Hands on and Minds Open: Using Rare Books to Understand the Culture of Reading
This presentation explores the practical use of rare books by students in academic settings in order to lead them to an understanding of cultural approaches to books and reading in a global society. Rather than relegating rare books to the role of charming institutional anachronisms or to arcane scholarly endeavors, there can be a substantive, hands-on integration of them into diverse curricula. As such, rare books are effective tools for experiential learning in a variety of disciplines. From cuneiform to digital texts, changes in books and reading are precipitated by political, religious, technological, and social events and issues. Using rare Qu'rans in an institutional setting, for example, allows a process to understanding Islam in the 21st century. Likewise, 18th c. British political pamphlets, late 19th c. Arts & Crafts fine press books, 20th c. social literature, or even 21st c. graphic novels, all can be used in the construction of an accessible culturological model that engages students in melding past with present and in reasonably anticipating the future in how books and reading function in world culture.
Keywords: Ethnology, Reading Behaviors, Globalism, Cultural Relativism, Rare books, History of Reading, Books as Cultural Indicators
Head and University Archivist, Archives & Rare Books Library, University of Cincinnati