Since September 2021, I have been one of five humanities fellows at Dumbarton Oaks. As the sophomore humanities fellow at the Folger Shakespeare Library from Amherst College, I spend half of my workweek with Dumbarton Oaks in the education department and half with the Folger Shakespeare Library. Dumbarton Oaks has long partnered with the Folger on the humanities fellowship, but last academic year, Amherst—whose Board of Trustees oversees the Folger in the same way Harvard’s board oversees Dumbarton Oaks—joined the partnership and gave me and my fellow alumni a chance to experience this unique opportunity.

A quick glance at my academic resume may not suggest the typical candidate for museum education. At Amherst, as a political science and history student, I found my passion in the library. Each year I was on campus I worked in Amherst College Digital Collections, digitizing and curating archival material. It is this experience that has bolstered my work cataloguing photos with the Rare Book Collection. The gift of the humanities fellowship is that it broadened my experiences and wholly convinced me to follow my love for archives and special collections; in fact, I have enrolled in a master’s program in archives and records management at University College Dublin.

Through the Dumbarton Oaks Conversations project, I have wedded my political science, historical, and archival interests. Education Manager Hannah Yang tasked me with creating a series of educational resources to assist educators in teaching about the United Nations in the context of Washington, DC. Dumbarton Oaks hosting such a momentous conference is one of its lesser-known virtues, so she saw it as vital to building awareness and student learning around this historical connection. Using my political research and analysis skills for a project with a humanities institution? It’s the perfect convergence of my interests. I dove headfirst into historical and archival research and became completely fascinated by the series of events that led to the momentous fall 1944.

The process of codeveloping resources related to the Dumbarton Oaks Conversations has been a passion project during my time with the education team here, which includes Postgraduate Public Programming and Outreach Fellow Ava Hampton and later, Humanities Fellow Natalie Gale and Postgraduate Performance Measurement and Evaluation Fellow Eleanor Lieberman. As I had no real experience in K–12 education, I began with extensive research into our education initiatives and a precedent study of external UN resources and programming to get to know the field I was entering. While most of our resources are related to its areas of study, the format of resources inspired the direction of my work in creating an AP US History Document-Based Question. Understanding our educational goals and methods helped me find a perspective on the resources and target the grade levels that would benefit from our guides.

My research phase began with a deep dive into the actual events of the Dumbarton Oaks Conversations and the historical context surrounding them. The library and Harvard’s HOLLIS database were most helpful in this regard, as I was able to request books and articles with my credentials and have them delivered to the library or (in the case of digital resources) to my inbox. I read the Dumbarton Oaks Conversations online exhibit and catalogue, as well as firsthand accounts by Secretaries of State Cordell Hull and Edward Stettinius and the State Department’s preparation documents for the conference. I tracked the process of planning the diplomatic meetings as well as the much lengthier process of narrowing US priorities for a new international organization.

As with most research projects, I took down way more information than would warrant inclusion in a curricular support. Narrowing down what would be most useful to local educators required consultation of their social studies standards. Dumbarton Oaks has cultivated great relationships with DC Public Schools (DCPS) that shared their frameworks and wonderful educators in the area from school partnerships that reviewed the resources. DCPS sixth graders complete a United Nations simulation in which they role play as delegates from countries responding to a natural disaster. Thus, my goal became to develop an educator guide and visual resource bank that would align with this social studies unit and an in-person learning experience that would complement the UN Cornerstone.

The objective of any educational resource for students and educators is, of course, to support formal learning. Using robust historical context, activities utilizing Harvard Project Zero Thinking Routines, and Essential Questions strategies, our result is a curricular support geared primarily towards the sixth-grade DCPS social studies frameworks that gives students a multilayered understanding of Dumbarton Oaks’ role in the creation of our most influential international organization. I hope the guides that I have designed over the course of my humanities fellowship will raise a greater understanding of Dumbarton Oaks as a historical site, as well as a cultural one, and bring the international mission of the United Nations home to a local audience. It is rewarding to use my interdisciplinary experience for such a holistic education mission. My APUSH DBQ can be found here, and the remainder of the Dumbarton Oaks Conversations curricular support and future school programming will be on the Educational Resources page when they are complete.

Campbell Hannan is the Amherst Folger Humanities Fellow at Dumbarton Oaks and the Folger Shakespeare Library. Photo from the National Archives, Washington, DC.