Locating Traces of Hidden Visual Culture in Rare Books and Special Collections: A Case Study in Visual Literacy

Locating Traces of Hidden Visual Culture in Rare Books and Special Collections: A Case Study in Visual Literacy by Jennifer Garland

The author describes the recent collaboration of a special collections librarian and an art history professor at McGill University to integrate primary source material into a semester-long undergraduate course assignment and subsequent exhibition and catalog. The fourth-year art history course, Canadian Slavery and Its Legacies: A Curatorial Seminar, required students to select and prepare an exhibition catalog entry for two visual objects (prints, maps, books, plates, ephemera, objects) from within the holdings of McGill Rare Books and Special Collections. Through in-class visits and individual consultation, the librarian guided students in navigating special collections for the first time, thus easing feelings of “archival anxiety” and illustrating the role of special collections in academic research.

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