Special Collections

Activities for Classes

Come for a class visit to engage your students in hands-on exercises. Below is a sample of activities. We are continuing to build on these and welcome the opportunity to collaborate with faculty and be creative in adapting, combining or developing new activities. Each class visit can be tailored according to your syllabus.  See below to get some ideas of the types of materials and exercises that can be used to connect your class with our collections. To schedule a visit or to learn more, contact Jill Piekut Roy, jill.piekut@maine.edu, (207) 780-5492.



The Daphne and Heather Rees Collection of Books for Young Women from the Rare Book Collection contains British and American adventure stories for girls.

Analyzing Primary Sources

To look at a book as a physical object, identifying bibliographic data (author, title, place of publication), contemplate the history of an individual copy of a book by searching for inscriptions or bookplates, and consider its value as a primary source and what it tells us about the time period in which it was created, we often use a Material Analysis Form.  As a way of looking at objects in a similar way, we have developed a Material Culture Analysis Form.  The materials selected depend on the focus of your course and can be as varied as the history of nursing to political pamphlets and campaign materials from the 1860s to early American women writers.


Scavenger Hunt

Students in Anastasia Weigle’s EYE199 class on The Art of the Book completed a scavenger hunt with artist’s books looking for works that met certain criteria.  For example, “Find an accordion book” could lead students to Holdfast by Rebecca Goodale, which is part of the Kate Cheney Chappell ’83 Center for Book Arts Collection. The emphasis is on exploration rather than speed.





Goodale, Rebecca. Holdfast: an ensemble. Silkscreen Rebecca Goodale; poem Jeffrey Haste. Portland, Me.: Muse Press, c1989. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Goodale.




Student-Curated Exhibitions

A number of classes have displayed student-curated exhibitions in our exhibition cases in the 6th floor elevator lobby of Glickman Library.  Read more about the latest effort under Reading and Transcribing Letters. 

In Spring 2017, students in Libby Bischof’s HTY394 class WWI:Culture, Politics, Memory selected a poster from the Howard Solomon World War I Posters Collection to research and write an exhibition label for to include in the upcoming exhibition of these posters in Fall of 2017 at USM Area Gallery in Woodbury Campus Center.  They were additionally used by Ron Schmidt’s POS399 class 1919: A Year in the Life in a mock exhibition exercise with the students divided into groups, selecting themes around which to organize an exhibit. These images now reside on Digital Commons enabling multiple classes to reinterpret these same images.


Reading and Transcribing Letters

Students in Libby Bischof’s HTY200 Reference, Research, and Report Writing class looked at materials from the University Archives and other collections to consider including in an exhibition on life at Gorham Normal School at the turn-of-the-last century and read the original of letters from the Harriet Sweetser Letters from our General Manuscript Collection.  They transcribed the letters which will soon be posted on Digital Commons alongside the handwritten letter. Students in Chris Beam’s HTY102 Western Civilization II class come to read letters from the Sumner Bernstein Papers in our Judaica Collection. These letters were written by Sumner Bernstein to his family while he was stationed in the South Pacific during WWII.






 Button from the

Diane Elze Papers.


Sharing the Experience on Social Media

In Fall of 2016, Ashley Towle’s EYE199 History of Sexuality and HON101 Power, Pleasure, and Private Matters: Sexuality in United States History students worked with the LGBTQ+ Collection, choosing a political button or t-shirt to research and write a post about for the Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity Facebook page. Rebecca Nisetich’s students in HON101 Race: Reflection and Reality chose an object from the African American Collection of Maine to post about.


Creative Writing

Michele Cheung’s Creative Writing students visit Special Collections to find inspiration to weave into a poem while spending time with an object from the collections. A popular choice is the Cummings Guest House Register (right) from the African American Collection which recorded guests to Old Orchard Beach from 1923 to 1993 including some well-known jazz musicians who played at the town such as Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway and poet Countee Cullen.






Working with Images

Special Collections has a range of collections containing photographs, posters, political button, zines and other graphic materials. We have created a Photograph Analysis Form which could be used or adapted to improve visual literacy skills while exploring topics covered in your class. Some of the possibilities to incorporate images into your class include the African American Maine Photograph Album (left), images from the Great Depression in the Farm Security Administration Photographs, photographs of LGBTQ activism in Maine from the Annette Dragon Papers, and shots of famous people, fisherman and New York City by George Daniell in the Sturgis Haskins Papers.

Digital Resources

As a complement or alternative to a session in Special Collections, there are digital images of some collection items which could be used in the classroom or in a homework assignment in Digital Commons. By taking advantage of digital images of items in our collections available online, students could do an exercise prior to the visit in preparation. They could use the materials as a follow-up or as an opportunity to spend more time with an object. The images could be used independly of a visit to work with collection materials in the classrooom.

This broadside for a runaway slave is one of several documents related to slavery in the Shirley S. and Bernard Kazon Americana Collection.

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