Teaching in Rauner

Teaching with Special Collections Materials

At Rauner Special Collections Library, we are committed to integrating rare books, archives, and manuscripts into the Dartmouth curriculum. Since 2004, we have collaborated on more than 400 courses.  Faculty from across the disciplines--English, Anthropology, Environmental Studies, History, Theater, Italian, Russian, Native American Studies and others--have found meaningful ways to use Rauner's unique resources in their courses.  Building class discussions or assignments around archival documents or rare books can provide an engaging, multi-sensory experience for your students, one that often leads to unexpected insights.  As an added benefit, assignments base on primary source materials and rare books tend to be plagiarism resistant.

Class use of the collections can range from having your students spend a single, highly-focused class period examining and discussing documents and artifacts relevant to your course themes to conducting your class in Rauner Library space for the entire term.  Many classes visit in order to examine special collections holdings specific to a course topic, but we also invite faculty to use Rauner's resources to explore concepts such as the nature of evidence and the interpretation of historical materials.

We are also available to give your class hands-on instruction in finding and working with primary source materials and to assist individual students who choose to pursue research projects or assignments using Special Collections materials.

If you have any questions or just want to toss around ideas about how to incorporate the collections in your class feel free to stop in or send an e-mail.

Jay Satterfield, Special Collections Librarian (646-3712)
Peter Carini, College Archivist (646-3728)

Recent examples

“The Values of Medicine,” Anthropology 7
The rare book collections were incorporated into the syllabus of this anthropological examination of the development of western medicine.  Individual sessions focused on historical anatomies, midwifery guides, herbals, and the portrayal of illness in artists’ books.

“The Enlightenment: France and the United States,” French 7
Through a variety of 18th-century documents related to the College, the class examined a year in the life of a Dartmouth student.  The process introduced the class to how narratives are created using primary source fragments and the role of narrative in research. The Dartmouth context brought the 18th century to life for these first-year students.

“Whitman and Dickinson,” English 66
Two sessions of this class were taught in Special Collections.  The first focused on how Walt Whitman used various editions of Leaves of Grass to present himself to his public, while the second looked at the early printed works of Emily Dickinson to see how her editors created her persona after her death.

“American Odysseys: Lewis and Clark,” History 96/NAS 81
This single session introduced students to the method of close reading using a passage from a diary documenting an overland journey on the Oregon Trail in 1849.  The close reading modeled a document-based research process for the students and helped them to understand the importance of observation, context and multiple points of view.

“Neoclassicism and the 18th Century,” French 23
This single session examined the publishing history of the first edition of Diderot’s Encyclopédie to help the students better understand the social and political forces that shaped 18th-century intellectual life in France.

“Philosophical Argument and Construction of ‘the Other,’” Writing 5
We introduced students to primary sources including an 18th-century arrest warrant, Blaeu’s 17th-century Geographia and an early 20th-century image of an Inuit girl.  Students worked to interpret these pieces in the class sessions and throughout the term, evaluating them as representations of “the other” against the backdrop of a variety of philosophers including Roseau, Locke and Burke.