Living Humanities | Everybody Dies

Course: Living Humanities (Drs. Caroline Boswell, Heidi Sherman, and Emily Ransom)


  • Freshman course with 100 students per semester, Redesign of introductory humanities course.
  • Course was interdisciplinary, team taught, and was meant to tackle enduring questions students confront in their daily lives.
  • In the first offering of the course, students were asked to consider a variety of archival sources to understand historical and cultural questions around death, disease, and dying. In groups, students looked at coroner’s records; obituaries; sympathy cards; soldiers’ diaries; coverage of Lincoln’s and Kennedy’s assassinations; and funeral home records.


  • Successful project based learning assignments resulting in Omeka presentations and podcasts based on oral history interviews with Wisconsin Holocaust Survivors.
  • Archives assignments were central to other iterations of the class with themes of Everybody Travels and Prison Voices.
  • Model created of “traveling archives” to accommodate the large course

“…This project not only introduced students to the beginning stages of historical research, it also engaged them in the question of our social responsibility to preserve and share information with other researchers….Such hands-on application of learning is a rarity in courses this size…”