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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.


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.


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:!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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New request and registration system


If you’ve used many materials here in Special Collections, you’re probably all too familiar with these little yellow slips of paper.  They’re our call slips, and until recently, we required all readers to fill one out for each item being requested from the stacks.


This summer the MU Libraries transitioned over to a new computer system, and we took it as an opportunity to try a new way of requesting and paging materials.  Instead of filling out your name and contact information multiple times, you’ll be asked to do it once per year, on our new Patron Registration Form (you can even print it out from our website, fill it out in advance and bring it with you to the reading room if you want to save time). On subsequent visits, simply check in at the desk.  We’ll be able to complete the rest of your request electronically – no handwriting or carbon copies required!

Although we don’t yet have the capability to take requests online, you can, as always, email us to place materials on hold.  We’re hoping that this system will prove easier and more efficient for everyone involved. No more repetitive request writing for you, and no more wrangling thousands of paper slips for us.  Our call slip mascots, the Special Collections sheep, might have gotten a little excited when they heard about this.


The new registration system takes effect August 1.  Although we’ve spent weeks practicing and trying to anticipate bugs, we’ll probably need your patience as we learn this new way of doing things.  Please feel free to contact us with any thoughts, concerns, or problems.

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Weekend reading: Week of May 10

It’s time for our weekly post roundup! Here’s a collection of links for your weekend perusal, in no particular order:

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Tracking down the history of Booche’s

Earlier this week I put out a call on Tumblr for photos of present-day downtown Columbia and campus that we could match up with materials in our collections. Tumblr user thesetenthings contacted us to ask about the history of Booche’s, the downtown Columbia pool hall that has been open since 1884.  Named for “Booche” Venable, the first owner, Booche’s is a bit of a Columbia legend for its atmosphere, its burgers, and its long history.

Having eaten many a cheeseburger at Booche’s myself, I set about trying to find evidence of the pool hall in our digital collections: the Savitar yearbook, Missouri Alumnus, Showme Magazine, and the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps.  And I found quite a bit! In fact, I found so much that I decided to make it a full-fledged post on this blog rather than a quick Tumblr photoset.

Booche’s bounced around several different locations and advertised to students in its first 50 years.  If Booche’s was the only pool hall in town in the 1880s (and I’m guessing it was; Columbia had less than 10,000 people back then), its first location was near Broadway and Seventh. This Sanborn Map shows a billiards business next to the lumberyard owned by W. P. Maupin.


The earliest reference to Booche’s I could find in print in our digital collections was in the 1903 Savitar yearbook (there might be earlier references, but they’re not digitized, and for the sake of time for this post I was sticking to digital resources).  The 1903 Savitar has an ad that shows the interior but doesn’t mention the location. The next year, it simply says “Broadway and Tenth,” but doesn’t mention which corner of Broadway and Tenth.


Advertisement from the 1904 Savitar, page 246.

Why?  It might have been because Booche’s had three different locations on or near Broadway and Tenth between 1895 and 1911. Here’s the first I was able to find in the Sanborn Maps, which shows a pool and billiards hall near the southwest corner of Broadway and Tenth.


The next map, from 1902, shows a different business in that location and a pool hall on the northeast corner of Broadway and Tenth. This is probably the location shown in the photo ad from the Savitar.


In 1908, Booche’s was back near its 1895 location on the southwest corner of Broadway and Tenth, except this time it had the corner storefront and had expanded into the storefront behind it as well.


Finally, in 1911, Booche’s moved onto Ninth Street.  But it wasn’t in its present-day location yet; it was across the street, on the second floor of the Virginia Building.  The ad below from the 1911 Savitar announces the move and shows what must have been the interior at Broadway and Tenth, since the same photo was used in an ad the previous year.


Advertisement from the 1911 Savitar, page 361.



Advertisement from the 1917 Savitar, page 500.


Advertisement from the 1920 Showme, page 28.

I wasn’t able to verify this with maps, but according to this 1976 Missouri Alumnus article, Booche’s moved into its present location in 1930.  Booche’s advertised regularly in the Savitar yearbooks and the Showme magazine through the 1920s.  It changed hands several times, but it remained a popular student hangout.


“Booche’s hath many charms, too” from the 1945 Savitar, page 187.

Articles in the 1976 Alumnus and the 1983 Savitar discuss more about Booche’s history – such as the fact that it barred women until the 1970s, that it was originally known for its ham sandwich, not its cheeseburger, and that you couldn’t get a beer there until relatively recently.  You can read more from each of those articles in the links above, or browse through the digital collections on your own. They’re freely available to everyone!

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Weekend reading: Week of May 3

sav1928p0004Here’s a roundup of our posts on Tumblr and our favorite articles, blogs, and posts from around the web this week for your reading pleasure over the weekend.

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