Preserve the Humanities! Special Collections as Liberal Arts Laboratory
The conference will feature three plenary panels around the theme of the role of special collections libraries in the context of larger trends in the humanities and higher education. Speakers will focus on collaborative partnerships forged amongst archivists, librarians, researchers, and teaching faculty and position libraries as laboratories for the liberal arts and sciences. We believe that, despite claims of the so-called crisis in or demise of the humanities, higher education in the liberal arts and sciences remains as sought after as ever. As stewards of cultural heritage and guardians of the historical artifacts that lie at the center of humanistic research, special collections librarians can and should play an important role in shaping liberal arts teaching and research. In addition to the plenaries, there will be many varied formats and smaller sessions in which this theme will be explored as well.
Selected presentations and documents from the 2015 Conference are available on the RBMS website.
PLENARY 1: The Big Picture
The opening plenary will present broad issues in the humanities in conjunction with recent trends in higher education. It will consider how forces in both arenas affect special collections librarianship and, in particular, how they provide opportunities for special collections to shape the future of liberal arts education. Speakers will approach special collections as the raw materials of the liberal arts and sciences. They will consider the meaning and impact of special collections as they are made available in physical spaces designed to foster formal collaboration and informal exchange, and also when technological resources are leveraged to create virtual research environments where students and scholars interact with these raw materials to inform humanistic inquiry.
PLENARY 2: Special Collections Libraries as Liberal Arts Laboratories
The second plenary will take a more in-depth look at special collections as liberal arts laboratories, and special collections librarians as collaborators in humanistic scholarship. Speakers who have created wide ranging digital humanities projects and tools that rest squarely on a special collections foundation will participate in a conversation about the ways our work-and the traditional and virtual spaces we create-can enable researchers to interact with special collections as a basis for experimentation with new research methods, new lines of inquiry, and new ways of meaningfully engaging with scholarly and public audiences.
PLENARY 3: Building And Leveraging Collections to Support and Shape the Humanities
The final plenary will explore the ways we can develop collections and work collaboratively to shape humanistic inquiry. Speakers who are creating special collections outside the traditional bounds of the academic library will engage in a discussion about new and emerging partnerships and ways of building, maintaining, and providing access to special collections as a means of creating and supporting communities. With this foundation, participants will map practical, meaningful connections amongst our collections, constituencies, and service missions.