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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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