rusq: Vol. 52 Issue 2: p. 158
Sources: Past or Portal: Enhancing Undergraduate Learning through Special Collections and Archives
Maura Valentino

Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon

This book presents a collection of individual case studies concerning education and special collections. As with any collection written by different authors, some case studies are more engaging than others, but for those with an interest in integrating special collections into educational environments, this volume presents a great deal of useful material. It does a particularly good job of exposing the reader to many different ideas and methodologies.

The book is divided into four sections: The Artifact, The Program, The Work, and The Pedagogy. The articles comprising The Artifact section cover projects that focus on the objects contained in various special collections. The authors discuss how they have used archival objects in unique ways to engage students in the history of the objects themselves and in the history of reading and books. Various methods are employed, including hands-on examination of objects, writing about objects, and creating objects. Ideas from these articles can be extended to apply to many situations.

The Pedagogy section consists of case studies about the use of special collections materials within a course curriculum. These projects involve using specific material from special collections to support specific courses (or units of courses) in a university setting. As a natural consequence, these cases are less universal than those in The Artifact section and may not be as easy to incorporate into diverse situations and environments.

The Program section presents multidisciplinary approaches to increasing undergraduate involvement in special collections. These studies discuss programs that engage students in campus-wide initiatives and use diverse resources from various special collections. The projects discussed in this section are the most general and perhaps the easiest to apply in a wide range of university special collections settings. Creative ways to encourage the use of the special collections throughout the university are discussed: for example, offering stipends to professors who incorporate special collections into their curriculum and digitizing items for students to use in the classroom.

The Work section contains case studies involving student workers in special collections. Several innovative programs are discussed, including classes creating exhibits, students creating metadata using blogs, and students creating original collections. Many of these projects could also be extended or altered to assist in the work of university librarians and other staff members.

The book could benefit from synchronizing the order in which the section descriptions appear in the introduction with the order in which they appear in the book. Providing an abstract for each case study would make it easier for readers to select the articles most relevant to their particular needs and situations. Overall, though, this work is a valuable resource. It presents numerous ideas and innovations that will provide inspiration to readers as they develop their own special collection education initiatives.

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