Special Collections in the Classroom

By Maureen Schlangen

The University Libraries have a trove of rare and one-of-a-kind books, documents, sacramentals, relics and other treasures in their special collections, ranging from baseball cards and holy cards to saintly relics and sheet music. But they’re a well-kept secret. The Libraries are working to build awareness of the collections so that students, faculty and researchers can use them in their courses and scholarly work.

In the past several years, for example, undergraduates in the upper-level U.S. Catholic Experience course have increasingly visited the U.S. Catholic Special Collection as part of their studies. New finding aids and the online catalog have made the collection easier to explore, and an online research guide provides further instructions as well as a link to arrange an appointment with the collection’s archivist.

Digitization and applications such as ArchivesSpace and eCommons also are making the resources more discoverable worldwide — though the richest experience is still a live visit to the collections. Though sometimes crowded, reading rooms in the University Archives and the U.S. Catholic Special Collection provide space for people to read and study the materials, all with the support of knowledgeable archivists.

— Maureen Schlangen, e-scholarship and communications manager

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