the collection and provided crucial documentation of the periodical's publication history, contents, and audience. Drawing on this documentation, students wrote short essays assessing the significance of the periodical to the history of queer life and community in the United States. This assignment proved valuable for a number of reasons. First, it allowed students to work directly with published primary sources and taught essential research skills. Second, it encouraged students to think about research strategies and sources for the seminar's major research project. Third, this assignment provided the Special Collections & Archives staff with useful information on a new collection that has not yet been fully processed. (Part Six, textual introduction).
Along with the course assignment itself, selected periodicals used by the students are pictured; they include a 1979 issue of the Lesbian Herstory Archives Newsletter; a 1987 Guide to the Gay Northeast; A Different Beat, a 1976 San Francisco publication; and Volume 1, No. 2 of the GALA Review (or Gay Atheists League of America publication, circa 1978. Thus the “Queer Periodicals” course utilized relatively modern day and strictly non-canonical American materials as evidence of a material culture -- or subculture, as the case may be. Students used these relatively obscure and rare publications to extrapolate on what life was like not so long ago for gay men and lesbians in the U.S. Like it or not (and many don’t, witness measures like the In Defense of Marriage Act passed not too long ago by our nation’s legislature), gay and lesbian studies is a growing field within academia and will probably have taken its rightful place alongside all other sorts of minority studies within the next fifty years or so. The “Queer Periodicals” section of this exhibition showcases an example of an innovative assignment in which students learn about modern history from recent, but uncommon, American publications that are a product of the very subculture that they are studying.
In summary, “Old Books, New Pedagogy: Special Collections and Archives in the Curriculum” is an innovative exhibition that highlights in clear and tangible terms the relevance of old books and papers to our life as we live it today. It is logically and aesthetically well put together and the images, together with the textual apparatus which supports them, are exciting and powerful. It presents an answer – or rather, at least seven different answers – to the question of why we collect these dusty old American books and manuscripts. This reviewer suggests directing our detractors to it the next time that someone claims that collecting Americana is only for spoiled upper class folk with too much time and money on their hands.