It has been another busy semester for rare books at LSU. In fact, students are using our collections in all kinds of interesting ways! Here are some photos from three recent class visits to Special Collections.
Thirty students in Richard Doubleday’s survey on graphic design history visited on February 24 to look at beautiful books from across the ages. Special Collections holds original copies of many of the items they are reading about in Philip Meggs’ A History of Graphic Design. Getting to see and touch the real thing, everyone agreed, was way cooler than seeing a black-and-white picture of it in their textbook!
English Professor Chris Barrett has made Special Collections a big part of her undergraduate course on Shakespeare this semester. Her 150 students are visiting the library in several waves to learn about “Books Beyond Texts.” Curator of Books Michael Taylor and Professional in Residence John Miles have been presenting to each class on how to study books as physical objects. Can a book’s “packaging” help us better understand the author’s words? How were books marketed, consumed, and experienced in different time periods? Why is that important?
One of the ways that Professor Barrett’s students are learning how to “read” the non-textual information that books contain is by… blindfolds! The students are given several books and asked to guess what kind of a book each one is based on how it feels. The blindfold, paradoxically, helps us see the importance of the visual clues that books contain. As Harvard professor Leah Price, from whom this exercise was adapted, observes: “Words are only one of the channels through which a book conveys information. Some of that information instructs us, perhaps even subconsciously, in how or even where and when to use a book.”
We are also engaging with students from outside LSU. On March 4, about fifty very excited students from Broadmoor High School visited the library as part of a day-long trip to LSU to learn about the study of history. Professor Maribel Dietz of the LSU History Department and Curator of Books Michael Taylor showed a sampling of materials from Special Collections, including medieval manuscripts, World War I posters, and documents related to the history of Louisiana. The students also enjoyed visiting our current exhibition on Japanese illustrated books.
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