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Reference and Instruction by the Numbers

To say we’ve been busy lately in Special Collections would be an understatement. We’ve been surfing a tidal wave of classes and reference requests since the semester started, and we’re so excited to see ever-increasing interest in Special Collections. To sum up what we’ve been doing lately, we put together this infographic from our reference and instruction statistics recently. The results surprised even our small but mighty team!

reference infographic 600px

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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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Join us for Fridays @ the Library this semester


This semester, librarians from across MU Libraries are teaming up to bring you a great program of workshops and tutorials that can help you research smarter, not harder.  Take a look at all the great offerings from our colleagues!  Special Collections will be participating on September 12 with a session called Jumpstart Your Teaching and Research in Special Collections.

Special Collections has over 90,000 items – from rare books and manuscripts to comics and posters – and a staff that wants to empower you to use them.  Whether you’re new to campus or just need a refresher, come and find out how these exciting and inspiring resources can contribute to your semester. We'll provide an overview of our collections and cover strategies for using Special Collections in class visits, undergraduate assignments, and your own research.

Go here to register, or contact Goodie Bhullar with any questions about the workshop series.

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Posted in Learning through Special Collections

Teaching Spotlight, May 2014: Nicole Johnston


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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Teaching Spotlight, April 2014: 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.

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