Making Books, Making Ourselves

As part of a concerted effort to bring more and better interactions with books and primary sources to the students at UHD, last week the University Archives partnered with the English department to offer a workshop on book production, both its history and how it relates to digital forms of communication today. With the help of a High Impact Practices grant, we were able to take a small number of students to the The Print Museum to learn how to make books by hand.

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Using hand stitching and traditional methods of pressing, everyone made their own hardbound books, which they then brought with them the next day, to the library. There, we discussed the history of manuscripts and books, how they were made, what they meant to people in the medieval period, and how literate people crafted and re-crafted their own books to reflect their lives and the world around them. This included looking at and interacting with digitized medieval books online.

We then challenged the students to fill their own books with a record of their lives over the previous 24 hours, gleaning it from their online presences (since so much of our lives are now lived in the digital realm). Texts, status updates, instagram posts, recipes, songs, news articles…anything.

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The students had two hours to use the materials at hand (wheat paste, rag paper, oil pastels, needle and thread, ink, pencils) to create.

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At the end of the time, we asked them to write a reflection on what they made: the choices they made, their initial expectations, and how they felt about the outcome. It was a wonderful chance for us, as people who have dedicated our work to teaching and learning about the written word and its preservation, to pass some of that passion on to UHD students.

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