Welcome Back: Spring 2012 at Burns

Entrance to the John J. Burns Library

The entrance to the Burns Library is located on the side of the Bapst building that faces Commonwealth Avenue.

At the Burns Library, we’re looking forward to another semester filled with fun classes and interesting questions about the wonderfully unique collections housed here.  Did you know that over 300 students participated in sessions taught by Burns Library staff members last semester?  The content of these sessions ranges from a general overview on how to do research with archival materials at Burns to targeted class sessions that focus on specific Burns materials relevant to the subject of the class.  For Spring 2012, quite a few professors are already planning to bring their classes to Burns.  Professor Jeremy Clarke’s Globalizing Jesus History seminar will examine books from the Jesuitica Collection.  Professor Robert Stanton’s Introduction to Advanced Research Methods class will explore the in’s and out’s of archival research.  And, last but not least, Dean Burns’ Capstone class on the history of Boston College will look at University Archives materials available at the Burns Library.  While the Burns session itself usually takes place during one class period, the questions and ideas that arise during these sessions often lead students and faculty to engage with primary sources in new and exciting ways that extend beyond the single session. For example, in November 2011 students from Holly Vandewall’s history of science class attended a Burns session, during which they got their hands on some early scientific books in the Burns Library’s collections, including Galileo’s 1613 book on sunspots and a 2nd edition of Sir Isaac Newton’s Principia.

Philosophia Naturalis Principia Mathematica by Sir Isaac Newton, London, 1687. This 10-inch-tall volume, from the initial printing of 250 copies, was acquired by the Burns Library in January 2010.

Philosophia Naturalis Principia Mathematica by Sir Isaac Newton, London, 1687, QA803.A2 1687 General. This 10-inch-tall volume, from the initial printing of 250 copies, was acquired by the Burns Library in January 2010. Photograph by Lee Pellegrini.

Although these students were not fluent in the languages in which these books are written (Latin and Italian), the students were all able to answer certain basic questions about the books using the library’s online catalog and secondary sources (selections from bibliographies and short articles) that I chose to supplement the books.  This exercise helped the students think about books and the transmission of scientific knowledge in the times of Copernicus and Galileo.  They also learned how to glean basic publication and author information from the title pages in older books.  This is just one example of how primary source materials can enrich student learning here at Boston College.  So if you have an idea for a Burns session or would just like to learn more about the collections at the Burns Library then please contact the Burns Library Reference Department at 617-552-4861 or burnsref@bc.edu.  You can also learn more about Burns collections, events, exhibits and digitization projects by reading our weekly blog posts, checking out the John J. Burns Library’s Facebook page or our Burns Libguide. If you want to enjoy some amazing visuals of items from our collections then please visit the Burns Library’s photostream on Flickr.  Thanks for reading and we look forward to seeing you soon!

  • Justine Sundaram,  Reference Librarian, John J. Burns Library

About John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections at Boston College

The University’s special collections, including the University’s Archives, are housed in the Honorable John J. Burns Library, located in the Bapst Library Building, north entrance. Burns Library staff work with students and faculty to support learning and teaching at Boston College, offering access to unique primary sources through instruction sessions, exhibits, and programming. The Burns Library also serves the research needs of external scholars, hosting researchers from around the globe interested in using the collections. The Burns Library is home to more than 200,000 volumes and over 700 manuscript collections, including holdings of music, photographic materials, art and artifacts, and ephemera. Though its collections cover virtually the entire spectrum of human knowledge, the Burns Library has achieved international recognition in several specific areas of research, most notably: Irish studies; British Catholic authors; Jesuitica; Fine printing; Catholic liturgy and life in America, 1925-1975; Boston history; the Caribbean, especially Jamaica; Nursing; and Congressional archives.
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