“Special” Moments of Discovery in the Classroom

Students in FRE 301 studying various early editions of Beauty and the Beast

Students in FRE 301 studying various early editions of Beauty and the Beast

This week we had the first of many classes visit Special Collections as part of their course curriculum.  Excellence in undergraduate teaching and research are hallmarks of the Miami experience and we’re always happy when we’re able to help facilitate those “special” moments of discovery and investigation for professors and their students.

Last academic year we had over fifty class sessions held in Special Collections, representing many subjects across the humanities and social sciences.  The classes come for a general introduction to resources in Special Collections that might be useful over the course of their semester, especially for their research assignments.  These sessions usually include instruction on how to use our non-circulating materials, including reading room policies and procedures.  As the primary instructor in Special Collections, my goal is always to make undergraduates feel like our rich collections are here for them to use and that we have a friendly and approachable staff available to help them use them.

Without a doubt, the most rewarding visits to Special Collections for students involve hands-on activities that require the students to literally turn the pages of our books and read the pages of the letters and diaries in our manuscript collections, to “interact” with our materials and discuss what they see.  Going beyond the traditional show and tell model for special collections instruction is always the ideal.  Last year class assignments using special collections materials included the following:

  • comparing pre-1492 and post-1492 world maps for a Latin American Studies class
  • a discussion of various early editions of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale
  • comparing historical recipes over time
  • in-depth research using our Shawnee-related sources
  • using turn-of-the-century etiquette books to discuss social customs surrounding fashion
  • bibliographic descriptions of 16th and 17th century Italian imprints
  • exploration of early printed illustrations
  • bibliographic descriptions and presentations on early printed books for a history of the book course
  • and in-depth research and presentations on French travel narratives from the 17th through the 19th centuries

Many of these classes will be returning this year and I look forward to working with a new group of undergraduates this year and helping their professors meet the learning objectives of their classes by effectively using Special Collections materials.

Consider adding a visit to Walter Havighurst Special Collections to your syllabus this semester!  We have over 15 class visits already scheduled this semester and we look forward to adding more to our calendar!

To schedule a visit or to discuss how we can help you incorporate primary resources into your classes, please contact:

Kimberly Tully
Special Collections Librarian