Teaching with special collections

Special collections learning experiences 

Fryer Library’s rich cultural collections are a treasure trove of objects that can help to inform, educate and engage students in course topics, and enrich the learning experiences offered in University of Queensland courses and programs across many disciplines.

Contact our specialist librarians by emailing fryer@library.uq.edu.au to discuss how your course learning activities could be enhanced through collaboration with the Fryer Library and its collections. Several different models for content delivery are available:

  • Tutorial classes held in the Fryer Library’s specialist object-based teaching space, giving students in-depth, hands-on access to objects from Fryer collections, tailored to your assessment and learning objective requirements.
  • Lecture theatre incursions, bringing Fryer Library special collections direct to your course for shorter hands-on learning experiences, tailored to your weekly learning activities and lecture themes.
  • Curated, digitised material from the collection, to support online learning environments and activities.

Hands-on with historical objects

Image: HIST1400 "Medieval and Early Modern World" students viewing original material from Fryer Library's collections in their lecture space.

In our hands-on classes held in the Fryer Library teaching space, students are exposed to original artworks, publications, manuscripts, architectural plans, and photographic productions and technologies from within our rare book and special collections, tailored to the topic and theme of their individual course. These courses are popular in Architecture, History, Studies of Religion, Art History, Creative Writing and Creative Arts. Students are invited and encouraged to touch, hold, examine, manipulate and even smell rare and antiquarian pieces, some many hundreds of years old, and real notes, drafts and unpublished works from notable Australian authors and poets. Working hands-on in groups, they respond to questions about the provenance, historical context and technical processes, broadening their contextual knowledge or contributing to set course assessment projects.

“This class allowed me to touch, interpret and investigate older books, find out how they were made and the process of keeping them in good condition… and how much we can compare these texts to today's social norms. It will definitely help in completing my assignment.” – Student, RELN1510 “The History of the Supernatural”

Introductory primary source training

Image: Librarian working with Honours student in the Fryer Library.

Held in the Fryer Library teaching space or as a lecture theatre incursion, our primary source courses introduce students to original primary documents – letters, diaries, speeches, record books, posters, photographs, artworks and handcrafted objects – tailored to the topic and theme of the individual course. These courses are popular in traditional History studies, but also in social science disciplines like Political Science, Law and Anthropology where scholarly research can be greatly augmented with authentic voices and contemporary accounts. Our research librarians teach students how to locate, interrogate and critically analyse primary documents, and add this rich evidence to their own academic work. Students work with original primary source documents from the Fryer Library’s special collections to explore themes within their course learning activities from a first-hand perspective.

“The hands-on approach really puts the subject into perspective. Learning how to use these primary resources offers contextualisation of material presented in our course, and reaches a more personal level. A really powerful and informative experience, thank you.” – Student, LAWS5202 “Immigration & Refugee Law”

Advanced humanities research methods

Image: Course coordinator Jennifer Clement with ENGL3000 "Research Methods" students in Fryer Library.

Advanced undergraduate and research students, undertaking either independent or group work and focusing on substantial research projects, can be offered the opportunity to learn and implement advanced research skills in the use of archival material held in the Fryer Library. Our research librarians guide students within their individual projects through scoping their topics and locating, interrogating and critically analysing archival sources. They also introduce students to concepts around the curation of archival materials and the ethical implications of archival source use. Students can use a range of sources to inspire and challenge them in developing their projects, including rare historical books and maps, letters and diaries, architectural plans, manuscripts, minute books and other administrative records, photographs, sound recordings and artefacts. These sessions are popular in studies of History, Art History, Architecture, Literature, Creative Arts and related disciplines, particularly for Honours and capstone courses aiming to develop students’ advanced research skills.

Digital special collections delivery

Course coordinators can also connect their students with the rich resources of our special collections online. Working with our library Digitisation team, our research librarians can curate collections tailored to the topic and theme of individual course learning activities, and make these collections available online for students to view in detail. We can offer digital versions of a wide range of resources, including rare historical books, letters and diaries, architectural plans, manuscripts, plays, minute books and other administrative records, photographic collections, sound recordings and artworks. Specially-curated digital collections for teaching can be created in virtually any discipline area that relates to our cultural and historical collections. Fryer Library can also assist in curating out-of-copyright digital collections for use in MOOCS and other open educational resources.