Teaching Tools Library Feature: Teaching Materiality Online with the Rubenstein Library

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.

Our Teaching Tools Library Feature this month is a brief but punchy library guide from the Rubenstein Library at Duke University. It briefly describes six activities on materiality that can be done at home rather than in the physical library space. The activities do not necessarily have to be done remotely either: the first three activities — “Invisible histories,” “Gender Artifact Assignment,” and “Fold Your Own Zines and Books” — might also work in a socially distanced classroom, as they are about either engaging more thoughtfully with materials or about producing simple books and pamphlets. The last three activities — “Reading by Candlelight,” “Read Aloud With a Group,” and “Create Your Own Cabinet of Curiosities” — are more resolutely based in the home, where students can work with fire or personal items more easily.

The activities are all comparatively simple, making them adaptable to multiple contexts or class sessions. They could be used either as the focus of a class session in special collections or as preparation for a class session using special collections materials. In that case, they would serve to sharpen students’ awareness of the materiality of rare materials. Particularly now, as we enter the second academic year of the pandemic and a return to online instruction remains a possibility, guides like this one are a useful reminder of the lessons we’ve learned in the past year and how we can still safely provide students with an experience of materiality.

This feature review was written by John Henry Adams, PhD, special collections librarian at the University of Missouri.

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