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Thursday, June 20 • 4:00pm - 5:30pm
Asian Materials in Special Collections or What to Do with Books that You Can't Read

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Asian books, be they Islamic manuscripts or Japanese thread-bound texts, are often under-utilized in special collections education and outreach. This is in part due to their scarcity, but it is also because of persistence of popular conceptions of the book in primarily Euro-centric terms. This pop-up session hopes to initiate a conversation geared towards encouraging deeper engagement with non-Western materials in order to allow us to begin reimagining their place in special collections. Beginning with an examination of several objects, participants will consider some of the great divergences in global book histories. While these divergences can meaningfully point to the differences between seemingly isolated textual traditions, when properly reframed, they can open up new opportunities for teaching the history of the book. With objects in hand, we will then discuss how to begin thinking about collection building without area-subject expertise. We will consider such questions as how to approach purchasing non-European materials for overwhelming Western collections and what to do when confronted by claims that assert unfamiliar materials aren't collecting priorities. Finally, we will see how the diverse, cosmopolitan communities within and around libraries allow us new opportunities to decolonize our collections by making them reflect their constituencies. We hope that our discussion will highlight the limits of conceiving of the book in Euro-centric terms and will spur further reflection on the promise of incorporating more diverse materials into collection development, teaching, and outreach.


Lizeth Ramirez

Librarian/Archivist for Los Angeles Communities & Cultures, University of California, Los Angeles
Lizeth Ramírez joined the UCLA Library Special Collections curating team as Librarian/Archivist for Los Angeles Communities and Cultures in March 2019. Prior to joining UCLA, Lizeth was an Archivist and Reference Librarian at the Orange Public Library & History Center in Orange... Read More →

Devin Fitzgerald

Curator of Rare Books and the History of Printing, UCLA
avatar for Caitlin Goodman

Caitlin Goodman

Curator, Rare Book Department, Free Library of Philadelphia
Caitlin has worked in the Special Collections Division of the Free Library of Philadelphia since 2013. She manages the collection-level priorities of the Rare Book Department, and is especially invested in expanding access to collections through a combination of good descriptive practices... Read More →

Molly Schwartzburg

Curator, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia

Thursday June 20, 2019 4:00pm - 5:30pm EDT
University Ballroom 3-4