The Fragmenta Manuscripta Collection is a collection of manuscript fragments, most of them from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries but with materials extending as far back as the eighth century and as recently as the seventeenth century. The collection’s finding aid has been updated and expanded by Dr. Brittany Rancour, who has provided in-depth descriptions of the different genres represented within the collection as well as short biographies of identified authors. The finding aid is also an exhibit with digitized versions of the manuscripts.
The updated site can serve as an introduction to medieval European manuscripts, as a reference aid for researchers working with the collection, and as a teaching tool for faculty interested in locating examples of specific genres and practices within the collection. We hope that it will prove useful during this time of social distancing and perhaps as an inspiration for people to make an appointment to see the originals here in Special Collections.
Special Collections’ newest digital exhibit is Leaders and Heroes, curated by John Henry Adams and Courtney Gillie. The exhibit celebrates the accomplishments of historically excluded people, highlighting materials within Special Collections that were written by female, Black, Native American, and LGBTQ+ authors. The exhibit covers a range of topics from literature to social science, from social activism to polar exploration. The oldest piece in the collection is Henry Box Brown’s autobiography from the early 19th century; the most recent is a comic collection by Alison Bechdel from the late 20th century.
In addition to the exhibits, Special Collections has also recreated two in-person exhibits in digital form. One of them was In-Flew-Enza: Spanish Flu in Columbia, curated by Amanda Sprochi in 2016. The exhibit provides a broad overview of the 1918 influenza pandemic as well as a closer look at its impact on Columbia and the University of Missouri. The second is Children’s Literature of the Harlem Renaissance by African American Women, curated by Adetokunbo Awosanmi in 2019. The exhibit showcases twenty-one books published during or shortly after the Harlem Renaissance. Through their art and text, the books challenged stereotypes associated with African Americans.
Special Collections librarian John Henry Adams was awarded the William Reese Company Scholarship to attend California Rare Book School through Zoom in August. He shared his thoughts with us on his experience in the course.
What is your background in instruction?
JHA: I’m a new Special Collections librarian and most of my background in teaching comes from my time in English departments: I taught writing and literature for eight and a half years before I switched careers. While there is some overlap between English classes and special collections instruction, there are of course some major differences, the biggest being that as a Special Collections librarian, I’m usually not designing a full course but instead doing one specific session.
What course did you take, and what did you learn from it?
JHA: I took the seminar on Better Teaching with Rare Materials. We talked about doing more engaging, active-learning course sessions and we also talked a lot about how to do effective remote class sessions using special collections materials. We’re not going to be able to do in-person Special Collections sessions this fall, so that is going to be very useful.
I also got a much better understanding of learning objectives for individual class sessions, which will let me more carefully tailor my instruction to a course’s overall needs. Special Collections sessions can easily degenerate into being a cool field trip for the class to go see some neat things and learn some interesting information, but ideally we always want those sessions to build on a course’s overall objective without the instructor to have to do some heavy lifting the next session.
What might you do differently in the classroom as a result of this training?
JHA: I think I will be more transparent at the start of sessions as to how materials came to us in Special Collections, especially in sessions that take a more generalist approach. Special Collections are made up of lots of smaller collections, usually purchased from or donated by collectors, and that typically means limitations in terms of what is in the collection. Putting that information on the table at the start is important because it clarifies why the collection is what it is and why some things might not be in it.
The course also strengthened my general desire to focus on active learning and to keep as far away from a show-and-tell format as possible. Special Collections is already doing that, but it’s important to keep pushing that aspect and to give students a chance to experience the materials more fully.
Beginning August 17, 2020, reservations are required to use the microfilm machines in Ellis Library room 404.
Schedule a microfilm room reservation
By making an in-person appointment, users agree to follow the University’s safety expectations, including wearing masks, maintaining at least six feet of distance from others, and respecting markings for traffic flow. For more information on using the Libraries this fall, see our reopening plans. As always, don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions.
Beginning August 17, 2020, Special Collections will be open for research by appointment only to MU-affiliated faculty, staff, and students. Reservations are also required to use the microfilm machines in room 404. Appointments should only be made when a digital substitute is not sufficient.
By making an in-person appointment, users agree to follow the University’s safety expectations, including wearing masks, maintaining at least six feet of distance from others, and respecting markings for traffic flow. Users are also required to follow established reading room rules, including thorough handwashing before handling materials.
To make an appointment or request scans, see the Appointments page on the Special Collections website.
During the fall 2020 semester, Special Collections instruction will be primarily online. We’ve been working on brand-new digital activities and resources and are eager to support faculty and students through distance education. Contact a librarian about scheduling a class session.
For more information on using the Libraries this fall, see our reopening plans. As always, don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions.
You asked, and we delivered: Zoom backgrounds from Special Collections are now available for download! Choose from an assortment of ten images, including medieval manuscripts, travel posters, and beautiful book illustrations, all from the collections of the University of Missouri Libraries. As a bonus, there’s also a shot of the classroom for your online sessions (remember that your Special Collections librarians can help you with online instruction).
Preview and download the Zoom backgrounds on Box.
Flores y frutas del Mediterraneo [travel poster].
Brazil [travel poster].
Norway: the land of the midnight sun. [travel poster]
Priscian, Institutiones gramaticae [medieval manuscript].
A New and Accurat Map of the World [map]
Antiphonal with historiated initial of St. Paul [medieval manuscript].
Rowlandson’s sketches from nature. [hand-colored etching]
Processional : (for the use of the Dominican sisters of St. Louis, Poissy). [medieval manuscript]
Africa Antiqua et Nova. [map]
Interaction of color by Josef Albers [serigraph]
This exhibit was created by students enrolled in the Honors College Freshman Colloquium entitled “The Harlem Renaissance in Art, Literature, and Film (Gn. Hon. 2120H) under the guidance of Dr. Elizabeth Hornbeck. Each student selected a book, journal, or other item from the Harlem Renaissance to include in this exhibit and wrote a brief description of their selection. Materials on view include art, illustrations, literature, poetry, journalism, and more. If you can’t make it to Ellis to see the students’ exhibit, check out their class website.
Ellis Library is beginning a project to make it easier for our users to find the most up-to-date library materials on our shelves. To make space for new materials, librarians will be moving older and infrequently used bound journals to the University Libraries Depository, where they will be stored in optimal conditions for long-term preservation. University students, faculty and staff can request entire journal volumes or scanned copies of individual articles through the MERLIN catalog with the click of a button. Learn more about our Scan and Deliver Service.
As we work through the process of refreshing our stacks, your subject librarian may request feedback from faculty on moving particular titles. If you would like to be notified about titles under consideration or have questions about titles proposed for transfer, please contact your subject librarian or Jeannette Pierce, Associate University Librarian for Research, Access, and Instructional Services.
Now that the new classroom in Special Collections is ready to use, we can make it available for non-Special Collections classes and groups. Please be aware of the following room use policy:
- Please book room 406 only when there are no other classrooms or meeting rooms available for your group.
- Bookings should be made no more than two weeks in advance to ensure that class sessions in Special Collections have priority use of the space.
- Please enforce our no food and drink policy in the classroom. Water in closed containers is acceptable when there are no Special Collections materials in the room.
- Feel free to rearrange tables and chairs, but please put the room back as you found it when you leave.
- Check in at the Special Collections reading room to have staff unlock the room for you.
LibCal scheduling is in the works, but for now, people can send requests for room 406 to SpecialCollections@missouri.edu.