The Department of Special Collections and Rare Books is a vibrant laboratory for the humanities where students and faculty are welcome to research and explore. Our collections exist to be used and they are open to everyone.
Our Teaching Philosophy
Special Collections staff aim to support faculty instruction. Our approach to teaching is motivated by three main tenets:
Primary source literacy. The materials in Special Collections come from many times and places, ranging from Mesopotamia in 4000 BCE to Columbia, Missouri in the 21st century. To use these materials effectively, students need to develop primary source literacy, i.e., "the combination of knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to effectively find, interpret, evaluate, and ethically use primary sources." To help students develop this awareness, we provide support through in-class presentations and reference outside of class. The RBMS/SAA Guidelines for Primary Source Literacy provides the basis for this work.
Materiality. Texts do not exist in the abstract but are always vested in a physical carrier. By examining the items in Special Collections as artifacts, students can learn more about the transmission and reception of information, particularly how readers engage with and adjust the texts that they encounter. By giving students a chance for responsible hands-on experience, they develop a connection with the past and to learn about the ways different civilizations and cultures have stored and transmitted their knowledge. They also acknowledge the roles of librarians and researchers both to use collections in the present and to safeguard them for the future.
Diversity and inclusion. Special Collections’ holdings reflect a diverse range of genres and media produced by authors from a wide array of backgrounds and perspectives. Special Collections staff seek to provide an inclusive perspective by drawing on materials that highlight the presence (and absence) of historically marginalized and oppressed voices. Highlighting these elements of our collection is important to ensure that students receive a multi-faceted perspective on our holdings as part of the institution that we represent and the wider world from which our materials arose.