Past or Portal? Enhancing Undergraduate Learning

Past or Portal? Enhancing Undergraduate Learning through Special Collections and Archives Edited by Eleanor Mitchell, Peggy Seiden, and Suzy Taraba

In the age of ubiquitous access to information and mass digitization of materials, library special collections have received renewed attention, though most of this is focused on making these unique collections available outside of holding institutions through digitization. Special collections and archives have largely been used by advanced researchers and scholars. Few undergraduates darken the doors of rare book rooms or archives. Yet these materials offer both distinctive content and opportunities for students to experience learning though direct engagement with rare or unique items, or materials whose arrangement and organization illuminates, instructs, or delights. Beyond “hands-on history,” courses from across the curriculum may be enriched through assignments, experiences, and activities that draw upon or incorporate local or unusual items, primary sources, or material culture – particularly the book as art object or artifact. Undergraduates may also deepen their learning through Special Collections’ internships or participation as classes or individuals in designing and producing exhibits, projects, and publications on topics or scholarly or institutional value. The 47 cases explored in Past or Portal? Enhancing Undergraduate Learning through Special Collections and Archives describe successful programs which include a wide range of types of engagement (single assignments through certificate programs) with unique and rare materials and archival approaches and methodologies.