Last Friday the Center held its first-ever one-day Research Skills Workshop for Early-Career Graduate Students. Each year since the Center was founded in 1979, we have held ten-week graduate seminars at the Newberry, taught by consortium scholars in their fields of expertise. These seminars continue to be successful and popular—most of them fill to capacity, often with waiting lists.
But our Center consortium has grown from the original six Chicago-region universities to today’s forty-nine schools in eighteen U.S. states, Canada, and the U.K. The ten-week model does not serve the needs of our farther-flung members, who rarely can send a student to Chicago ten times in a term.
So this year we have initiated a series of single-day workshops to introduce the Newberry and its resources to beginning graduate students—with the hope that they will return in the future to pursue their own research projects—while giving them an introduction to library and archival research methods and theoretical approaches, through the lens of a particular topic or field.
The response to our initial announcement of Friday’s workshop, “The Psalms in Public and in Private,” led by Michael Kuczynski of Tulane University, confirmed our suspicions about the pent-up demand for programs like these: the course filled within two weeks! We ended up with thirteen students from nine different universities in six states—an impressive cross-section of our membership for such a small program.
Since we had never held a program like this before, Mike and the Center staff worked together over a period of several months to block out the day’s schedule. We created a wiki website for the participants where we posted readings to be completed in advance, images, and information about the Newberry and its neighborhood.
We ended up alternating workshop sessions led by Mike with two hands-on rare books sessions in our Special Collections department. Paul F. Gehl, a Newberry curator, assisted with the rare books sessions. We also fit in a tour of and orientation to the library, and made sure all the participants obtained Newberry reader cards.
In the rare books sessions, students had the opportunity to examine, among other items, a twelfth-century manuscript codex of Augustine’s commentary on the Psalms, a tiny fifteenth-century Book of Hours, and an early printed polyglot Bible, with parallel translations in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, and Aramaic. You can see images of some of these materials to the left—remember to click on images to see larger pop-ups.
More recent materials viewed included Cotton Mather’s Psalterium Americanum, his eighteenth-century translation of the Psalms into English blank verse, and a beautiful late twentieth-century art-book re-imagining of a Book of Hours.
The workshop was intensive (intense?)—the participants seemed a bit bemused by the end of the day! But the response was enthusiastic. One student wrote “This workshop was incredibly helpful … I feel that I can proceed with my research in a more concise and productive manner after participating in this workshop.” Another said, “It was great to get to spend a day at the Newberry and to get an introduction to some of the workings of a research library. I had my eyes opened to a research area that I would have never considered before.”
More students will be able to participate in similar programs during the 2012-13 year, as we have scheduled three Research Skills Workshops, one each in September, March, and April.
After a discussion at our Representative Council meeting last fall (an annual gathering of reps from our consortium schools), we have also expanded the eligibility requirements. This year’s workshop was limited to first-year graduate students, but next year’s will be open to all students in M.A. programs and those who have not yet taken comprehensive exams in PhD programs.
Next year’s workshops:
September 28, 2012: “Reading the Early Modern Anglo-Muslim Archive: The Poetics and Politics of Cultural Translation,” directed by Jyotsna Singh, English Department, Michigan State University. Of special interest to students in Anthropology, Comparative Literature, Cultural Studies, History, Literature in English or other relevant languages, Middle Eastern Studies, and Religious Studies.
March 15, 2013: “Johannes de Sacrobosco’s De sphaera, from the Thirteenth through the Seventeenth Centuries,” led by Kathleen Crowther and Peter Barker, both of the History of Science Department, University of Oklahoma. Of special interest to students in Comparative Literature, Cultural Studies, History, History of Science, and Literature in English or other relevant languages.
April 12, 2013: “Don Quixote and Theory, Renaissance and Contemporary,” directed by Edward H. Friedman and Cory Duclos, both of the Spanish and Portuguese Department, Vanderbilt University. Of special interest to students in Comparative Literature, History, Literature in English or Romance Languages, Renaissance Studies, and Cultural Studies.
Faculty members at consortium schools who are interested in proposing workshops for future years, see our web page on Proposing a Research Skills Workshop. The deadline for proposals for the 2013-14 year will be December 14, 2012.