Sunday, November 02, 2008

Rare Books and Teaching

Roger Mummert, "Handle This Book! Curators Put Rare Texts in 18-Year-Old Hands," NY Times, November 2, 2008, in the special education supplement, writes about the emergence of new courses about the history of books and printing for undergraduates. Mummert notes, "Courses on the history of the book itself have grown along with the ascendancy of electronic information. Students today often blindly grant authority to the online world. Curators want to reconnect them with original sources and teach them to question those sources." One of the potential beauties of an I-School is the possibility of providing well-rounded exposure to both technology and traditional issues such as the nature of the printed or manuscript book. The question is, as always, how to do it.


Anonymous said...

sorry for such a long post.

The question should also be "how have others been doing it for over 20 yrs" ? The growth and interest in physical collections has increased tremendously over the years, and more so with the growth of digital collections and online catalogs, finding aids for users. Faculty and researchers, as well as students as young as high school & middle schools have always been actively a part of special collections work, esp. at museums where education is a key goal. They are mission driven organizations.

You may be aware of two Pitt faculty members Dr. Janelle Greenberg of the History dept. and Dr. M. Alison Stones of the History of Art & Architecture dept. and their work at the University of Pittsburgh that has been underway for some time. Faculty want to bring students in touch with original collections in libraries, not just by warehousing them. At Hillman's Special Collections public reading room regular university classes from not only preservation classes, but from History, History & Philsophy of Science, Theater & Music, and History of Art have been regular students to presentations by special collections professionals in reading rooms--not warehouses. Dr. Greenberg uses original printed books in her Medieval English law classes and Dr. Alison Stones has many illuminated manuscript imaging projects including LANCELOT which is housed in SIS in the Visualization center with Ken Sochats guidance.

here are some links: "Learning to Look"
Dr. Janelle Greenberg, History Dept. Medieval and Early Modern Law courses
Dr. M. Alison Stones
Stones and her international team of scholars are working with SIS specialists using GIS to "map" the Lancelot-Grail manuscripts and systematically study the relations between text and illustration. She is also collaborating with the university's Digital Resource Library (DRL) to create publicly accessible searchable databases of images of medieval art and architecture which are interlinked through keyword access to Stones's on-going website (
at Pratt: in it's 10th year
Rare Book School (RBS) is an independent non-profit educational institute supporting the study of the history of books and printing and related subjects. Founded in 1983, it moved to its present home at the University of Virginia in 1992

This fall and winter, RBS will be running courses in New York City, Baltimore, and Washington, DC. At the Freer/Sackler Galleries at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, Ellis Tinios will inaugurate a new course on “The Art of the Book in Edo and Meiji Japan, 1615-1912,” running Mon-Fri, 20-24 October 2008. In the same week, but at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City, Roger E. Wieck will offer his course, “Introduction to Illuminated Manuscripts,” which he will be teaching for the sixth time. In Baltimore, at the Walters Art Museum and Johns Hopkins University, Terry Belanger will give his “Book Illustration Processes to 1900” course (taught annually since 1983), and Albert Derolez will offer his “Introduction to Western Codicology” (taught most years since 1987), both running Mon-Fri, 3-7 November 2008. The Tinios, Wieck, and Derolez courses are sold out; there are still a couple of spaces open in Belanger’s course.
In January ‘09, RBS will return to Baltimore. Paul Needham and William Noel will co-teach “15th-Century Books in Print and Manuscript.” Jan Storm van Leeuwen will again offer his “Seminar in the History of Bookbinding.” In 2007, seminar topics included (among others) c16 French and German bibliophile bindings, c17 English Restoration bindings, c18 Dutch and French luxury bindings, and c19 special publishers' bindings in Europe and America. Both courses will run Mon-Fri, 5-9 January 2009.

When I worked as a museum professional, all staff were sent every summer, fully paid to Charlottesville VA, not to an iSchool because it simply was not offered anywhere else. What will it take to finally bridge that road to somewhere?

It's been happening for many years, just sadly, not anymore at a LIS school as it should be. Those professionals continue to go elsewhere where it is happening, but there remains a silo.

Richard J. Cox said...

Good points -- thanks; it can happen at this I-School, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

"Good points -- thanks; it can happen at this I-School, in my opinion."

yes I hope it will some day-- that is what everything boils down to -- making it happen, beyond opinions of which many of us have had as well for many years.
Hopefully someone can make it happen by recruiting and writing more grants that are inclusive to others besides archives & other specializations which include museums, rare books, special collections as a whole-for faculty and students, one must ask also in addition the "how" but "when". Plenty of grants are available from IMLS in recent years so hopefully it will happen one day and not just remain a 'flavor of the week'. :-)
good luck with that wall around it--in the meantime...the opportunities go to other fields.