Special Collections Showcased in Student Seminars

by

Laura Guelle

Kuba mask made of wood, cloth and fiber.

Primary source materials are being used by undergraduate students in their classrooms and personal research in an unprecedented manner, thanks to a generous grant from Friend of the Library Charles Tanenbaum. The grant has enabled staff to develop a program in consultation with faculty members such that students are shown pertinent materials from our Special Collections in their classes and taught how to use them in their research projects.

In one African-American Studies course, which explored the lives of African-American women through their literature, music, art, and spirituality, a librarian met with students to show them tracts by former slaves, videotaped interviews with contemporary authors, audio cassettes of poetry readings, documents from the NAACP, art prints, objects, and handicrafts. Students examined objects from the Neufeld Collection, such as the Kuba mask pictured above, to observe the African influences on early African-American art and handicrafts. In a separate session, smaller groups of students were taught basic bibliographic instruction and research methods and shown how to use the online databases in the Reference Department.

Students taking courses in Economics, Growth and Structure of Cities, and History have also already benefited from this program. The most popular types of primary sources requested by faculty in these fields are maps and atlases. Students in an introductory Cities course met individually with librarians to select city maps for a comparative city planning exercise. Local plat atlases of the Philadelphia Metropolitan area, some dating back to the nineteenth century, have figured prominently in both Cities classes and in an Economics course on local city, county, and township economies. Senior history majors were shown historical, economic, and statistical atlases in addition to seeing items from the College Archives and Manuscripts Divisions.

Faculty, staff, and students have all been delighted by the success of this program, which has been funded through the 1998 academic year. We look forward to introducing more of our students to our fascinating Special Collections next year.

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