Tag Archives: Teaching with Primary Sources

Instruction Transitions in the SCRC: New Opportunities and Challenges

Alice Price’s Text + Image Course

When the new Charles Library opened in August 2019, the librarians and archivists who do instruction using the Special Collections Research Center collections were perhaps most excited about the new classroom adjacent to the department (Multipurpose Room 113). In the SCRC’s old space in Paley Library, instruction classes  were almost always conducted in the reading room, which was never an ideal situation.

In the new classroom in Charles, which accommodates around 40 people comfortably, we are able to welcome faculty and students without disturbing our individual researchers in the reading room. In addition, the new classroom space has movable tables and chairs which allows for a variety of setups for display of materials and seating during classes. Standard classroom technology in the form of a projection system and a large screen were also a major upgrade to our existing instruction infrastructure. And, finally, an overhead document or “eye in the sky” camera that enables instructors to project images of physical materials, a page of a rare volume or an archival document in real time, was installed this spring to complete the instructional technology in the space.

Alyssa Piro’s Artist Book, Zines and Independent Publishing Course

The first class held in the new space in Charles was Alyssa Piro’s Artist Books, Zines and Independent Publishing (ARTU 2351) on September 10, 2019. The class was co-facilitated by Kimberly Tully, Curator of Rare Books in the SCRC, and Jill Luedke, Art and Architecture Librarian in Learning and Research Services. The plan for the class was an online introduction to zine culture, copyright, and Creative Commons using the screen and projection system, and then students were invited to browse a selection of zines from the SCRC displayed on the tables in the physical space. This collaboration between librarians to provide both context for class-specific materials and access to the materials themselves has been made much easier in the new classroom.

Throughout the 2019-2020 academic year, the SCRC continued to welcome back returning classes and welcome new faculty and students from a variety of academic departments, including History, English, Photography, Printmaking, Art History, Political Science, Criminal Justice, Latin, Intellectual Heritage, Latin American Studies, Geography and Urban Studies, Journalism, Media Studies, Sociology, and Dance. We also continued to welcome classes from area institutions such as the University of the Arts , Bryn Mawr College, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Liv Raddatz, Philadelphia Mosaic class

Depending on the nature of the course and the learning objective for the visit, SCRC instructors were able to use technology seamlessly to introduce students to the SCRC and how to access materials and, through the department website, the Libraries’ catalog, finding aids, and digital collections. Instructors were also able to display materials in a variety of different room configurations to facilitate student hands-on assignments and engagement. The concept of a “humanities laboratory” came alive again in the SCRC classroom this year in Charles.

Amanda D’Amico’s 2D Foundation Principles Course

The importance of the new space is reflected in use statistics.  During the fall 2019 semester, we welcomed  59 instruction sessions, each individually tailored to the courses’ syllabi and the instructors’ needs.  In the shortened Spring 2020 semester, we offered 39 sessions before mid-March.

The new dedicated classroom in Charles Library has transformed the Special Collections Research Center’s instructional services, but with new opportunities come new challenges. In March 2020, when all classes at Temple moved to online instruction amidst the COVID-19 pandemic response, many of our scheduled class visits for the final weeks of classes were cancelled or altered. We were able to assist some faculty and students in wrapping up their on-site research in the final weeks of on-campus instruction. And in at least two instances since mid-March, SCRC instructors have maintained their commitment to primary source  literacy by presenting SCRC materials during a class session over Zoom and by interacting with students and faculty in Canvas. While we look forward to connecting students and faculty with our collections in a physical space once again soon, SCRC staff are also exploring how we will continue to adapt. Like many special collections repositories, we  have  some digital collections to draw upon to support both individual research and online instruction, and SCRC public services and instruction staff continue to be available to answer remote research questions and assist in online instruction. Please contact us at scrc@temple.edu for more information.

-Kimberly Tully
Curator of Rare Books

Problem-Based Learning in the SCRC

Students in reading roomProblem-Based Learning (PBL) is a teaching method commonly used in medicine and science curriculum, but it has also been applied in teaching history.  (See  Stallbaumer-Beishline, “Problem Based Learning in a History Classroom,” in Teaching History: A Journal of Methods, 2012.) Stephen Hausmann, an instructor in Temple’s History Department, contacted our Rebecca Lloyd,  History’s library subject specialist,  about using this approach for assignments in his General Education course, “Founding Philadelphia.” He hoped that this method of answering historical questions would increase student engagement and help them to develop information literacy and critical thinking skills. Rather than writing a research paper, the course was designed to have students working together in teams over the course of the semester to learn to think like historians and answer specific questions based on evidence drawn from primary sources.

Librarian Rebecca Lloyd, held instruction sessions early in the semester to show students how to find and use the secondary and primary sources (drawn from her American history subject guide) that they would need to come up with answers to the PBL-based questions. She held follow up sessions to help with research and checked in throughout the semester to see how things were going.

students in SCRC reading roomUsing this same teaching approach the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) hosted a class session in our reading room. This was the last of the seven PBL-based assignments for the semester. Students were encouraged to handle and engage with the materials pulled for the class and use these primary sources to address two historical questions:

Question 1: The 1876 Philadelphia Exposition showcased the city as a modern, industrial, symbol of American strength and promise. This was very much in contrast with the dire economic situation the United States faced after the Panic of 1873. Look at some of the fair materials – in what ways did the Centennial Exposition foster this image? What attractions, items, displays, architecture, and landscape were used to create an American mythology at the event? Compare these with other collections from the 1870s. What contradictions do you see? In what ways was the exposition an accurate portrayal of late nineteenth century American life?

Question 2: One job of a historian is to piece together the basics of daily life in the past for different groups of people. Find two sets of documents that catalogue two different people from Philadelphia’s history. How were their economic and social situations different and similar? Describe their daily lives as best as you can and explain how they compared with one another. What did they eat and drink? What about their leisure activities or family life? What about the work they did or how they otherwise earned their pay?

Hart manuscript
Hart, Lectures on the Public Schools of Philadelphia, 1849

The SCRC materials used in this exercise were the Nathan S.C. Folwell Scrapbook, the George D. Shubert Diary, the Civil War Enlisted Slave Documents, the William Beatty Civil War Correspondence, Lectures on the Public Schools of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition Scrapbook, the History of the Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children, and selections from the Young Men’s Christian Association Records, the Alliance Israelite Universelle, Philadelphia Branch Minute Books, and the William Cramp and Sons Ship and Engine Building Company Records.

At the end of the semester, Stephen Hausmann shared the following comments about his class’s experience in the SCRC working with primary sources:

“I had spent much of the semester training my students to use online databases. The visit to SCRC was a chance for them to use their skills in an “active” archival setting. One of my major objectives was to teach information literacy and ways of “reading into” a document, and I hoped that viewing archival material in the flesh would give students an opportunity to use those skills.”

Actively looking at documents in groups led his students “to draw many conclusions about the materials at hand in a way that never really happened during the usual, online, archival research sessions I held in class. Being able to walk around tables and pick up documents, turn pages, and discuss with their peers what they were seeing made for an archival experience I didn’t really foresee.  in short, the visit’s collaborative nature achieved what I had been trying to get my students to understand all semester.”

“I think maybe faculty think a session like this will be extra work for them, while on the contrary it actually lessened my burden by allowing me to walk around and talk more with students substantially about the documents they were looking at. I couldn’t have been happier with how things went and some of my students told me it was their favorite single class of the semester.”

students in SCRC reading roomWe intend to encourage instructors to try PBL-based assignments in their courses, as a hands-on alternative to the traditional research paper. The SCRC is uniquely suited to collaborate on just such an approach.

–Josue’ Hurtado, Coordinator of Public Services, SCRC

Publishing Poetry and Prose: A Faculty and Student-Curated Exhibition

Codex Infernum
–by student Duncan R. Copeland

In Fall 2015, the Special Collections Research Center partnered with Richard Orodenker and his Intellectual Heritage class to exhibit commonplace books created by the students alongside examples of commonplace books and related materials from the SCRC. This year, we are happy to continue our faculty and student exhibit collaborations with an exciting display of poetry and prose chapbooks created by students in Kathryn Ioanata’s Honors Creative Acts class.

–by student Keri Klinges

The term chapbook is used to describe the printed literature of two distinct moments in the history of printing in the West. In Europe in the early modern period, a chapbook referred to the cheaply printed and simply illustrated popular literature distributed widely and often sold by travelling booksellers called chapmen. These pamphlets contained abbreviated texts, such as fairy and folk tales, ballads, histories, or moral tracts. In the modern context, chapbooks refer to publications of shorter length, 40-50 pages or less, that are simply bound. They often contain either poetry or prose on a single theme or subject.

During the Spring 2016 semester, Professor Ioanata brought her Honors Creative Acts (ENG 926) students to the SCRC to see a selection of modern chapbooks from our various print collections, including the Contemporary Culture Collection and the Rachel Blau DuPlessis collection. Professor Ionata describes the connection between the visit and the students’ final projects: “This assignment asked students to take their best writing from the semester, revise it, and arrange it artfully into a chapbook. In working on this project, rather than a simple portfolio of work typed on plain paper and stapled together, it became necessary for students to consider the book as a work of art. Using the chapbooks in the Special Collections Research Center as an example, I encouraged students to think about not only their writing itself, but its placement on the page, in the book, and the aesthetics of the book itself.”

Student Nick Stanovick with Professor Kathryn Ionata
Student Nick Stanovick with Professor Kathryn Ionata

Special collections and archival materials are regularly used by students as inspiration for their own creative endeavors. Featuring these student projects in our library exhibits demonstrates the impact that the Libraries’ resources and instructional outreach can have on student success. The exhibit process also creates opportunities for faculty, student, and staff collaboration. Professor Ionata and Nick Stanovick, a student in the class, both participated in the selection of materials for the exhibit, including determining which page(s) of each chapbook would be featured.

Many of the chapbooks created by the students, featuring their own prose and poetry writing, and a selection of chapbooks from the SCRC will be on display on the first floor of Paley Library in the main lobby throughout the fall semester.

–Kim Tully, Curator of Rare Books, SCRC


Teaching Zines and Metadata

Cover of How to be Lolita
Cover of How to be Lolita, by Jo-Jo Sherrow. Philadelphia: Jo-Jo Sherrow, 2010. Beth Heinly Zine Collection, Special Collections Research Center.

During the Spring 2016 semester, “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Representation” (MSP 4425/LGBT 3400), an undergraduate course in the Department of Media Studies and Production taught by Dr. Adrienne Shaw, worked within the Special Collections Research Center, as well as with the John J. Wilcox, Jr. LGBT Archives at the William Way LGBT Community Center, to complete several assignments. The class investigates the history of LGBT representation in popular media in the United States since the 1960s.

The class visited SCRC several times for introductions to using special collections materials  and various collections, students returned individually to conduct research on their own. They each selected two zines from the collection and wrote an essay on themes found within them, and completed a timeline and report on an event in Philadelphia LGBTQ history using LGBTQ resources available in the SCRC and the John J. Wilcox, Jr. LGBT Archives.

Metadata worksheet
Worksheet used by students for the metadata assignment.

During one visit, the students were given an introduction to metadata by SCRC staff, and completed an assignment to create their own metadata for a zine in the SCRC collection. The class included an explanation of what metadata is and does, both generally and in a library; what makes metadata important; and some issues related to creating metadata.

The issues discussed were directly relevant to the purpose of the course,  including how metadata is inherently about the problematic act of applying labels to things; standardized metadata requires the use of terms determined by someone with their own biases; and applying labels to information resources puts the metadata creator in a position of power and authority.  Issues related specifically to zines were also discussed, including how they’re often about sensitive, personal topics; they are frequently created by people from underrepresented groups; and they are occasionally written by people who do not want to be identified.

Metadata definitions handout
Class handout on metadata.

The students then completed an assignment to create their own metadata. They selected one zine from the collection, and completed a metadata form based on the ZineCore elements. SCRC staff and Dr. Shaw answered questions about how to describe a zine with, for example, no author or title; what to do if a zine listed no author but the student knew the name of the author; and how to come up with subject descriptions for sensitive topics.

A small selection of the Beth Heinly Zine Collection has been digitized and is available online. For more on ZineCore, see the ZineCore Zine.

–Katy Rawdon, Coordinator of Technical Services, SCRC

Undergraduate Instruction in the SCRC: Engaging Historically and Artistically with the Book as Object


seminar visit
Mosaic seminar

One of the ongoing missions of the Special Collections Research Center is to use our collections to enhance the teaching, learning, and research activities in the undergraduate curriculum at Temple. Over the course of spring semester 2016, the SCRC has hosted over twenty five classes representing a variety of departments and programs on campus.

A recent visit by Professor John Dern’s Intellectual Heritage Honors Mosaic Humanities Seminar, a required general education course in the College of Liberal Arts, gave us the opportunity to highlight some treasures from our rare book collections and gave the students an opportunity to see and turn the pages of first editions of Galileo and Mary Wollstonecraft.

Mosaic seminar
Mosaic seminar

The goal of the Seminar is to “introduce students to philosophical, political and scientific texts that are challenging in at least one of several ways: rhetorically, historically or culturally.” In Professor Dern’s section, students read Galileo’s Sidereus Nuncius (Starry Messenger), Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women, and Thucydides’ On Justice, Power and Human Nature, among other assigned texts. When the students visited in early April, we pulled Temple’s first editions of Galileo’s final work, Discorsi e Dimostrazioni Matematiche, intorno à due nuoue scienze, printed in 1638 in Leiden, and the first edition of Mary Wollstonecraft’s seminal proto-feminist work, A Vindication of the Rights of Women, printed in London in 1792. Connecting their class reading of Galileo’s most famous work to how his later works appeared in the European marketplace in the early 17th century provides an invaluable lesson in early modern scientific discovery, censorship, and the dissemination of information across the European continent.

In addition to the first edition of Mary Wollstonecraft’s landmark text advocating equal education opportunities and related 18th century texts, the students also engaged with a 15th century manuscript on the lives of the ancient philosophers, a 16th century edition in Greek of the Roman historian Appian, and an 1804 illustrated volume depicting the punishment of criminals in China according to the Qing penal code. Students were encouraged to turn the pages of these texts, ask questions, and even snap pictures with their always-handy smartphones. Exposure to the physical artifacts of the texts they’re studying in class brings the students closer to an understanding of how the texts entered the cultural marketplace, the historical record, and our collective, intellectual heritage.

M. Dages class
Another of our late semester class visits provided a different kind of connection to the physical book format for the  students. In mid-April, Professor Marianne Dages brought her Tyler School of Art Foundation program class in 2D Foundation Principles to the SCRC to view a selection from our large artists’ books collection. For their own final book-making projects in the class, students were asked to incorporate both a strong use of color and interesting book structures. The selections pulled from the collection provided both examples of strong color technique and unique structures, as well as inspiration for the students’ own work. Just as in the Humanities Seminar, the smartphones were put to good use documenting what they saw for future reference!

Dages class
Tyler students with artists’ books

Whether a class visit to see the SCRC’s print collection enhances the contextual understanding of class readings or directly influences student work, it does prove that the physical book form is still an integral part of undergraduate teaching and learning at Temple.

— Kimberly Tully, Curator of Rare Books, SCRC

Temple Classes Visiting the Special Collections Research Center

One of our primary missions at the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) is to support research, teaching, and learning through the use of the materials in our collection. This semester we’ve had over two dozen classes and hundreds of students pass through the doors of our reading room, and many more have come on their own to conduct further research on a diverse array of topics and disciplines such as architecture, history, urban studies, visual studies, education, dance, film and media arts, criminal justice, and journalism.

Students working with zines
Students working with zines

This semester J. Pascoe, a Philadelphia-based artists and instructor at Tyler School of Art, brought her Visual Studies and Graphic Art and Design classes into the SCRC, so that her students could interact with and explore some of our artists’ books and zine holdings.

When asked what value she placed in class visits to the SCRC, Pascoe says that “I bring my students to the SCRC because as an artist, an educator, and–frankly–as a human moving through this world, it behooves me to know what other people around me are making and doing. It’s not enough to pay attention to only what your friends or colleagues are doing. As artists, it’s important to know what’s being made out there and why.”

Zines on display
Zines at the SCRC

“More specifically, students come to my class wanting to make books and zines. They want to make things with their hands and they, ideally, want other people to hold finished work in their hands. We talk a lot about hand skills and hand work in my classes, so it’s no surprise I champion taking opportunities with my students to put our hands on other people’s work, too. To be able to hold books and zines and spend time with them–that’s where some real learning happens. I see more ‘light bulbs’ moments happen in collections and archives than in studio spaces.”

Student work inspired by their visits to the SCRC can be found on a class blog for Visual Studies 4554.  This is just one example of how the SCRC continues to support teaching and learning on the Temple campus and beyond.
-Josué Hurtado, Coordinator of Public Services & Outreach