The Humanities Center's Global Book Lab offers learning experiences available at few universities in the world. Led by French professor Anna Klosowska, Special Collections Librarian Rachel Makarowski, and Art Museum Collections Manager Laura Stewart, students learn how to identify and transcribe Senhalese, Arabic, and European manuscripts. They also learn to read and write in ancient alphabets like cuneiform and Pahlavi and they study Ethopian and Coptic bookmaking techniques.
The hands-on approach to learning has resulted in displays of student work across campus. Students have created and displayed cuneiform-inscribed clay tablets in their dorms, sparking the curiosity of dormmates.
“It's absolutely the most thrilling experience," says Klosowska of working with the students. She notes that team-teaching is central to the course. "The students get to access three times the expertise—from each one of us—in a single course.”
Makarowski credits students with the success of the lab: “Not only do they actively participate in discussions, but they have enthusiastically responded to the activities in making books that we have done in class.” The Global Book Lab faculty have been intentional about pairing Miami University collections with these activities and discussions to better provide hands-on learning opportunities.
In addition to working with the College of Arts and Sciences, the Miami University Libraries, and the Richard and Carole Cocks Art Museum, students have had opportunities to work collaboratively with the Medieval Club to learn how to create and seal letters with wax as was the practice in the Byzantine Empire. They also took a nature walk with the Botanical Society and Zoology and Biology Club. The course is an exciting and unique opportunity for students to learn about diverse cultures and ancient writing systems. Students in the class report gaining valuable skills and knowledge while fostering a deeper understanding of the importance of preserving and sharing our collective cultural heritage.