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Sharing the love, round one: Collaboration with Young Harris College

Last week, we were THRILLED to welcome a group of undergraduate students from Young Harris College’s English program to the Special Collections Library to learn about medieval manuscripts! Dr. Daniel Helbert brought a group of 12 students the not-quite-three hours from the Young Harris College campus in the North Georgia mountains to Athens for an afternoon crash course in medieval manuscripts (and lunch at Clocked! — always a solid choice). It was a beautiful fall afternoon: too lovely to spend inside, really, but at least we got to spend it with some lovely manuscripts.

The afternoon started with a hands-on flash introduction to medieval manuscripts with Dr. Camp. We brought out some old friends (hello, Spanish Gradual!) and also showed off the Persian manuscripts in the Hargrett collection.

A professor and some students stand around an open medieval manuscript
Dr. Camp talks through the Canon Law manuscripts with some Young Harris students.
A professor and students look closely at an open medieval book.
Dr. Helbert and the Young Harris students examine the opening page of the Spanish Gradual

The real meat of the afternoon, however, involved my students as well. They were the ones to show off the borrowed manuscripts from Les Enluminures to our visitors for the rest of the afternoon. They walked the Young Harris students through the process of differentiating paper from parchment, of observing fine details in the manuscript’s physical makeup, of working through the decoration — including what was missing — and of struggling through (and succeeding with) the iconography. Highlights included dragons in the Psalter, the lush miniatures in the Book of Hours, and the, er, male dogs doodled into the back of the humanist Juvenal manuscript.

A highly decorated manuscript being held open.
A UGA student showing off the Book of Hours

Students hold open an old book
UGA and Young Harris students examining the opening leaves of the Office of the Dead
students gather around a small, open book
UGA and Young Harris student discuss the opening page of the Breviary

The Young Harris students seemed to have a great time, asking really smart questions and bringing their own experience (with Juvenal, with modern bookmaking, the list goes on) to bear on these objects. And my students surprised themselves, I think, with how much they’d learned in the first half of the semester! You only really learn something, the old adage goes, when you have to explain it to someone else, something my students experienced first-hand in the process of guiding their peers through the process of looking deeply and asking questions.

Many, many thanks to Dr. Helbert and all the administrators at Young Harris who made this happen from their end, to the Special Collections Library for welcoming the visiting students, and as always to Jason Hasty for providing on-the-ground support in the classroom.

I’m now extra-really looking forward to my own trip to Young Harris College at the end of October, when I’ll be talking more about these manuscripts on their campus. Stay tuned for more exciting events happening in October and November!

Featured image: students show the Psalter to Dr. Helbert