Due to upcoming collections moves, Special Collections will be open by appointment until the beginning of the fall 2021 semester. Visit the Special Collections website to set up appointments for the reading room or microfilm readers, and be sure to ask us if you have any questions.
There is a new digital exhibit in Special Collections: Places in the World: Treasures from the Venable Collection, curated by John Henry Adams. As the title suggests, the exhibit showcases the recently acquired Gary E. and Janet J. Venable Antiquarian Atlas & Map Collection, a collection of 163 single-sheet maps and 79 bound atlases from the 16th through the 20th centuries. Digital Services is currently digitizing maps from the collection and uploading them to the MU Digital Library so that you can enjoy them even if you can’t manage a trip to Special Collections.
The exhibit focuses on how we all use maps to understand places in the world. Maps organize our worldview and let us develop an idea of how different locations relate to one another, whether we have been there physically or only mentally. The twenty maps in the exhibit are mainly from the 1600s with a few highlights from the 1500s, 1700s, and 1800s. They include maps of Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas, and the World, each of which is accompanied by a discussion of its context and a few points of interest, whether they be errors or artistic flourishes. We hope that the exhibit piques your interest and makes you look at maps, whether they be in your glove compartment, on your phone, or in Special Collections in a different light!
Three library interns from the English department — Bethany Bade, Katy Bond, and Allie Overschmidt — have collaborated on an exhibit featuring some of our travel posters. You might not expect post-war Europe to have been a travel destination, but tourism was still a major force. Our interns’ exhibit, “Commercial Art” focuses on the role played by artists, slogans, descriptions, and styles of illustration, including typography, in creating national images and identities. It includes posters from across Europe, from Spain up to Norway.
Our interns have done great work over this past semester, researching the background of the posters and describing their importance. Whether you are interested in design or history, art or politics, this is an exhibit you will want to check out!
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, 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.
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).
Flores y frutas del Mediterraneo [travel poster].
Brazil [travel poster].
Norway: the land of the midnight sun. [travel poster]
Priscian, Institutiones gramaticae [medieval manuscript].
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.
By Adetokunbo Awosanmi
I had the privilege of working with staff in special collections and a Visual Studies professor to create an exhibit showcasing children’s literature. Most of the books were written or illustrated by African American women. Stories were published within a few decades after the Harlem Renaissance ended. The twenty-one books in the exhibit represent how invaluable the Harlem Renaissance was for African American children’s literature. Finding books, writing labels, and setting up the exhibit were the main goals for this project. I also used Via Libri to find and recommend rare books by Ellen Tarry, Jane Dabney Shackleford, and Ann Petry.
World Cat and MERLIN were pivotal in locating most books. Other books were found through bibliographies and other relevant articles. The New Negro, albeit important for the Harlem Renaissance, focused on intellectual movements rather than children’s literature. Although The Brownies’ Book is not in Ellis Library, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has uploaded issues of the magazine online. After examining the magazine, it is easy to see the positive impact it had not only for African American children, but for children from different ethnic backgrounds. Stories, poems, and illustrations challenged the stereotypical and racist portrayals of African Americans in earlier texts.
Through research, I learned that poetry was a popular medium during the Harlem Renaissance, and it is seen in contemporary African American literature. Poetry and children’s literature complimented each other; as many authors wrote poetry. Some authors wrote multiple books; a few of Arna Bontemps’ books are in the juvenile stacks. A prolific poet and librarian, Bontemps wrote books for young adults and children. Golden Slippers and The fast sooner hound are for younger audiences, while We have tomorrow and Sad-faced boy are for slightly older individuals. Like Golden Slippers, Gladiola garden and The picture-poetry book are collections of poetry. With poetry, aspects of African American life were relayed to a younger, wider audience.
Writing captions was one of the more difficult parts of the project; I needed to balance my interpretations of the text itself and the creators’ motives for their works. While analyzing the text, I examined illustrations and photographs. Some images, albeit harrowing, are displayed in the exhibit. To reflect on the past, a past where racism was not as frowned upon as it is today, acknowledgement is imperative.
I cannot recall reading a lot of African American children’s literature as a child. Most of the books I remember reading throughout grade school had white main characters. Granted, these books were not as problematic as books written in the early 1900s and before. I found it hard to stay invested, as I could not relate to the main character. Humiliation and discouragement are the last things children should feel when reading books about themselves. Unfortunately, with few realistic portrayals of African Americans, negative feelings surface. However, as more children’s literature is written for minorities, more children will learn to love themselves and their skin.
The exhibit will be on display in the Ellis Library colonnade through mid-September.