Hands-on History in Special Collections

If you teach at MU, Stephens College, Columbia College, or any of the surrounding schools, we'd like to invite you to explore Special Collections with your students this semester. As part of a class session in Special Collections, your students will have hands-on access to the most inspiring and intriguing materials the Libraries have to offer. And we librarians can make it easy for you by contributing presentations, helping to orient students to primary source research, creating customized course guides, and consulting with you on ideas for assignments or projects.

To help you get started, take a look at our Resources for Instructors Guide and browse our Teaching Spotlight for innovative ideas from your colleagues.  Ready to jump in?  Contact us for assignment or activity ideas, or go ahead and schedule a class session through our online form.

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Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen is a librarian in the Special Collections and Rare Books department. She teaches information sessions in Special Collections, does reference work, and maintains the department's digital presences. Contact Kelli

Teaching Spotlight: David Crespy

For the next installment of our Teaching Spotlight feature, we're intervewing Dr. David Crespy. Dr. Crespy is a professor of playwriting, acting, and dramatic literature here at MU. He and his students visit Special Collections for his course, Digging Lanford Wilson: An Archival Approach to Drama.

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your interests.

I am a professor with a focus on playwriting, acting, and dramatic literature in the MU Department of Theatre, where I have served as the Artistic Director of the Missouri Playwrights Workshop and as founder and co-director of the MU Writing for Performance Program for the last 18 years. My major scholarly interest has been in the work of American playwright, Edward Albee, and most recently, in the work of Lanford Wilson, who was his protégé in dramatic writing. Wilson was a Missouri native, and was a prolific dramatist on and off Broadway in New York, some of his most famous plays include Burn ThisBook of Days, Fifth of JulyThe Hot’l Baltimore, and many, many other plays. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his play Talley’s Folly, and was the major dramatic voice of his generation of American playwrights who came into the scene in the 1960s as part of what has become known as Off-off Broadway, which I wrote extensively about in my book, Off-Off Broadway Explosion, which documented the work of Lanford Wilson, Sam Shepard, John Guare, Maria Irene Fornes, and many others. Lanford was a co-founder of Circle Repertory Theatre in New York City, which was at the heart of off-Broadway theatre in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, and produced countless well-known playwrights including Paula Vogel, Jon Robin Baitz, Michael Cristofer, Charles Evered, Jules Feiffer, A.R. Gurney, William M. Hoffman, Albert Innaurato, Corinne Jacker, Arthur Kopit, Jim Leonard, Jr., Lucas, David Mamet, William Mastrosimone, Marsha Norman, Robert Patrick, Joe Pintauro, William Missouri Downs, Murray Schisgal, Sam Shepard, Milan Stitt, and Tennessee Williams. Lanford was at the heart of it as its resident playwright, and I brought Lanford here in 2006. 

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In Spring of 2012 the University of Missouri in Columbia, where I teach playwriting, was informed that Lanford Wilson had donated all his papers, 52 linear feet—47 boxes of manuscripts, photographs, letters, poetry, fiction, theatre artifacts—The Lanford Wilson Collection—to the Special Collections and Rare Books department of our beautiful Ellis Library on Lowry Mall on the MU Campus. It is an historic bequest, and one that will permit MU faculty, students, and scholars from around the world to explore the work of Missouri’s own Pulitzer prize-winning playwright in extraordinary detail. Lanford had visited Mizzou at my request back in October of 2006, and we had a delightful visit with him – he had managed to fit in the visit between his teaching work at the University of Houston and his busy writing life in Sag Harbor. I directed a concert reading of Lanford’s play The Mound Builders with his assistance and guidance in our Rhynsburger Theatre, and later he and I had a wonderful onstage discussion about his life and work. It was an amazing experience—Lanford deeply connected with our Mizzou theatre students.  

It is hoped that in the Fall of 2017, the University of Missouri Press will publish Lanford Wilson: Early Stories, Sketches, and Poetry, which I have co-edited with Jonathan Thirkield. The volume will have a foreword by Marshall W. Mason, who was Lanford’s long-time director, and who just won the 2016 Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement, as well as a tribute by Edward Albee.  All the material in the book will come from MU Libraries’ own Lanford Wilson Collection, and I am so proud that the University of Missouri libraries has made that all possible.  It is because of the incredible efforts of our archivists, Mike Holland and Anselm Huelsbergen, who took this rather massive collection, and organized it into a useful archival resource, that I was able to even find this material and bring it to light for scholars, theatre artists, and readers to explore.

How did you use Special Collections in your teaching?

During the summer of 2013, I did research in the new Lanford Wilson collection for the production of Wilson’s play Fifth of July for a production of the play I directed in Fall 2013 in the Rhynsburger Theatre, and while I was doing that research, I discovered that Wilson had left an extraordinary number of different versions of each of his plays.  It was a fascinating experience to explore how Wilson, who was a meticulous writer and dramatic craftsman, would change entire sections of his play – reworking plot, character, and dialogue. Each of his plays started off with handwritten notebooks where you can see the characters starting to take shape, and then you can see Wilson wrestling with each moment from iteration to iteration of the scripts until he was satisfied. The plays keep changing from production to production—from off-Broadway at Circle Rep to Broadway, and after later productions in the Regional theatre. It is really an amazing writer’s process, and there is so much there that a student of playwriting or dramatic literature can learn from Lanford’s explorations in his beautifully crafted plays. I decided that I wanted my students to experience Wilson’s work first hand, and was inspired to design a course that I called Digging Lanford Wilson: An Archival Approach To Drama.

In the Fall of 2015, I approached Kelli Hansen about developing this archival research course, using the Lanford Wilson collection as resource to teach students how to use manuscripts, photographs, programs, correspondence, theatrical posters, and other archival materials to discover how a playwright wrote, developed, and had his plays produced. Kelli used the first hours of the course to teach the students how archives are archived, how to work with archival materials, how to actually make sense of a writer’s cursive hand (particularly in correspondence), in other words, the nuts and bolts of archival research. We would spend the first hour or more of each class in the collection working with these actual materials—some of which had never been seen except by Lanford Wilson and our University archivists!  The second hour of the course, we read and discussed Wilson’s plays; exploring each play’s production history and interpretations and scholarship about the scripts.  

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Several of the students in the course then presented their research on Lanford Wilson’s plays at the Undergraduate Research Forum last Spring, and I was especially delighted to discover that one of them, Leslie Howard, who was presented on Lanford Wilson’s play The Sand Castle, was selected as the winner of MU Libraries Undergraduate Research Paper Contest.  The course was one of the most successful that I have taught at MU, and what made it special was the experience of working in Ellis Library’s Special Collections and Rare Books.  The hands-on experience of working with actual archival materials was amazing, and to have a theatre collection at the University of Missouri like the Lanford Wilson Collection is just a miracle.  Most theatre students would have to travel to New York City to access such an extensive archival resource, and here it is, right at Mizzou!  I look forward to teaching Digging Lanford Wilson again in the Fall of 2017, when we will hopefully have Lanford’s collection of short stories and poetry published, and simultaneously, I’ll be directing one of his plays in our Rhynsburger Theatre.

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What advice would you give faculty or instructors interested in using Special Collections in their courses?

If a faculty member hasn’t worked with special collections, they should get started now – especially if your own research takes you there. And if they haven’t used special collections, it’s time! I was thrilled with resources that Kelli Hansen made available to me, including a wonderful website https://libraryguides.missouri.edu/lanfordwilson, that allowed my students to learn about archival research the Special Collections, discover the resources of the Lanford Wilson Collection, and how to work with finding aids and primary sources. My feeling is that students are becoming less and less likely to walk in the doors of the library, beyond using it as a study hall. Working with Special Collections gives students a better understanding of how important our libraries are, as well as the thrill of scholarly research—working with archival resources and doing original research that may change how we understand our world. Working with manuscripts, photos, correspondence, theatrical programs, and having an opportunity to physically touch materials that were part of New York’s Broadway theatre was a life-changing experience for my students. Give your students that transformative understanding of scholarship by teaching a course in Special Collections!

Staff Spotlight: Timothy Perry

Welcome to Staff Spotlight, a new series that features the people of Special Collections and the work we do behind the scenes.  In today's installment, we're talking to Tim Perry, the newest member of our professional staff. 

Describe a typical day working in Special Collections & Rare Books at Ellis Library.

There’s always something new going on in Special Collections, which is one of the best parts of the job. But some of my regular tasks involve the following:

  • Answering reference questions about our collections. Most days I spend a couple of hours on the reference desk to help patrons who come in to use our collections. And I also answer a lot of reference questions by email. Since I only started at Mizzou in November 2015, this has been a great way to get to know our collection and to find out about all the different ways people are using them.
  • Teaching classes based on our collections. A lot of classes come to visit Special Collections and so I spend quite a bit of my time figuring out what it would be best to show them – we have great collections, so it’s not always easy to choose! – and then running the actual class visits. It’s another great way to get to grips with the diversity of our collections: just this term we are hosting classes on everything from Greek oratory to pirates and from plague and contagion to the Brontë sisters.
  • Meeting with colleagues. This ranges from meetings to discuss the everyday running of the department to meetings about major upcoming events. At the moment, for example, we are putting together an exhibition to accompany a major conference on climate change.

What do you enjoy most about working in special collections?

One of the best things about the job is the variety, so it’s hard to pick just one thing. I love working with the books themselves, and also interacting with students, so I would have to say that leading class visits is one of my favorite parts of the job.

How did you discover your passion for working with special collections and rare books?

My background is in Classics so I have always been interested in the way in which the written word has been passed down in different forms over time – everything from papyrus scrolls and medieval manuscripts to printed books and digital texts. So when I went to graduate school for my professional library training I decided to take a couple of classes on rare books and I was immediately hooked!

What are the most interesting items that you have come across in Special Collections at Ellis Library?

We have wonderfully diverse collections: 4,000-year-old clay tablets from Mesopotamia, 21st-century artists’ books, and everything in between – so again, it’s hard to choose one thing. I have done some letterpress printing in the past, so that, combined with my interest in Classics, means that I particularly love our collection of early editions of ancient authors. They are all beautifully printed, and many of them are beautifully bound as well.

Teaching Spotlight: Megan Peiser

Teaching spotlight returns this semester for an interview with Megan Peiser.  We've taught several classes alongside Megan and are happy to have the opportunity to present her thoughts about teaching with Special Collections.

Megan PeiserSC: Please tell us a bit about yourself and your interests.

I’m a doctoral candidate in the English department working in the fields of Eighteenth-Century British Literature, and Book History. My dissertation in progress focuses on uncovering the contemporary critical response to the only period in literary history when women published more novels than men—1790-1820. I came to University of Missouri to work on this project because our Special Collections holds hard copies and microfilm of The Critical Review and The Monthly Review, the two most prominent book review periodicals of the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-centuries. Using rare books and special collections holdings throughout my own research journey has impressed on me how using their resources can deepen one’s experience with literature.

When not leaning over a 200-year-old book, I am taking walks with my dachshund, Rory.

How do you use Special Collections in your teaching? What outcomes resulted from your class visits? What were the effects on your students?

I always include Special Collections in my teaching when I can. Literature especially favours visual and aural learners. Special Collections helps students to come into physical contact with literature in a temporal way, and often for the first time gives kinesthetic learners an opportunity to see the study of literature as something that plays to their strengths. Engaging with books as objects takes students out of their cookie-cutter anthology, and allows them to experience a text as its contemporary readers would have.

When my ENG 1210 Introduction to British Literature classes visit Special Collections they get a lesson on the history of the book. They are able to see via examples from Special Collections’ holdings the evolution how mankind has received the written word, from—cuneiform tablets, to papyrus scrolls; illuminated manuscripts, to incunabula. Seeing these changes helps students to imagine a work’s original form, and think about how it both changes and does not change as it passes through the various mediums that bring it to their textbook.

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I also use special collections to get students think about how they receive information. Students in my ENG 2100 Writing About Literature class visited Special Collections to look at examples of the same literature re-packaged over several centuries. Holding our class meetings in Special Collections with example books on the table before us enables the students to engage in discussion about the ramifications of a nineteenth-century erotic poem later printed in a children’s book.  While referencing the book objects before them, students become critics of more than words—of narratives of history, of collections, canons, and objects.

In my ENG 2159, World Literature 1899-Present class students combed artifacts from Special Collections and the University Archive’s collections to study ephemeral texts that represented historical moments from the marginalized viewpoints of those who lived through them. They asked how a poster, a pamphlet, a comic book might be literature? How it makes its meaning?

These students leave the classroom having not only read through literature’s past, but having had a physical experience with it. No longer feeling alienated from literature, they are empowered by its ability to reach readers across nationalities, languages, and mediums, and their ability to trace its path and engage with it throughout its journey. When they learn to criticize literature beyond their textbooks, they are able to apply their critical reading skills to other texts in their academic and professional lives.

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What advice would you give to faculty or instructors interested in using Special Collections in their courses?

  1. Ask the librarians! Librarians spend much more time with the physical collections than you could ever attempt to re-create via searching the catalog. When I start thinking about my syllabus, I right away send a list of texts we’re reading, a theme I have in mind, or a brainstorm for an assignment to one of our Special Collections Librarian. Then we are able to meet, pull pieces together, and further brainstorm how to collaborate for the students’ best learning outcome.
  2. Don’t be afraid to experiment. My most successful assignments with Special Collections had very loose parameters. They were shots in the dark, and I told my students that! It gave them ownership over the project, and let them help me shape it into its refined version.

You can see examples of the interactive media projects my 2100 Writing About Literature students did in conjunction with Special Collections and their materials on our class website here: http://meganleapeiser.wix.com/writingaboutlit#!projects/cg5v

If you would like to nominate a faculty member or graduate student to be featured in the Teaching Spotlight, contact us.

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Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen is a librarian in the Special Collections and Rare Books department. She teaches information sessions in Special Collections, does reference work, and maintains the department's digital presences. Contact Kelli

Teaching Spotlight: Nicole Johnston

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Nicole Johnston is our guest for this month's Teaching Spotlight. We have looked forward to working with her Textile and Apparel Management students for the last few years, and we're excited to share her thoughts on object-based teaching.

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your interests.

I am Collection Manager of the Missouri Historic Costume and Textile Collection in the Department of Textile and Apparel Management (TAM) and also teach a large Writing Intensive lecture class for TAM titled “Survey of the History of Western Dress.” I have completed two degrees from the University of Missouri, during which time I learned that history, material culture and art are three of my favorite interests. I very much enjoy the hands-on, object-based aspect of material culture and working with the costume collection and in TAM enables me to combine all three of my passions. Teaching, in turn, lets me explore and research these fields in further detail and pass on this knowledge and excitement to my students. Dress, after all, incorporates almost every discipline on the University campus in one way or another, and it’s great to see students make these connections and, in turn, broaden their horizons and stretch their minds.

How do you use Special Collections in your teaching?

1980486As manager of an historic costume collection, I’m a big believer in object-based teaching and learning, and I try to take advantage of as many visual learning opportunities as I can. There is so much more one can learn about an object and its history through seeing and possibly touching the object up close. The object itself, the process of creating the object, it’s use and meaning, all become so much more real through this process, more personal. That’s why my class visits Special Collections every year. This year, in the process of learning about the development of book making and printing technologies, and their impact on dress, we took a closer look at the Collection’s illuminated manuscripts and incunabula. Last year, we looked at the Collection’s primary sources from the 18th century, such as books, journals and fashion magazines, while researching Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, and her social and political uses of dress.

What outcomes resulted from your class visits? What were the effects on your students?

While looking at illuminated manuscripts and incunabula, it was important for students to discover not only how these objects illustrated and reflected dress of multiple periods, but also for students to reflect on the development of these processes and their role in our own modern development. As students become more dependent on the use of technology (and their thumbs) to communicate, and become more anti-social in the process, the value and benefits of the written word – the book – are diminishing. By exposing them to these early methods of communication and their effects on societal development through the dissemination of knowledge and ideas, students develop a deeper appreciation for and understanding of how far we’ve advanced beyond and because of these earlier methods. And, hopefully, even went out and bought a book…

What advice would you give to faculty or instructors interested in using Special Collections in their courses?

Students’ learning experiences are broadened and amplified through the use of objects. Stretching young minds in this manner is a tremendous opportunity that shouldn’t be missed. In the process of discovering and researching history’s rich resources, students learn more about themselves, where they came from and where they’re going, than they ever could without them. The staff at Special Collections will assist in any way they can to create a quality, object-based learning experience for any and all faculty who are interested in incorporating this type of teaching tool into their classroom experience.

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Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen is a librarian in the Special Collections and Rare Books department. She teaches information sessions in Special Collections, does reference work, and maintains the department's digital presences. Contact Kelli

Teaching Spotlight: Mark Langeneckert

For the next installment in our Teaching Spotlight feature, we're featuring Mark Langeneckert.  Mark and his students visit our reading room each semester to work with our bookplate collection.  His use of the collections in teaching is a model for those looking to historical collections for creative inspiration.

PhotoI’m an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Art Department. Drawing is my passion and the focus of my teaching. I’m responsible for coordinating the drawing area and leading the study abroad in art to the Netherlands (on even years) and Italy (on odd years).

One of the drawing courses I teach is Illustration. This course requires students to create an original work for a specific visual problem. One assignment is to create a bookplate design that incorporates the students name and the text, Ex Libris, into their work. The assignment is introduced by a visit to Special Collections to view their extensive assortment of historical bookplates. In many cases, this is their first visit to Special Collections.

The impact of this first-hand experience for students has resulted in some of their best work.

In the fall of 2014, I will be teaching a Drawing III course with an emphasis on the Graphic Novel. I look forward to accessing Special Collections resources in developing this new course.

The staff at Special Collections are extremely helpful with gathering materials, offering support and promoting their collection. I would encourage all faculty to consider using this resource in their classroom.

Teaching Spotlight : Johanna Kramer

Energetic, youthful, admired by her students, Professor Johanna Kramer is our guest for the month of March.

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Professor Kramer, please, tell us about yourself.

I am an assistant professor in the English Department. My area of specialization is Anglo-Saxon literature and culture. In my research I am most interested in Old English religious literature, especially homilies and saints’ lives, the transmission of patristic theology into vernacular poetry and prose, and popular religious texts and practices.

My first book, Between Earth and Heaven: Liminality and the Ascension of Christ in Anglo-Saxon Literature, a study of the ways in which the theology of the Ascension is taught and visualized in a wide range of Anglo-Saxon texts, will be published at the end of March by Manchester University Press.

At MU, I teach classes that concern the early Middle Ages, Anglo-Saxon England, and the history of English, for example, Women in the Early Middle Ages, World of the Vikings, Introduction to Old English, and History of the English Language as well as graduate seminars on various topics in Anglo-Saxon and other medieval literature.

How did you incorporate Special Collections into your teaching?

I take almost all of my undergraduate classes for visits to Special Collections. I take my students so that they can have at least minimal exposure to actual medieval materials. I want them to see what different types of medieval manuscripts look like (liturgical, biblical, philosophical, etc.), get a basic sense of manuscript production (both codicology and paleography), and recognize different writing surfaces (papyrus, parchment, even clay). Since I teach in an area—medieval literature—in which primary sources in their original form are not very accessible to students, showing them some of the wonderful materials we have at SC is a small way in which I can have students share the same space and even get in physical contact with manuscripts that were produced a thousand or more years ago. This way, students also become more alert to the fact that the original formats in which we find texts are radically different from the neatly edited and translated versions that students read in class. Aside from seeing what various medieval codices and scripts look like, students get the opportunity to see some of the beautiful illuminations and other depictions that accompany texts, be it a whimsical decoration of an initial, a miniature showing a biblical scene (like the Ascension at the opening of Acts), or a woodcut in an early printed book (like the cityscape of Nürnberg).

What outcomes resulted from your class visits? What were the effects on your students?

Students are typically blown away by what they see. The immediate encounter with medieval manuscripts really opens up their perspective of what “a book” is or looks like. Students tend to be especially intrigued by items that get them close to the human side of manuscript production. Thus, for example, many students love the notarial registry (La Turade), a well worn, leather-bound notebook with lots of professional notarial entries in varying scripts made at different times. Students may have a sense of elaborately decorated medieval manuscript, but the quotidian nature of an item like this registry is exciting on a different level and connects students on a more human level across a vast gap in time to the individuals who were originally writing these texts. Similarly, therefore, they love seeing marginal notes or little pointing hands drawn in the margins of manuscripts where medieval readers took note of remarkable passages (which makes students think twice about what they might write into the margins of their own books!). Another aspect that always impresses students is the sheer materiality of manuscripts. Seeing hair follicles and the remnants of veins in parchment, feeling parchment—both the silky, paper-thin kind and the thick, rough, and stiff kind—noting holes in the parchment, all of these aspects speak to the physical nature of the making of a book and the “live” origins of its component parts.

Johanna Kramer and children, January 2014

What advice would you give to faculty or instructors interested in using Special Collections in their courses?

There might be some hesitation to take a class to SC when an instructor does not expect the students to do a particular project or use specific holdings. In my view, there is always a benefit of taking students, whether a research project follows or not. Exposing students to resources that are unfamiliar to them is a valuable service we provide through our teaching. Equally, in my classroom instruction, I introduce students to select scholarship in my field, whether they end up incorporating it in a paper or not. Just knowing that this kind of scholarship exists and knowing that one could be interested in it and get excited about it is worthwhile demonstrating to our students. It’s part of our responsibility as teachers and scholars to model such interest and excitement for our students, and we can do that by showing them the widest possible range of resources, including the wonders of SC.

 

Teaching Spotlight: Rebecca Mouser

Dr. Rebecca Mouser, a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of English is our guest for the Teaching Spotlight this month.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?Rebecca

 

I am a postdoctoral fellow in the English department. My research focuses primarily on oral tradition in the Middle Ages; my recent dissertation explores oral tradition in the fourteenth-century alliterative romances such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the Morte Arthure. Outside of my studies, I mostly spend my time with my two dogs, Isabelle (a Boxer) and Hermann (a German Shepherd).

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While at MU, I have taught several literature courses, including English 1210 (Introduction to British Literature), English 2100 (Writing about Literature), English 3200 (British Literature: Beginnings to 1784), and English 4210 (Medieval Literature: The Age of Chaucer).

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Chaucer's Boece, Fragmenta Manuscripta # 150,

In each of these courses, I stress the material culture of the various time periods as well as the historical and literary culture. We often discuss oral tradition and the development of literary texts. My hope is that students can see that the text goes beyond the page, and that the artifacts that survive can help us to interpret that larger text.

 

What materials or collections did your students work with?

 

My students usually view and work with a variety of manuscripts from the twelfth through fifteenth centuries. We discuss the development of various writing materials such as parchment as well as the various inks used. The manuscripts are both individual leaves of parchment and codices. I tend to bring my students to view the material culture of the Middle Ages (pre-16th century).

 

What outcomes resulted from you class visits? What were the effects on your students?

 

During my last visit to Special Collections, my students composed essays about the experience. Many of them stated that seeing the actual manuscripts helped them to conceptualize the Middle Ages as an actual place in time rather than an abstract idea of pastness. They really enjoyed learning about various ingredients used for ink as well. One student in particular chose a final writing project where she could work with digital manuscript images in her exploration of the idea of “fate” in Chaucer’s works. Overall, most of my students are excited about the experience and express the desire to return at some point on their own.

 

What advice would you give to colleagues interested in using Special Collections in their courses?

 

I think that the most important advice I would have is to take students to Special Collections, even if you are not yet sure of what you hope they will discover. The librarians are extremely helpful in setting up the session, providing ideas for what materials to view as well as brainstorming assignments. I always provide my syllabus before the session to help them to cater to my class. 

Teaching Spotlight: Ruth Knezevich

knezevichOur popular teaching spotlight series returns this semester with a fresh look at innovative teaching in Special Collections.  This month's featured educator is Ruth Knezevich, an instructor in the English department at Mizzou.

SC: Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a doctoral candidate and graduate instructor in the English department. My research focuses largely on in late 18th– and early 19th-century British literature with interests in ballad collections, Scottish Romanticism, and the emergence of “folk” literatures. My dissertation in-progress is on footnotes within ethnographic poetry and novels of this timeframe. When I’m not reading, writing, or teaching, I enjoy spending time outdoors and traveling, especially in and around my native northern Minnesota.

At MU, I’ve taught a handful of literature-based courses, including English 1000H (Honors Exposition), English 1210 (Introduction to British Literature), English 2100 (Writing About Literature), English 2159 (Introduction to World Literature), and English 3200 (Survey of British Literature, Beginnings through 1784).

In each of these courses – in addition to teaching critical thinking and reading skills – I like to show students that there are more ways to read a book than breaking down the words on the page, and that there is more to literature than just reading a book and looking at the arrangement of words on a page – each book holds a story of the world around it and the readers who have picked it up, read it, and written in it.

SC: How have you incorporated Special Collections into your teaching?

Each semester, I ensure that I bring my classes to visit Special Collections and spend time learning about various aspects of printing history, reading a book as more than just literature, and letting students get their hands on the materials. And frankly, Rare Books and Special Collections adds variety to times in the semester where we’re all feeling a little bogged down and need a new and exciting way to approach the text.

One semester, I brought my students in Survey of British Literature to Special Collections as a way to break up the monotony of our class discussion on Renaissance poetry. Alla and Kelli brought out a variety of publications and objects featuring the same poems and authors we were reading in class; students were encouraged to dive into reading the primary materials in their original context, outside of the anthology we were using in class. Suddenly, Ben Jonson and Amelia Lanyer came to life for students as they struggled through the centuries-old typography.

I have also asked my honors composition students to actively read selected from Special Collections as objects, carefully analyzing and writing about their thoughts and findings. Students were asked to choose one of the manuscripts or objects that were displayed during our class’s visit to Rare Books and Special Collections, and to spend time with it again outside of class, asking questions of the object, analyzing it, and drawing inferences from their observations of details they might otherwise overlook and then inferring how the book would have been used and who might have used it.

SC: What materials or collections did your students work with?

The various classes I have brought to Special Collections have worked with a wide array of materials and collections, including 19th-century travel writing, publications of Renaissance-era poetry, 18th-century editions of Homer, different antique versions of the Bible, and 16th-century documents addressing the politics of magic and religion.

SC: What outcomes resulted from your class visits?  What were the effects on your students?

In addition to submitting some rich essays from the students detailing their findings from their assignments based on Special Collections, students consistently walk away from their visit in awe, inspired to discover what else is held in Special Collections.

One specific moment that will remain with me is when tears began welling up in one student’s eyes as she held an 800-year-old book. “I’m a part of this book’s history now,” she whispered to a classmate standing next to her. Another student, a college senior, said that the days spent in Rare Books and Special Collections were the highlights of her time in college, and that it was a shame that she was just learning about one of MU’s most exciting resources right as she was about to graduate.

SC: What advice would you give to colleagues interested in using Special Collections in their courses?

When I set aside a day for my class in Special Collections, I often don’t yet know exactly what I want my students to explore. The librarians have consistently helped me figure out the aims and goals of the day’s visit, suggested specific materials, provided samples for follow-up assignments, and offered to lead lectures for the class on topics related to the course.

For instance, I recently taught a unit on Christopher Marlowe’s play, Doctor Faustus, and I had asked the librarians to pull some resources that could be relevant and helpful in exploring the politics of magic and religion expressed in the play. Little did I know that Alla is actually an expert in Renaissance magic! My students were able to get so much more out of the library session than they ever imagined, and more than I could ever offer.

So, the biggest piece of advice that I would give to colleagues interested in using Special Collections in their courses is to use it! The staff in Special Collections is immensely helpful in putting together a productive and exciting day with demonstrations of the materials and offering suggestions for follow-up assignments.

home Cycle of Success, Special Collections, Archives, and Rare Books Teacher spotlight: James Terry, Stephens College

Teacher spotlight: James Terry, Stephens College

Today our guest in Teacher Spotlight is Dr. James Terry, professor of Art History at Stephens College. Professor Terry regularly brings his Renaissance and Baroque class to Special Collections. We were delighted when he agreed to step into our Spotlight today. We’ve queried him about his teaching philosophy, inspirations, academic interests, and put to him our standard question about the way he incorporates Special Collections into his teaching. Here is his response:

James Terry. Art History class

I like to get my art history students out of the classroom as often as I can–whether that’s a visit to the MU Museum, the local mosque, the Christopher Wren church in Fulton, or an artist’s studio, art gallery or exhibition. A visit to Special Collections at Ellis Library is always a highlight for the students in my Renaissance and Baroque Art course at Stephens College.

Most of them have never handled a 500-year old book–or any fine, handmade, pre-industrial object. It puts them in touch with the material (quite literally). Of course, they are amazed by the engravings and woodcuts, and even the quality of the paper and bindings. I expect that many of them had never considered the possibility that a book can also be a work of art–but they certainly understood that by the end of our recent visit.

Students today spend so much time looking at digitized *pictures* of things, but they don’t have nearly enough experience interacting with real objects.

I would recommend that all college instructors–whether in the humanities, sciences, business or whatever–visit Special Collections at Ellis and find out what treasures the library holds that might relate to your field. Then find a way to get your students over for a visit.  All librarians in Special Collections are very generous and accommodating, and will work with you to set up an eye-opening experience for your students.