The Smithsonian Libraries Special Collections Department serves both an internal and external audience. While some scholars know our materials through digital surrogates, research trips, and outreach, our internal audience is often left to discover our collections for themselves. This poster will discuss a new initiative of our Department: Rare Books 101, a program designed for our community of scholars to encourage the integration of rare materials in their work.
Rare Books 101 introduces Smithsonian curators and staff, interns, volunteers, and other internal Smithsonian groups to the Smithsonian Libraries’ vast and varied special collections holdings through hands-on training. Intended for researchers interested in working with rare materials for the first time, this hour-long workshop focuses on handling techniques, unique special collections research skills, and basic book history. It reinforces the value of primary sources to scholarship and the practical skills needed to take advantage of special collections material, expertise that will travel with visiting scholars back to their home institutions. This short introductory course is meant to decrease any sense of intimidation people may feel in using the collections, and to encourage productive engagement with rare materials by Smithsonian researchers.
We will present the workshop’s syllabus, our handout material, how we select collection items, and how we will adjust the course to be held in different Smithsonian Libraries branches. The poster will further reflect on the successes and results of Rare Books 101, and will show the larger library community how we’re creating a new learned audience for rare materials.