Teaching During COVID

Last week, a group of librarians participated in a large history class on Global Catholicism taught by Professor John McGreevy. Ideally, the fifty-five students would have visited the Special Collections and seen artifacts relating to different aspects of Catholic history throughout the world.

This year, students assembled on Zoom, and our preparation for the class included making digital images or identifying online digital surrogates. We also organized our selection of artifacts in an online library guide so that students could explore at their own pace. Each student is expected to write about one of these items.

Some items in our selection were already available digitally in different platforms.

For examile, our digital exhibition, “Preserving the Steadfastness of Your Faith”: Catholics in the Early American Republic, allows readers to explore American Catholic history.

“Preserving the Steadfastness of Your Faith”: Catholics in the Early American Republic. Digital Exhibition, Hesburgh Libraries.

In the case of the Chinese Catholic posters, Hye-jin Juhn complemented the digital exhibit of our own collection with a link to a digital collection at another library.

In some cases, we identified another copy on a platform such as Hathi Trust or the Internet Archive.

In presenting to the class, we assembled on zoom and each shared a screen and introduced our selections to an attentive class. While students missed the opportunity to see the physical items, as compensation, all fifty-five students could simultaneously view each item without peering over one another’s shoulders.

In other adventures in the online world, Rachel Bohlmann and  Erika Hosselkus offered a workshop for students working on primary source-based projects through the Nanovic Institute. Five of the six people who registered were graduate students. This is one indication of an increased interest among our young scholars in finding primary sources online.

Teaching during COVID has meant an understandable and practical focus on finding primary sources online. I’ve appreciated having to double down on primary source databases and realize that we’ve all probably taken them for granted more than a little. Still, while this is in general a fine reminder of how far online primary source databases have come in the last decades, I miss using physical collections in my library classes, and getting students excited about examining a source right in front of them. 

 One theme I’ve noticed is that I think students and faculty are certainly more interested in hearing about online resources. I feel a slight shift toward more attention, especially to hearing about how to do more than just basic keyword searches. 

– Rachel Bohlmann, American History and American Studies Librarian

Besides our adventures in screen-sharing, Monica Moore bravely taught an online class where she staged a selection of rare French books in our seminar room, speaking, showing books and turning pages beneath an overhead camera, all on Zoom — a kind of double-level filmed class. This was the closest simulation we have tried so far of a physical class in which students and librarian interact with the materials.

Frank Duff. Edel Quinn. This is an example of a Catholic pamhlet in our collection of Irish Pamphlets, where we identified a surrogate on the Internet Archive.

From our experiences, we have learned that once we understand what a professor hopes to gain by introducing students to our special collections, we can work together to develop a successful, and dare we say stimulating, class.


Welcome Back: Fall 2020 overview and COVID-19 impact on RBSC

RBSC welcomes all back to campus for Fall ’20! As we welcome students, faculty and staff back from the strangest summer break yet, we want to let you know about a few things to watch for with regards to currently modified library spaces and in-person services.

Hesburgh Libraries’ health and safety protocols include limiting our building population. The Hesburgh Library remains open to current students, faculty and staff of Notre Dame, St. Mary’s and Holy Cross College.

Members of these communities may request appointments to access Rare Books & Special Collections materials. Please email Rare Books & Special Collections for research and course support or to make an appointment. Research requests by non-ND-affiliates are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, per the University’s Campus Visitors Policy.

Visit the Hesburgh Libraries Service Continuity webpage for up-to-date information about how to access expertise, resources, services and spaces.

Special Collections’ Classes

Our curators love to introduce classes to the collections. As class visits are not possible this semester, we are devising alternative ways to teach and to allow students to explore the books, pamphlets, manuscripts and posters that help them to contextualize their studies.

For instructors who wish to take their classes for a Rare Books and Special Collections session, we would be delighted to explore alternative possibilities. Please email RBSC, contact Aedín Clements, or contact the curator with whom you normally work to discuss your classes’ needs.

Fall 2020 Exhibits

Because the department is currently available by appointment only due to restrictions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic and thus closed to walk-in traffic, we have temporarily suspended our physical exhibits program.

The planned fall exhibit celebrating the Centenary of the 19th Amendment and exploring the Women’s Suffrage movement is being organized digitally rather than physically. Watch this space for an announcement when the digital exhibit is published.

Events in Special Collections

RBSC is not hosting lectures, receptions, or other events this fall. Some events usually hosted in RBSC, such as the Italian Research series of lectures, are going online — when we are aware of such plans, we’ll continue to share the information here. However, given the fluidity of plans in the current environment, it is best to watch the organizing program and department websites for the most accurate information.

We look forward to resuming lectures and events when it is safe to do so.

Special Collections Online Resources

From digital exhibits to online finding aids, there are various ways to discover digitized portions of our collections. Our website’s page on Digital Projects provides a directory of these resources.

Explore our collections by browsing the various subject sections on our website, including Latin American Studies, Irish Studies, and Sports Research.

Digital exhibits are a great way to explore a topic or collection in depth. Learn about Catholics in the Early American Republic, Newspapers and Magazines in 19th-century Peru. or view American diaries written in eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.


Books and serials are cataloged in the Hesburgh Libraries Catalog. Manuscripts, collections of ephemera, and other non-book items are typically described and listed in online finding aids. These may be searched on the Hesburgh Libraries’ ArchivesSpace. 

And lastly, as you are reading this blogpost, remember that you can always explore this RBSC at ND Blog to find many interesting posts about our collections.

Who’s Who in RBSC: Julie Tanaka

“It is with bittersweet feeling I write to announce that Julie Tanaka accepted a position as Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts at Arizona State University. Julie is excited about the opportunities in the new position and I am very happy for her.” —Natasha Lyandres, Head of Special Collections

Julie Tanaka achieved so much that it’s difficult to believe that she arrived here less than eight years ago. Along with her role as Curator of Special Collections and as subject liaison for Western European History, Julie took on many more responsibilities in Special Collections and in the Hesburgh Libraries.

Julie’s impact on the role and visibility of the Rare Books and Special Collections has been appreciated throughout campus and beyond. In her willingness to partner with professors of History, English, Design, and other disciplines to plan excellent programs for research, she has set high standards for her fellow curators. In fact, she initiated and designed many programs that are now an integral part of RBSC.

Julie approaches the library world not as a gate-keeper but in the generous spirit of an educator who wishes everyone to learn and to benefit from the collection. Her outreach to professors who had not considered integrating rare books and other library materials in their courses has had great results. Julie applies the same high standards of planning, teaching and performance from tours for the children of Notre Dame’s Early Childhood Development Center to a research methods class for graduate students.

Julie’s commitment to outreach helped ensure that Rare Books & Special Collections was a welcoming place for students and faculty. But it wasn’t just members of the Notre Dame community who benefited from Julie’s vision.

Everyone who came in, from visiting researchers, who gained access to far more research materials than they originally anticipated, to football fans who happened to wander in on a rainy Football Friday just curious about what goes on behind the smoky glass walls on the first floor of the Hesburgh Library, left fascinated by the items housed in our department—all thanks to Julie. One notable visitor was a ten year old boy from Albania. Julie had noticed the young man and his English-language tutor visiting our exhibit room weekly. They liked to look at the books in the glass cases and study the English letters on the exhibit cards. Julie introduced herself and asked if, on their next visit, they would like to see some more items from Special Collections … outside the glass. Julie carefully choreographed a display for the young man. He left in awe of what he had seen,  with a personalized Special Collections coloring book in hand, full of English letters and wonderful pictures to aid him in his studies. For the remainder of the semester he would come in to say hello and happily test out the new English words he had learned.

The current exhibit, Paws, Hooves, Fins & Feathers, co-curated with Erika Hosselkus, was planned with the greater community in mind. Julie and Erika curated an exhibit that highlights our remarkable natural history collection, with a well-planned outreach to local schools integrated into the plan. In light of the closure, they have transformed the physical exhibit in a digital one, Paws, Hooves, Fins, and Feathers Digital.

As a historian, Julie has been proactive in ensuring that Notre Dame’s students receive a good grounding in library and archival research, and her work over the years with library colleagues and with faculty from various departments, has resulted in the development of a series of classes and workshops carried out in the Special Collections.

Despite Julie’s dislike for our Midwestern winters, she was invariably the first person to arrive every morning. We expect her to send us regular notes about the warm temperatures in Arizona. And in return, we will send Julie pictures of any innovations we develop in the design of our reading room, because Julie taught us that there is an optimal way to arrange the classroom furniture for every class.

We wish Julie the very best in her new endeavor.

Spring and Summer 2020 Exhibit – Paws, Hooves, Fins, and Feathers: Animals in Print, 1500-1800

In 1515 an Indian rhinoceros boarded a ship bound for Lisbon. Given as a gift to King Manuel I of Portugal, the animal was a sensation in Europe, inspiring drawings, paintings, descriptions and woodcut prints that circulated around the continent. Although he never saw the rhino, German painter and printmaker Albrect Dürer created an iconic woodcut image. His rhino served as the model for many of his contemporaries, including the Swiss naturalist Conrad Gesner, and endures in popularity even today.

This famous rhino appeared in his monumental Historia animalium (History of Animals) and its subsequent editions. The rhino printed in the 1583 German edition of Gesner’s work is a focal point of the exhibition, Paws, Hooves, Fins, and Feathers: Animals in Print, 1500-1800, open now and through the summer in Rare Books and Special Collections.

Like many of the animals reproduced in Gesner’s volume, this rhino’s appearance derives partly from second-hand observation, partly from classical descriptions, partly from the artist’s imagination and technical skill, and partly from the print technologies available in the early sixteenth century. In Gesner’s influential tome, the rhino shares space with domestic cats, farm animals, other exotic beasts such as elephants, as well as creatures of the imagination such as unicorns and sea monsters. Images of animals in early modern books were not entirely realistic, offering a unique window into the fluid spaces between art and science, legend and observation.

Along with our rhino, this exhibition features early printed images of an octopus, sloth, anteater, hippo, coot, emu, otter, and more. Some of these animals appear in wide-ranging catalogs of the flora and fauna of the entire world. Others are in works that offer systems of classification specific to a single type of animal. Still others live in the pages of books that describe animals of one part of the world, whether the Americas, Asia, or Australia.

Also on display as part of this exhibition are specimens on loan from the University of Notre Dame’s Museum of Biodiversity. If early modern naturalists were writers, they were also collectors. They populated cabinets of curiosity and proto-museums with animal and plant specimens represented in their books. In recognition of this link between early science and collecting, some of the specimens – an arctic fox, a turtle carapace, and a collection of moths – inhabit a miniature a cabinet of curiosity.

Special Collections invites animal lovers of all ages to join us for this exhibition. We look forward to sharing these materials with the South Bend community. We are especially excited to welcome students and educators from the South Bend School Corporation and PHM Schools for tours this spring and look forward to taking this exhibition on the road to South Bend and PHM Schools and to Marquette Montessori. We are currently hard at work on our homemade reproduction of an early modern natural history book, which features reproductions of images included in the exhibit!

Very special thanks to Sara Weber for her design work, image creation, and layout of our book. We extend our gratitude to our conservators, Jen Hunt Johnson and Maren Rozumalski, for creating a period binding for the reproduction, and to Neil Chase for mounting all of the materials for us. We are grateful to Barb and Ron Hellenthal of the Museum of Biodiversity for their generous collaboration.

For more information or to schedule a tour for your class, organization, or interested group, please contact the curators, Erika Hosselkus and Julie Tanaka.

Upcoming Events: February and early March

Please join us for the following events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, February 20 at 5:00pm | The Italian Research Seminar: MA student research presentations.

Sponsored by Italian Studies at Notre Dame.


The spring exhibitPaws, Hooves, Fins & Feathers: Animals in Print, 1500-1800, is now open and will run through the summer. This is an exhibit of rare zoological books featuring early printed images of animals. We welcome classes and other groups of any age and would love to tailor a tour for your students and your curriculum — and if you can’t come to campus, the curators can bring the exhibit to you. Watch for forthcoming announcements of additional related events!

For more information about the exhibit or to set up a visit, contact curators Julie Tanaka and Erika Hosselkus.

The current spotlight exhibits are: John Ruskin and Popular Taste (February – April 2020) and Ruskin, Turner, and Popular Taste (February 2020), both featuring materials from Special Collections relating to the Ruskin Conference being held at Notre Dame in February.

Service Animals in Special Collections

by Julie Tanaka, Curator, Special Collections

Special Collections has had the pleasure to work with students and their service animals on multiple occasions during the past year.

Our first visit occurred last fall. A faculty member inquired about her class’s upcoming visit to Special Collections. She had a student with a service dog and inquired if this would be an issue and what needed to be done. We told her that there was absolutely no problem and that we were excited to work with the student and her service dog. We did inform her, though, that this was the department’s first experience so we were not sure what to expect and would do whatever we needed to ensure the student and service dog had no issues navigating the room.

photo of service dog named PaddyA student in the Honors College and her service dog, St. Patrick (aka Paddy), visited with her class. Paddy assists the student with general mobility, as the student described in an article for Notre Dame’s student magazine, Scholastic. With Paddy at her side, they navigated the tables, making their way through all of the materials with ease. Paddy was even excited to make a return trip to pose in front of her namesake.

Photo of service dog named Snowbird and student

We then had another student and her service dog come with two different classes, one last spring and another last week. Again, the visits went smoothly. Maddie and Snowbird (right) navigated the tables with the class.

Madeline Link is a junior at Notre Dame, double majoring in History and Theology and minoring in Philosophy, Religion, and Literature. She graciously agreed to answer a few questions about how she and Snowbird were paired and what it is like to work together. Here is what she has to say:

Snowbird and I have worked together for a little over six years. The pairing process was quite comprehensive. For the first week of our month-long program, the trainers learned everything they could about us, asking us questions about our habits, walking speeds, and even posing as dogs so that we could practice holding the harness and appropriately instructing the dog. After that, they selected 2 to 3 dogs that seem to match our personalities, and on the first Friday of the program, my six classmates and I had to guess which dog we would be matched with. All seven of us guessed correctly.

Photo of service dog and student in class in special collections

I have visited Special Collections with two of my classes here at Notre Dame. It’s been an incredible and enriching opportunity! Snowbird typically lies beneath the table in my classes, and I exam in the books and maps pertaining to the subject we are studying. A wonderful aspect of visiting Special Collections at Notre Dame is that I have the opportunity to touch some of the manuscripts and examine them up close.

For me, Snowbird is my eyes. Though he unfortunately cannot read the manuscripts to me, he enables me to travel confidently and independently. Guiding the blind is far from the only thing that service dogs can do. They make day-to-day life possible for people with a wide range of physical and emotional challenges, and their presence allows many students like myself to thrive at this great university.

Thank you Maddie and Snowbird for sharing your experiences with us. It’s been a pleasure having both of you visit Special Collections.

Behind the timing of this post is a question that arose this summer. I participated  in a class on teaching with rare materials at California Rare Book School at the University of California, Los Angeles. A curator from another institution asked whether anyone had experience working with service animals in Special Collections. To my surprise, no one else in the room of fifteen participants representing departments located in both the US and Canada had experience with service animals accompanying students during classes in Special Collections. Given their interest, all of us in Special Collections at Notre Dame would like share our experiences with the community.


Service Animals

A service animal, according to the US Department of Justice’s 2010 revised requirements for service animals, applies only to dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.

Service animals are allowed in all areas of public facilities where the public, customers, clients, program participants, or invited guests are permitted.

More information about service animals can be found on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) National Network website.

Bringing Classes to Special Collections

Teaching a class at Notre Dame? We invite you to bring your students to Special Collections: freshmen, undergraduates of all levels, grad students, or fellow faculty for that matter.

Teaching a class elsewhere in the Michiana area? We invite you to bring your students—of any age level—to Special Collections, too.

Special Collections offers a wide range of instruction from show-and-tell sessions that introduce students to materials from 2400 BC to present to specialized instruction tailored to course syllabi and assignments. Our staff is more than happy to work with instructors to tailor sessions to meet their needs.

We hold strong collections pertaining to: Dante, Italian literature, American Catholicism, Antebellum and Civil War America, American Sports, History of Science, Irish Literature and History, and Latin American and Early Modern Hispanic Literature and History. We also have a growing collection of medieval manuscripts as well as a substantial collection of medieval manuscript facsimiles. Our political and cultural materials of the Soviet Union and the Russian Diaspora to Europe and the United States is another area of recent development for the department.

Special Collections also runs our own workshop series. We currently offer Archival Research Skills and Introduction to Special Collections: From Clay Tablet to Graphic Novel. Coming in 2017-18 are two new workshops: History of the Printed Book in the West and The Book as Object. All of these workshops provide hands-on experience working with materials to reinforce the concepts covered.

Examples of classes we have taught sessions for recently:

Intrigued?

Contact us for more information about how to bring your class to Special Collections.

More information and examples of materials pulled for instruction sessions can be found on the Class Instruction page on our website.