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Special Collections and Rare Book Department: Instruction

Outlines major collections, provides links to finding aids and describes services of the Special Collections and Rare Book Department at Western Michigan University.

How Can You Use Special Collections for Your Teaching and Learning?


WMU Libraries Special Collections and Rare Book Department welcomes faculty to contact us about enriching their courses by using specialized materials.  All instruction is focused upon the instructor's goals for student learning and involves a collaboration between the instructor and the Special Collections Librarian.  Students are welcome to come and consult with us about how to use the collections in research for class projects or capstone papers.

The Special Collections and Rare Books staff maintain a balance between access and preservation. Instructions on handling  materials will be given at the beginning of each session, but students are get hands-on experiences with items used in the class sessions.

Sessions generally involve:

Examining original materials, including learning about their production and context and asking questions

Making observations and learning about what kinds of questions can be answered by artifacts


Collection Strengths

Our collection strengths include are broad and include the history and literature of medieval, early modern, nineteenth and twentieth century Europe, including WWII history; Cistercian studies; nineteenth and twentieth century American history and literature; American women's poetry; historical children's literature. We also have a large and growing collection of artists' books and sources on the history of the book arts.  Details can be found on the tabs above.

We are interested in expanding our holdings to reflect teaching and research needs at WMU.  Faculty members can contact Susan Steuerl to discuss potential acquisitions.

Examples of Instructional Sessions, Research Projects and Exhibits

We have employed a variety of instructional models including:

  • Class visits during regular class meetings to view materials, with instruction on handling and/or subject matter from special collections faculty
  • Group labs outside of class which are required and produce a reflection paper or an in-lab assignment
  • Individual assigned visits to work with one or two items intensively
  • Individual research in the collections for a large assignment
  • Group assignments (presentations, exhibitions, etc.) which involve working with the collections
  • Exhibits which students can visit at any time designed to complement course content