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Class Visits to Special Collections @ Pitt

This guide will provide information to Faculty about what is possible in teaching with Special Collections and scheduling class visits to the department.

In-Class Assignments and Exercises

A great way that students can engage with primary source materials is by transcribing materials, like correspondence and journals, something that Special Collections has no lack of! Handwritten letters, journals, scrapbooks, and manuscripts are just some examples of materials that students can actively engage with. Students can conduct research using secondary sources and scholarly literature about topics, themes, or events that were addressed in the primary source material.  


Through comparison and contrast exercises, students can engage with manuscript and rare book materials.

Rare Books and Various Editions: Students can compare different editions of the same book, analyzing changes in its interpretation and presentation. They can closely examine the text to determine if the passages are identical and if the spelling and punctuation are consistent within the two books.  They can also study the physical attributes such as the binding, provenance evidence, marks of ownership, illustrations, or annotations to discover what these clues may suggest about that book.  

Manuscripts and Drafts: Using the papers of authors and playwrites, students can learn about the editing and publishing process, from the author's very first editions, many handwritten, to the final product!  Many manuscript collections contain handwritten notes and drafts marked with edits and revisions, galley proofs, editor comments, and the final published work.  

Primary Sources: Using historic papers and photographs, students can compare how history was experienced through journals and letters.




Enhance class content using maps, prints, and photographs.

Maps: Special Collections and the Archives Service Center have number of rare maps and atlases, for instance the Darlington Collection, which is centered on works that relate to the discovery and exploration of the Americas.

Prints: Prints from the Barry Rosensteel Japanese Print Collection and the John James Audubon Birds of America, are great artistic and historic tools that can be displayed for class visits. 

Photographs: A number of our archival collections include historically significant photographs. Classes have also used the Bombing of London During World War II Photograph Collection as well as images from the Curtis Theatre Collection. The Archives Service Center also has a large audio-visual collection.   



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