This semester in Ebling’s Rare Books & Special Collections we’ve had a handful of show and tell sessions with “old stuff.” Usually referred to as “fleeting exhibits,” these are books and artifacts brought out of our environmentally secured area, shown to augment a UW curriculum class, poured over by the students and then returned to their storage area. Perhaps we should follow a new paradigm in the commercial world and call them “pop-up” exhibits- catch them while you can, without much fanfare and little promotion.
This semester the courses included “The History of the Scientific Book,” the theme of death and disease in literary works, and the history of medical jurisprudence (what we now call forensics). Such wide ranging subjects allow historical librarian, Micaela Sullivan-Fowler to bring out “the usual suspects,” crowd favorites like anatomical works by Vesalius, Bidloo, D’Agoty, Albinus and Bell (16th-19th centuries), or show the conjunctions between disciplines (literature & medicine) with Civil War War of the Rebellion books, books on cholera, diphtheria & tuberculosis (19th century) and, recently, highlight books on forensics, written before the laboratory tests were in place to help solve how and when someone died.
Usually the professor has students look at all the books on display then either tell the class which book resonated the most for them, or they are required to write a response paper, drawing out the book’s relationship or subject matter to the books they are reading in class. Professor Colin Gillis took the response idea one step further and had the students draw something from one of the books they were enamoured with. And enamoured is not too strong a word for a chance and exercise few students get in a lifetime. As one student said of the 2nd edition (1555) Vesalius De Humani, “So, this was done over 400 years ago, and I got to take a picture of it with my smartphone?” [and put it on Instagram!]. Yes, mashing up the centuries in Ebling’s Rare Books & Historical Collections. Questions about the Collections or its use? Micaela can be reached at 608 262-2402 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Student, Marissa Pawlinski, looking at some books on poisoning for Professor Mitra Sharafi’s history of forensics class.
Students drawing 16th-19th century books and artifacts for Professor Gillis’s class.