Fermentation, afternoon tea, and other February notes

I’m a bit radio silent because I’m starting a food history business (more info on that TBA!) and finishing my book manuscript for Rowman & Littlefield’s Food Culture and History series (more info on that TBA too! I have some great ideas for afternoon tea-related events and so many things to share with all of you).

I also have a few other exciting announcements (beyond starting a business and publishing a book which, I know, are already pretty big announcements):

  • Fermentation residency: I’ve been accepted to be a part of this amazing workshop, fermenting food and learning to build outdoor ovens (so I can then build my own in my yard and make all the baked goods). The workshop ends on my birthday, and I can’t think of a better way to spend it! This is especially exciting since the food history business I’m starting will (eventually) also be coupled with a nonprofit, so I can use my business to build connections between people and the past through hands-on food instruction, and bring food-making and art-making skills to parts of our community who might not normally have access to such classes. I’m very excited to learn some new skills in this workshop and to deepen my appreciation of fermented foods so I can use that to inform my work moving forward.
  • Ink making: I’ll be joining my friends from Explore Wildwood, The Homestead Atlanta, and Eventide Brewing again this month for the Wildcraft Palette Curiosity Club. I’ll be talking about ink making using natural pigments (I just finished making an ink with cloves, for example, which smells amazing!) If you’re around on 2/20, come out to Eventide and see us!
  • Common Good 10th anniversary: I am so very excited to be celebrating my colleagues at Common Good for their 10th anniversary this Sunday. They have transformed the lives of so many incarcerated scholars, and bring such a passion to their work. I count myself as very lucky to know Sarah and Bill, and am so happy to have a chance to celebrate them and all they do.

 

 

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Calligraphy instruction resources

I’m referring to November as ‘calligraphy month’ this year, thanks to a very strong theme of making pretty letters in various settings.

If you missed it last week, I did a calligraphy demonstration at work, but you still have a chance to catch me doing calligraphy demos (and to try it yourself, if you so desire) at this month’s Curiosity Club.

The next two weeks I also will be heading back to work with Common Good, this time doing a couple calligraphy classes for the incarcerated scholars in the prison classroom. I’ll post interesting take-aways that might help other instructors once I do the sessions, but for now wanted to make a note that I added the handouts I’ll be using to my Dropbox folder of instructional resources. I’ve also organized it by subfolder for different audiences and types of outreach activities.
You’ll notice that the handout has a space for the ductus for three calligraphic hands, but does not  have the ductus (yet!) That’s because I’m redoing those worksheets this weekend, and will be scanning and adding them to the folder next week. But, if you do use the handout (or an iteration of it) you will at least have a sense of where I plan to put them. These are among my first publicly-shared ductus sheets, so if you have feedback I would be interested to hear it!

Rare books and archives instruction resources

Today one of my colleagues asked for resources on teaching book history and teaching with rare books in university classrooms. This is one of my favorite things to do (and something our outreach archivist, JoyEllen, and I do very regularly), and her listserv post got me thinking about our approach to instruction.

When the two of us started, we had enjoyable and (hopefully) useful instruction models to work with, but were concerned about two things: First of all, that our sessions seemed to not fully engage students. It was a lot of talking and show and tell, and not that much hands-on experience or critical engagement with concepts. Second, was that we felt like we were coming in and showing students ‘cool stuff’ but not making it relevant to their lives and scholastic careers.
This was particularly an issue for our freshman seminars, where we felt that having two separate tours and talks (one for archives and one for rare books) could feel boring and repetitive, and didn’t give students the opportunity to synthesize an understanding of what primary sources are and why they matter. To address this, we developed a new freshman seminar instruction model that combined the two, and gave students some experience identifying and working with primary sources, while also thinking about when those sources could be used in their own research.

We also developed a second module for other courses, based largely on my background with book arts and book history, and my experience thinking of the book as a technology. One thing that I think is very important when working with rare books is not to simply think of them in terms of their contents, but to also consider their structure, traces of use (marginalia, etc.–also fun fact, ‘traces of use’ is my favorite term on the planet), and what these tell us about the book’s intended vs. actual function. To do this, we talk students through the development of the book as a technology with a focus on how technological innovation can help or hinder information access, and how that access (or lack thereof) might have broader societal implications.
Both instruction session types are highly flexible–we have a basic idea of what we want to cover, but we adjust what materials we bring and some of what we cover based on a particular course (e.g. spending time at the end to talk about book art for a design course, vs. spending time talking about the publishing history of a given author for a literature course). Both types also include a hands-on component: Our materials were purchased with the intent to be used by students, researchers, and community members, so it’s exciting to get them out of the stacks and into people’s hands.

For the most part, I’ve done these kinds of presentations (particularly the second one) from memory, and have not written down much of my process. Today’s Exlibris thread, however, inspired me to write it down and share it with colleagues. To help more folks who are designing instruction sessions, I’ve put what I have in this Dropbox folder. It includes:

  • Two in-depth handouts covering the history of the book. These were made for my instruction sessions with Common Good’s prison education initiative this spring, and are too detailed for most classes, but I find them valuable to pull from to make smaller, more focused handouts as needed.
  • An outline document giving a step-by-step of how we run our classes for 1101 classes (freshman seminars) and for our technology of the book sessions.
  • Two handouts that JoyEllen brought in to our 1101 sessions for students to use in analyzing primary sources.

I hope these are helpful for colleagues–and if you use our materials, I would love to hear how they work for you! I am always evaluating our instructional offerings to make sure we’re teaching the best classes we can, so knowing what works and doesn’t elsewhere is a huge help.
Next up I’ll be making a standardized handout for our book as technology sessions that I can add to as needed: It will be a timeline that maps the specific artifacts we use to larger historical contexts. I’ll add it to the same folder when it’s ready!

Bringing rare books to a prison classroom

Just like I did for my recent rare book and beer pairing event, I wanted to share a few quick thoughts about the work I’ve been doing with incarcerated scholars in the hopes that it’s helpful for other rare books/museums folks who want to include prisons in their outreach iniatives. I have a million other thoughts about how amazing and challenging it is, but this post is just for quick outreach take-aways.

Why do this?

By now it’s no secret that my goal in life is to bring rare books (and museum artifacts in general) to people who want to learn from them but have never been given the opportunity (serving underserved populations, if you want to use field lingo). When I think about a population that is underserved in pretty much every possible way, I think of people who are incarcerated. Many current and former prisoners can’t vote, have limited access to educational resources in prison, and have trouble finding work or funding for an education once they are released. This is in addition to the fact that few prisons offer meaningful programming that discourages recidivism, even though such programs (like Common Good, or like this rehabilitation work) are effective and badly wanted by prisoners.

Capture
One of the books I used in my presentation. Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning Two Chief World Systems, 1641.

 

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My 100th Post, and a Big Announcement!

In honor of my 100th post on this blog, I’d like to share the announcement I just made about the topic of my second book! I asked readers to vote on one of two topics (early modern English desserts or gardening practices), and I would work on modernizing the one they chose. Well, readers responded, and they chose…

Gardening!

Thanks to everyone who voted–I’m thrilled to start working on it! You can read the full announcement here.

Center for the Book Final Project

Today I am finishing up the tangible portion of my Center for the Book final project. I have created a set of photos on Flickr that show the completed pamphlet book and the ductus for the calligraphy I used. I would like to invite anyone who does calligraphy or is interested in calligraphy to use the ductus I created and modify it as you see fit. I created the ductus by examining a number of Elizabethan-era documents and picking out both commonalities in how different letters were constructed and how they were fit together.

I would also like to invite all my readers to attend the UICB Final Project Reception, featuring the work of myself, Lee Marchalonis, Jill Kambs, and Zach Stensen. Musical entertainment will be provided by Peter Balestrieri, and refreshments will be served. The reception is from 4:30-6:30 PM on this Saturday (May 7, 2011) in the Times Club (upstairs at Prairie Lights bookstore.) I look forward to seeing you there, and want to thank everyone for your support and feedback while I’ve been working on this project!

>Modernizing Markham wraps up

>Last night I created the last recipe for my Modernizing Markham project. It’s been a lot of fun, and I’m excited to move onto the next stage. All I have to do now is make the calligraphed pamphlet-y book and upload the POD/e-book version to various sites. I’m still figuring out how best to approach that (with the caveat that I use free services only), so suggestions are welcome. Since I’m at the turning point with my nearly-finished project, I thought I’d take a second and share a few things I’ve learned from blogging outside my discipline.

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