top of page

Pt. 2: Independent Research in Special Collections

Part 1 of this course guide supports students visiting Special Collections for the first time. The next step is independent research. Below are the tools we have found useful in preparing students to visit the archives on their own and to produce useful research notes that inform future writing.

Returning to SC
Screenshot 2023-08-18 at 7.57.10 AM.png


Students will already be familiar with UW-Madison's tutorial for special collections visitors. Parts two and three offer further instruction for visiting and finding materials.

Library Module



Before their visit, students will need to register for a Special Collections Library Account, request materials for viewing, and (most importantly) review their research prompt.

A 61117.jpg


The Holding History Podcast is a series of

fast-paced, bookish conversations. We interview archivists, librarians, scholars, and artists, discussing the fascinating and, sometimes puzzling, ways we record, share, and preserve cultural knowledge.


Students heard one episode before their initial visit. We ask them to listen to one more before they return to special collections. The episodes featuring Fenella France, Greg Mackie, and Damion Thomas have been especially popular and focus on archives.

Holdng History Pocast
Screenshot 2023-08-18 at 7.59.03 AM.png


The Prompt

The goal for students visiting Special Collections is to create a fantastic page of notes. Our experience shows that this challenge helps them produce great writing later. This is the prompt we send with students. 

Sign Up

Large groups can cause issues for small library spaces. We use a simple sign-up document so that students visit the libraries in groups of 5-6.

Screenshot 2023-08-18 at 7.55.04 AM.png
Bite Sized Book Hisory
Sign Up



Good reading precedes good writing. Provided below are a selection of pieces we have found to be helpful and accessible to students looking for context, terminology, and guidance.

  • Amaranth Borsuk - from The Book

  • John Carter - from ABC for Book Collectors

  • Dane? Warner?

Screenshot 2023-08-18 at 7.25.46 AM.png

Book historian and rare book curator Allie Alvis presents short, engaging, and extremely helpful pieces on book history. Students should watch at least two short videos of their choice.

The Prompt
bottom of page