• Harvard University
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  • Library Notes
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  • October 2010
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  • No. 1356
Gutman Gains Extensive Textbook Inventory from Ball State Print


Scholars and students have been eager to examine the new material from Ball State, which covers everything from how specific wars are depicted and taught over time to how the Periodic Table of the Elements has changed—and when changes to the table were first included.

Textbooks are familiar to every one of us. We carried them around in elementary, middle, and high school, stored them in our desks or lockers, and were glad to give them back at the end of the school year. Textbooks are increasingly valued as tools for research in a broad range of disciplines.

Textbooks cover everything from how specific wars are depicted and taught over time to how the Periodic Table of the Elements has changed—and when changes to the table were first included. Using textbooks, researchers can examine how certain poets and their works have come into, fallen out of, and then returned to favor. Of particular interest to many researchers is how textbooks address issues and topics for students at differing age levels. 

Today, researchers across the country rely on the Historical Textbook Collection in Gutman Library at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) for access to these research materials that, increasingly, are being de-accessioned.

Gutman's collection, which includes over 35,000 individual textbooks, grew significantly in the past 18 months through the generous gift of over 8,100 textbooks from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.

Ball State's library held a copy of every elementary and secondary textbook adopted by the Indiana Department of Education from 1950 to the mid-1980s. But in early 2009, renovations absorbed space formerly dedicated to the textbooks. With no alternate space available—and no desire to throw the books away—Ball State librarians contacted Gutman Library to see if their holdings might have a place in HGSE's Historical Textbook Collection.

Although extensive, Gutman's textbook collection almost entirely included textbooks published from the late 1700s to the late 1940s. The Ball State collection formed the perfect complement. Over 6,300 textbooks were accepted during the summer of 2009, giving researchers many more years of coverage, including textbooks that covered more recent events. 

As the newly arrived boxes were unpacked, Ball State librarians offered Harvard an additional collection of even older textbooks. Ed Copenhagen, Gutman's special collections librarian, reviewed the extensive shelf list provided by Ball State and selected 1,800 additional pre-1940s textbooks. This second collection arrived in the spring of 2010 and comprises works that filled in gaps in the historical textbook collections in areas such as industrial arts, home economics, and health. Today, the technical services staff and librarians are working expeditiously to add these materials to HOLLIS. 

"Gutman Library is honored to have the opportunity to make this collection available to all the faculty and students at Harvard University," said John W. Collins III, librarian of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. "We also very respectfully acknowledge the Ball State University Libraries and the exceptional professionalism and collaboration they have shown."

HGSE's Historical Textbooks Collection is cataloged fully in HOLLIS. Over 10,000 readers, histories, geographies, social studies, science and mathematics textbooks from the Historical Textbooks Collection have been microfilmed under grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The HOLLIS record for each title filmed contains a filming note and gives the reel and master negative numbers. The reels are available for use in Gutman Library whenever the library is open. Mark SheltonThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it , Harvard Graduate School of Education