An electronic version of an exhibition in Olin Library, Wesleyan University

March 22 – May 19, 2002

Not all innovative teaching exploits cutting-edge technology. While many scholars and librarians feared that the electronic revolution would sound the death knell for the printed book, in fact, the physical book is thriving. Surprisingly to some, the availability of large numbers of electronic texts has helped foster a new interest in the book as artifact. Set against the flat, ahistorical, disembodied character of the electronic text, books of the past acquire an additional cachet when compared with the alternative.

This exhibition highlights new pedagogical uses for old books, as well as periodicals, archival collections, and other primary sources. Each of its seven sections focuses on a specific assignment developed by a Wesleyan faculty member, often working with librarians in Special Collections & Archives, during the past three years. While the assignments and disciplines vary greatly, they have common interests in using rare books, manuscripts, and archival collections as teaching tools. Assignments were chosen for this exhibition to convey a range of possibilities; several other recent projects had to be left out because of limited space.

Since 1997, more than fifty Wesleyan faculty members in the undergraduate and Graduate Liberal Studies programs have brought classes to Special Collections & Archives to be introduced to rare materials in their fields of inquiry. The majority of these classes have viewed historical materials related to the subject of the course in a hands-on lecture situation. Although the 25,000 rare books and over 6,000 linear feet of archival materials in Wesleyan’s Special Collections & Archives form a relatively small collection in comparison with those of major research libraries, they include rich resources for study in an amazing array of fields. Among the many classes that have visited Special Collections & Archives are: Shelly Rosenblum’s House and Home in American Culture (American Studies); John Paoletti’s Italian Art of the 16th Century (Art History and Architectural History); Andrew Curran’s The Black African in the Early Modern Imagination (Center for the Humanities); Jelle Zeilinga de Boer’s Cultural Effects of Volcanoes and Earthquakes (Earth and Environmental Science); Katherine Zieman’s The English Language: History, Structure, Politics (English); Cecilia Miller’s The Political Novel (History); Robin Price’s Experimental Collaborations in the Visual Book (Graduate Liberal Studies); Alec McLane’s Worlds of Music (Music); David Schorr’s Introduction to Typography and Graphic Design (Studio Arts); and Gay Smith’s History of Drama and Theater (Theater). For many of the students in these classes, the visit to Special Collections & Archives was their first encounter with primary sources in their original format.

Many people worked to bring “Old Books, New Pedagogy: Special Collections & Archives in the Curriculum” to fruition. Special thanks are extended to all the faculty members who generously shared their assignments and wrote eloquently about the role of special collections in their courses and their philosophies of teaching: Stephanie Kuduk (English), Ronald Schatz (History), Patricia Hill (American Studies), Kehaulani Kauanui (Anthropology/American Studies), Jeffrey Rider (Romance Languages and Literatures), Jennifer Tucker (History/Women’s Studies/Science in Society), Gary Shaw (History), Kevin Murphy (Center for the Humanities), and Sally Bachner, Christina Crosby, and Natasha Korda (English). Suzy Taraba organized the exhibition and wrote the unsigned text; the Middletown case and online exhibition was prepared by Jeffrey Makala. Cheryl Hagner designed and installed the exhibition with assistance from Joy Devorsetz, John Wareham, and Aaron Welo.

-Suzy Taraba, Head of Special Collections and University Archivist

This online version of the exhibition is divided into 7 sections, each mirroring one case of documents in the Olin Library exhibition. Clicking on any image will open a larger, detailed version of it, and some longer documents are available as linked Word 97 files.