Category: ancient world

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Teaching Spotlight: Lena Sheets, Smithton Middle School

Graduate student Amy Jones shows ancient Asian artifacts to Smithton Middle School studentsLena Sheets has a master’s degree in education and teaches world cultures at Smithton Middle School in Columbia.  In December 2011, she brought 150 sixth-grade students to tour various collections on the MU campus, including Special Collections and Rare Books.  This month, we’ll hear from her and her students about their experiences with rare books and artifacts.

SC: How did you incorporate Special Collections into your teaching this semester?
Prior to going to special collections, students had been learning about the Early River Civilizations, such as  Mesopotamia, and Egypt. Students then went to Special Collections and learned various ways that early civilizations communicated.  Students wrote observations about the items they saw such as scrolls, papyrus, parchment and seals. Students then came back to school and wrote a brief story that incorporated the information they had learned about a particular piece.

What outcomes resulted from your class visits? What were the effects on your students?
Students could make the connection between history and real people and objects that they have studied.Students are much more engaged in what they are learning and are more inquisitive.  They would like to return again next year.

What advice would you give to faculty or instructors interested in using Special Collections in their courses?
If you are working with middle school students, it is important for them to have an activity to do while they visit.  The presenters were very engaging and answered a ton of questions, but it just middle school nature for students minds to wander.  With the outstanding presentation and a place to write down what they were learning, students were engaged the entire time and had great discussions when they returned.

Any additional comments or suggestions?
I think a visit to Special Collections is a great authentic experience that could fit any place in a unit, at the beginning to generate excitement or at the end to help students make real world connections outside the classroom, or even in the middle to do a little of both.

The staff  at Special Collections were so patient and accommodating. In addition, they were full of knowledge about each artifact and kept the students thinking.   I also appreciated that they took the time to let me preview the items my students would see. I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm for the trip and I only hope, I can get funding to return again next year.

Browse stories by young writers from Lena Sheets’ class below.

Know an inspiring educator or outstanding student you’d like to nominate for the Spotlight?  Email us at SpecialCollections@missouri.edu.

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Student Spotlight: Jen Para

Jennifer Para is a freshman from Rogers, Arkansas, majoring in business. As part of Julie Christenson‘s section on the ancient world, part of the honors humanities sequence, Jen and her classmates worked with rare and historic materials in Special Collections, including ancient materials and fifteenth- and sixteenth-century editions of the classics. Jen shares her insights and reactions below.

Glancing through rare books at Ellis Library, a certain leather bound novel with a delicate design imprinted into the spine catches your eye. The marbled paper cover reminds you of exquisite stones with white and gold specks reflecting the bouncing sun, meshed together in a pond of blood. Touching the book, you are surprised at its smoothness, and you wonder why the book does not fall apart at your caress. On the book’s spine you notice gold lettering revealing the title of the book: Aeneidos. This epic poem is a 1583 copy of Phaer and Twyne’s translation of Virgil’s Aeneid.

Flipping through the book, you observe old English type and strain your eyes to read it.  You come to the beginning of a chapter with an intricate black border in which an “Argument” gives a summery of the chapter. As you look through the epic poem, you see no page numbers, only words at the bottom of each page. Curious, you ask the librarian. She informs you that the printing process included folding the papers together, using the first and last words of a page to ensure the correct order.

At the end of each chapter there seems to be a Latin copyright, and you also notice small printed notes in the margins. Between books twelve and thirteen you find the authors’ letter to their readers. Phaer and Twyne intended their translation of the Aeneid to be read by “maisters and students of universities,” who “will not bee too much offended,” by their raw translation, and “pray they will correct the errors escaped in the printing.”

Curious about Phaer and Twyne, you begin researching for more information. Thomas Phaer, a native to Pembrokeshire, translated The Aeneid into one of the oldest meters in English, the fourteener. According to scholars, it was a good attempt, but not attractive. Unfortunately, Phear died while translating the tenth book. Not wanting to leave the work unfinished, Thomas Twyne edited and finished the last two and a half books in 1573.

You look through the book once again. This copy is not an original nor a textbook; there are no handwritten notes anywhere. But in book ten, you see calligraphy and make out words “Hugh Bateman”, “Thomas Payne”, “1767 London”, “Dronfield”. Partaking in more research, you find record of several Hugh Batemans at Dronfield.

You come to the conclusion that this epic-poem, due to its lack of use and penmanship practicing, was most likely a “coffee-table book”. Its gorgeous cover could capture the eyes of any person, but its translation made it very difficult to read. You picture in your mind this epic poem, sitting on a rosewood desk, collecting dust, until a man opens it up to dab ink off his quill. Closing the book, you sigh, knowing you are only partaking in guesswork. You wonder what conversations it has overheard, who read its pages, and how it ended up at the Ellis Library at the University of Missouri. If only books could talk.

Have an outstanding student you’d like to nominate for the Spotlight?  Email SpecialCollections@missouri.edu.

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Teaching spotlight: Julie Christenson

This semester, Special Collections will be turning the spotlight on our patrons each month by highlighting teaching and student work inspired by the collections.  This post kicks off the semester and focuses on the teaching of Julie Christenson.  Julie visited Special Collections with her section of Humanities 2111H (The Ancient World; part of the Honors Humanities Sequence).  We corresponded with her via email to get her thoughts on Special Collections and undergraduate instruction.

SC: Can you give us some information about yourself?
I am a graduate student instructor in the English department. I am writing my dissertation on the poetics of commemoration in medieval England. I am interested in the poetic strategies of texts designed to commemorate events and figures.

SC: How did you incorporate Special Collections into your teaching last semester?
My students came for two visits. On their first visit, Kelli Hansen introduced several pieces from the collections that were relevant to the texts my students were studying. For their second visit, each student worked with one of the pieces that had been introduced during the previous session. They used their observations as the basis of a 2–3 page manuscript analysis.

SC: What outcomes resulted from your class visits? What were the effects on your students?
I think it’s good for students to realize that classical and medieval literature served a vital function within much different material, social, and aesthetic frameworks. There is just no comparison to experiencing a one-of-a-kind book, seeing the hole in the parchment where the animal had been bitten by a mosquito, to seeing the pages darkened from generations of hands turning the pages.

SC: What advice would you give to faculty or instructors interested in using Special Collections in their courses?
I understand the hesitation to take time out of our already cluttered schedules to what might seem like a frill, but my advice is to squeeze in a visit. It will enhance the work you do everyday in the classroom. Your students will be able to forge an experiential connection with the periods you are studying. That experiential basis convinces and inspires in a way that complements the work we do in the classroom.

Stay tuned – tomorrow we’ll be sharing some of the student work that resulted from Julie Christenson’s class visit.

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