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Virtual instruction guide to writing about archival objects for different audiences


In this assignment, you are asked to select a document or object related to course content from the Iowa Digital Library. After conducting relevant historical research about the object, you will then compose three separate supporting texts that share information about this document or object with a wider audience: a 500-word blog post, a 125-word exhibit label, and a single 280-character tweet. 

Each of these texts are for different venues and audiences, necessitating a different voice for each type of writing. To understand how best to approach each type of text, you will rely on course readings, site visits, and explorations of various museums and archives actively using Twitter and Instagram accounts. A works cited page will accompany your final submission. 

Iowa Digital Library Collections

"Female Students at Currier Hall, University of Iowa, 1946"

African American Women in Iowa Digital Collection 

"Philip H. Conrad discharge paper, September 1864"

Civil War Diaries and Letters

"New Fandom, v. 2, issue 1, April 1940"

Hevelin Science Fiction Fanzine Collection 

"Café Chicano, September-October 1972"

Latino-Native American Cultural Center Digital Collection

"Bertha and Irene Thomas, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 1900s"

Noble Photographs

"Middle Earth, Vol. I No. IV"

Social Justice in Iowa

"Suffrage movement in Iowa, 1910s"

Women's Suffrage in Iowa


To get started, select an item. 

Using the Iowa Digital Library, find an object to focus on. We suggest exploring the collections linked above. 

Next, research. 

Conduct research to understand the broader historical context of your selected object/document utilizing resources available through the university library including databases, books, and journals.

Some questions to get you started: When was the object created? If there is a record of who created it, what can you find out about this person? What does this object tell us about the time period it came from? What historical evidence does it offer us? 

Finally, write.

Remember your completed assignment should have five components:

1. Image of and link to your digital object    2. Blog post     3. Exhibit label     4. Tweet     5. Works cited 

Blog Post

A successful blog post demonstrates the research conducted through inclusion of contextual information (dates, location, historical actors, etc.). It also incorporates at least one connection to a broader historical thread (regional, national, identity-based, or relevant theme). To match the blogging medium the use of hyperlinks, videos, sound clips, and/or additional photographs should be included when appropriate in the blog post. The finished blog post is grammatically correct and is no more than 500 words. 

  • Includes contextual information 
  • Demonstrates research 
  • Use of hyperlinks, videos, sound clips, or additional photographs 
  • Grammatically correct 
  • No more than 500 words 

Check out these blog posts for some inspiration: 


A strong tweet includes the use of relevant hashtags and is a very concise form of writing, containing no more than 280 characters. A tweet also offers a short, engaging component of the research. A tweet should match the content of the object (does it afford humor, a question, hyper specific hashtags?). 

  • Includes hashtags 
  • No more than 280 characters 
  • Engaging text 
  • Demonstrates research 
  • Content matches object 

The following archives and special collections Twitter accounts will have plenty of tweets for inspiration:

Exhibit Label

A successful exhibit label should be interpretive, not strictly factual. It should demonstrate the research conducted through the inclusion of contextual information (dates, location, historical actors). It should also incorporate at least one connection to a broader historical thread (regional, national, identity-based, or relevant theme). A label must be engaging and accessible, keeping the reader’s attention from start to finish. Exhibit lapels are highly polished forms of writing that must be grammatically correct and no more than 125 words. 

  • Includes contextual information 
  • Demonstrates research 
  • Engaging and accessible 
  • Grammatically correct 
  • No more than 125 words 

While not all of them are under 125 words, the exhibit labels from the "Curator Highlights" of a past exhibit held in the Main Libraries Gallery might be helpful for framing your own labels. In addition, think back to labels you have seen at museums and galleries - what information is communicated with these brief texts? 

Works Cited

  • Citations included in assignment 
  • Properly formatted according to the Chicago Manual of Style 

With Thanks

This guide was created by Special Collections Librarian Elizabeth Riordan (

Special thank you to Aiden Bettine and the Hist 1040:003 Diversity in History: From Sidewalk to Museum: Iowa City’s History class, as well as Dr. Jennifer Burek Pierce and the SLIS:5600:0001 Reading Culture (formally History of Readers and Reading) class for working with our department to create this assignment.