Cultural Archives Project

Old book bindings
Old book bindings at the Merton College Library by Tom Murphy VII

Do you want your students to be excited about archives? Do you want them to look forward to carefully paging through manuscripts and early printed books? Is your greatest wish to watch students delighting over marginalia and manicules? Well, then this is the post for you.


Cultural Archives Project

In this project, we situate digital platforms as rhetorical texts in order to bridge the gap between preexisting student experience and archival work. The first part presents social media as a cultural archive while the second introduces students to special collections.

For the first part, present YouTube videos as cultural artifacts that can be analyzed rhetorically and curated for the use of others. Students will build a YouTube playlist exhibiting a specific theme. Once the playlists are complete, everyone will present the playlist to the class as though they are the curator of an exhibit and include a rhetorical analysis of one of the cultural artifacts.

For the second part*, three visits to special collections are scheduled. During the first visit, the librarian gives an introduction to special collections and explains how to safely handle rare books. By the second visit, students will come into special collections with many early printed books already set out on the tables. They are given time to look over these books and will have chosen one by the end of the class. For the chosen book, they will write a five-page bibliography that describes the book as a material object. Until the paper is due, students are given as much access to their particular book as they need. During the third class, the students share with each other what they have discovered about their books in short presentations. If students are willing, copies of their papers are given to the librarian to help supplement the catalogue.


* The second part of the project is influenced by Rebecca Olson and Anne Bahde’s special collections incunabula project. Check out Anne’s amazing special collections outreach at Rare @ OSU.

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