Teaching Tools Library Feature: Primary Source Literacy at USC Libraries & Beyond

As part of the TPS Collective Teaching Tools Library, we’ll be offering periodic feature reviews of specific items in the library that may be of use to those who teach with primary sources.

Primary Source Literacy at USC Libraries & Beyond is a Scalar project edited by Michaella Ullmann.  It is made up of seven tutorials on different aspects of primary source literacy, each of which is made up of a series of modules. Each module is a single page, typically combining a few paragraphs of descriptive text with photographs, videos, or activities. Several modules end with recommended further reading or links to other online resources. While collections at the University of Southern California are foregrounded, the tutorials are general enough to be useful in other contexts, especially “A Short History of the (mostly Western) Book” and “Analyzing various kinds of Primary Sources.”

One of the project’s strengths is its regular acknowledgment that neither it nor the collections at USC are comprehensive. A module titled “Archival Silences, and: Are Archives Really Neutral?” appears in both “Special Collections at the USC Libraries” and “Archives” and the “Rare Books” tutorial contains a short module on “Privilege, Gaps, and Silences in Rare Book Collections.” Similarly, the tutorial “A Short History of the (mostly Western) Book” is very up front about the limitations of the history that it presents. These acknowledgments are an important aspect of primary source literacy since they remind patrons that collections held by libraries have been made rather than being automatic, unbiased reflections of the world.

This feature review was written by John Henry Adams, PhD, special collections librarian at the University of Missouri. A reflection by Michaella Ullmann on writing the Scalar project recently appeared in Notes from the Field; you can read it here.

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