Experiential Learning: Behind the Scenes in Archival and Rare Book Collections (HIST*3560) | College of Arts

Experiential Learning: Behind the Scenes in Archival and Rare Book Collections (HIST*3560)

Code and section: HIST*3560*01

Term: Fall 2021

Instructor: Melissa McAfee and Kathryn Harvey



Kathryn Harvey, Archivist (kaharvey@uoguelph.ca)
Melissa McAfee, Special Collections Librarian (mamcafee@uoguelph.ca)

Time: Mondays and Wednesdays 2:30-4 pm

Location: Archival & Special Collections Reading Room and the Whitelaw Conference Room (both in McLaughlin Library)

Course Description:

Archival & Special Collections, located in McLaughlin Library, is a repository of rare primary resources, including archival collections, rare books, manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, art, audiovisual material, costume and set designs, architectural drawings, and ephemera. Our core collections include materials on Canadian theatre, landscape architecture, Scottish history, Lucy Maud Montgomery, culinary history, veterinary history, agricultural history, and local and campus history. (More information about our core collections is available here.) Materials in these collections date from the 14th century to the present day and are used by researchers from around the world, as well as by students in classroom assignments. 

This course will provide a rare opportunity to see first-hand and participate in the variety of work performed by the archivists and the special collections librarian in Archival & Special Collections. Organized in two segments, students will delve into the separate, but complementary professional practices of archivists and special collections librarians.

The first segment will focus on archives, which comprise collections of materials that document the work or life of an organization or person. Some examples of archival collections in our holdings include the Shaw Festival fonds (Theatre Collection), the Macklin Hancock/Project Planning Associates Ltd. Fonds (Landscape Architecture Collection), and the Ewen-Grahame fonds (Scottish Collection). This segment will cover topics such as the role of archives and archivists in society; how archivist acquire, arrange, describe, and preserve materials; the practice of monetary appraisal; outreach; and archival research. During this segment, students will learn how to appraise, describe, and arrange an archival collection. 

The second segment will focus on rare books and special collections covering topics such as how they are acquired, preserved, made accessible, and promoted to the University of Guelph community and beyond. In this segment, students will partner with the special collections librarian to select rare books to add to one or more of the core collections (Scottish, Culinary, and Lucy Maud Montgomery). The selection will be made from rare books offered at the Toronto Antiquarian Book Fair in early November. Students will visit the Fair with the Special Collections Librarian to evaluate a list of finalists selected by the class and determine which books will be purchased for the collection.

Method of Evaluation and Weights

Archival Arrangement Assignment – 12%
Archival Project – 23%
Rare Book Evaluation Project - 35%
Reflective pieces on assigned subjects – 20%
Participation: a grade derived from evidence of assigned reading; participation in interactive activity and discussion; and engagement in class – 10%

Text and Resources Required

No required textbook. Individual readings will be listed on the final course syllabus.

Course format

The class will meet for 80-minute sessions twice a week and, depending on public health guidelines, the course may be conducted partially in-person and partially virtually. 

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course, students will:

  1. Learn how archives and rare books are acquired, appraised, and organized
  2. Acquire a knowledge of the rare book trade 
  3. Acquire the capacity to find, evaluate, and acquire rare books
  4. Gain an understanding of the professional ethics of archivists and rare book librarians
  5. Acquire the capacity to do research using primary resource materials.
  6. Become knowledgeable about the power and limits of rare book and archival repositories
  7. Understand the roles of archivists and rare book librarians (research help, teaching, outreach, etc.)
  8. Recognize the difference between archival, rare book, and special collections repositories

**Please note:  This is a preliminary web course description only.  The department reserves the right to change without notice any information in this description.  The final, binding course outline will be distributed in the first class of the semester.**