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'New' ideas for 'old' texts: delivering information literacy sessions using clay tablets - Barbara McCormack

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Presented at LILAC 2016

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'New' ideas for 'old' texts: delivering information literacy sessions using clay tablets - Barbara McCormack

  1. 1. ‘New’ ideas for ‘old’ texts: Delivering information literacy sessions using clay tablets Barbara McCormack LILAC 2016
  2. 2. Outline Artefacts and information literacy Introduction to cuneiform tablets Cuneiform tablets at Maynooth University Library Case study Results Barbara McCormack, Maynooth University Library
  3. 3. ARTEFACTS AND INFORMATION LITERACY Barbara McCormack, Maynooth University Library
  4. 4. Teaching with artefacts • New approach to teaching which develops the skills necessary to become information literate through museum related instruction • Using ‘museum skills’ such as exhibition curation to teach information literacy to students • Provides a unique opportunity to engage with students in an innovative and dynamic way (Sandra Roff, 2011)Egyptian clay stamp seal from the collections of the Russell Library, Maynooth University Barbara McCormack, Maynooth University Library
  5. 5. An invitation to learning • Hands-on projects and interdisciplinary enquiry help meet the strategic aims of the university - to develop graduates with lifelong learning skills and the ability to succeed in the job market (Jacobs et. al) • Provide ‘an invitation to learning that will not easily be forgotten’ (Fuhler et. al) ‘Messenger text’ Ur III (ca. 2100-2000 BC) Used by travelling tradesmen etc. in exchange for food and/or lodgings. Barbara McCormack, Maynooth University Library
  6. 6. Benefits of using artefacts • Enables dynamic sessions • Develops visual and/or object literacy • Helps solidify student learning • Facilitates various learning styles • Enables student interaction and collaboration • Provides opportunities for lifelong learning and fosters critical thinking Barbara McCormack, Maynooth University Library Impression of cylindrical seal on administrative text
  7. 7. Barbara McCormack, Maynooth University Library INTRODUCTION TO CUNEIFORM TABLETS
  8. 8. What is ‘cuneiform’? • Cuneiform means ‘wedge-shaped’ • One of the earliest known forms of writing - emerged in late 4th millennium BC • Sumerian language • Approximately 600 signs in the script • Stylus or reed pen was used to mark characters in wet clay • Script is written on all sides of tablets and cones Barbara McCormack, Maynooth University Library Example of cuneiform script from the collections of the Russell Library, Maynooth University
  9. 9. CUNEIFORM AT MAYNOOTH UNIVERSITY LIBRARY Barbara McCormack, Maynooth University Library
  10. 10. About the collection • The collection once belonged to Rev. John F. Bowen who was ordained at Maynooth College in 1913 and served as a chaplain in Mesopotamia during WW1 where he collected the cuneiform tablets • Bowen’s sister deposited his collection at Maynooth College in 1957 • Second largest collection of cuneiform tablets in Ireland • Majority are intact but some are fragmented Barbara McCormack, Maynooth University Library Rev. John F. Bowen during his time as an Army Chaplain in 1917
  11. 11. Collection breakdown 60 Tablets6 Cones 1 Stamp seal Barbara McCormack, Maynooth University Library
  12. 12. Dating the texts Barbara McCormack. Maynooth University Library 1 Stamp seal from the pre-writing period (4,200 - 3,400 BC) 50 administrative and/or economic texts from the Ur III period (2,100 - 2,000 BC) 16 Royal inscriptions from the Early Babylonian period (1,900 BC)
  13. 13. Royal inscriptions • Early Babylonian period (1,900 BC) • Produced during the reign of Sin-Kasid, King of Uruk • Uruk was a walled city in Southern Mesopotamia – at one stage it was the largest city in the world • Sin-Kasid restored the Temple of Eanna (‘House of Heaven’) • He commissioned cones and tablets with inscriptions bearing witness to this deed “Sin-Kasid, the strong man, King of Uruk, King of Amnanum, he built the palace for the sake of his Kingship.” Barbara McCormack, Maynooth University Library
  14. 14. Administrative texts • Insight into everyday life in Babylonia during the late third millennium BC • Economic and administrative records relating to trade and agriculture • Describe the complex administration of Ur III state • Incoming/outgoing trade and assignment of workers to tasks • Early accounting system - records of transactions were recorded on individual clay tablets (similar to modern day receipts) Ur III (ca. 2100-2000 BC) Legal text relating to slaves Barbara McCormack, Maynooth University Library
  15. 15. Stamp seal Barbara McCormack, Maynooth University Library • Gable-shaped stone seal from the pre-writing period • 4,200 - 3,400 BC • Originating from Eastern Anatolia (modern Turkey) or Northern Syria • Depicts three antelopes – early farming or animal husbandry • Possibly used as a security seal for trading goods • Image(s) carved into stone Stamp seal from the collections of the Russell Library
  16. 16. How the collection is used • Physical exhibitions – a selection of tablets is on permanent display in the Russell Library • As research tools - available online via the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative (CDLI) • For teaching purposes: – Undergraduate students e.g. Bachelor of Education Degree, History of Mathematics – Postgraduate students e.g. Master of Education Degree – Visiting classes e.g. secondary school students – General public e.g. National Heritage Week Barbara McCormack, Maynooth University Library Launch of ‘Ancient Writing at Maynooth’ exhibition in October 2014
  17. 17. Barbara McCormack, Maynooth University Library CASE STUDY
  18. 18. LS68: The Cultural Heritage of Irish Manuscripts • New 5 credit undergraduate module (piloted in 2016-17) • Delivered jointly by the Centre for Irish Cultural Heritage and Maynooth University Library • Outlines the heritage of Irish manuscripts through an analysis of the following: – History of writing – Manuscript tradition – Culture of Irish scribes – Advancement of printing • An introduction to cuneiform tablets is given as part of this module Barbara McCormack, Maynooth University Library
  19. 19. Learning outcomes On successful completion of the module, students should: • Have a good understanding of handling techniques, basic preservation, and conservation practices relating to historical collections • Be able to identify and consult historical materials • Be able to identify and discuss provenance information • Critically appraise primary texts and acquire an understanding of the principal secondary sources Barbara McCormack, Maynooth University Library
  20. 20. Cuneiform session Barbara McCormack. Maynooth University Library • Took place in the historic Russell Library • Lecture and hands-on workshop • A selection of tablets displayed on conservation supports • Students handled and inspected each tablet • Students discussed findings Russell Library at Maynooth University, designed by A.W.N. Pugin (1812-1852) and completed in 1861
  21. 21. Assessing impact • 24 students attended the session on cuneiform tablets • A survey was designed to collect student feedback • 21 students completed the survey (response rate of 87.5%) • Survey contained 10 questions related to: – Knowledge of the topic (pre and post session) – Overall learning impact – Highlights of the session – Areas for improvement Barbara McCormack, Maynooth University Library Clay tablet relating to cows and oxen from the Ur III period (2,100 - 2,000 BC)
  22. 22. Impact on learning Barbara McCormack, Maynooth University Library 10 14 8 1 2 I shared the information with friends/family/colleagues I will use it for course work It satisfied my curiousity It confirmed my prior knowledge on this subject Other Did the information you found have any impact on your learning? Please tick all relevant responses.
  23. 23. Overview of results • 100% of respondents said they would recommend the session to other students • 100% of respondents said they would like to try other ‘hands-on’ sessions with artefacts in the Library • Highlights included: – Opportunity to physically interact with the tablets – Learning about the background and history of the collection – Learning about the Russell Library • Suggested improvements included: – Smaller class size – Video of experts reading the tablets – Warmer environment! Barbara McCormack, Maynooth University Library
  24. 24. Some comments from students • “It was a very clear and informative class and I really enjoyed it.” • “I realized when discussing the Cuneiforms with my brothers the following week that I retained a lot of the presentation (even dates). I think the slides and manner of presentation helped the session to ‘stick’.” • “Clearly delivered and informative. Visual material utilised thereby cutting down on 'wordy' information.” • “It was lovely to experience the Russell Library - a hidden gem!” • “I think the hands on session was a really good way to learn about a topic. The information may ‘stick’ more than it would have if I had learned about it from a normal powerpoint lecture.” • “Very informative. Would love another session please.” Barbara McCormack, Maynooth University Library
  25. 25. Future plans • Further integration of cuneiform tablet session into the curriculum via an assignment • Explore resources related to the subject matter • Consider inviting experts in the area to speak about the collection • Further work with the CDLI to enhance teaching and learning experience • Consider working with other departments in the University using this model Barbara McCormack, Maynooth University Library ‘Messenger text’ recording rations (food supplies etc.) 2,100 BC – 2,000 BC
  26. 26. Conclusion • Artefacts provide a unique opportunity for Special Collections librarians to engage with students • Possibility of harnessing new technologies such as 3D printing to further integrate artefacts into teaching • ‘Museum skills’ can be used to develop information literate graduates • Librarians and museum curators can collaborate to develop teaching and learning opportunities Barbara McCormack, Maynooth University Library Dr Klaus Wagensonner working on the cuneiform tablet collection in the Russell Library
  27. 27. References • Fuhler, C, Farris, P, & Nelson, A, 2006, ‘Building Literacy Skills across the Curriculum: Forging Connections with the past through Artifacts’, The Reading Teacher, 59, 7, (Apr., 2006), p. 656. • Marty, P, 2006, ‘Finding the skills for tomorrow: Information literacy and museum information professionals’, Museum Management and Curatorship, 21, 4, pp. 317- 335. • Roff,S, 2011, ‘Visualizing History: Using Museum Skills to Teach Information Literacy to Undergraduates’, College & Undergraduate Libraries, 18, 4, pp. 350-358. • Paul F. Marty (2006) Finding the skills for tomorrow: Information literacy and museum information professionals, Museum Management and Curatorship, 21:4, 317-335. • Carin Jacobs , Janine Andrews, M. Christine Castle, Nicolette Meister, William Green, Kristen Olson, Andrew Simpson & Rhianedd Smith (2009) Beyond the field trip: museum literacy and higher education, Museum Management and Curatorship, 24:1, 5-27, DOI: 10.1080/09647770902731585. Please note: All images in this presentation are © Maynooth University Library Barbara McCormack, Maynooth University Library

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