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Libraries as Learning Spaces

CUL staff, resources advance SMU faculty's academic mission

Lisa Pon (left), assistant professor of art history, and a student visiting the 'Post Chiaroscuro' exhibit in Hawn Gallery.

Lisa Pon (left), associate professor of art history, and a student visiting the "Post Chiaroscuro" exhibit in Hawn Gallery.

The symbiotic library-faculty relationship started over a century ago, when SMU leadership identified a first-class library as vital to its mission to deliver a high-quality education. In 2013, SMU celebrated the Year of the Library to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the appointment of SMU's first librarian and acquisition of its first books.

This year, Central University Libraries joins the SMU community in observing the Year of the Faculty and the beginning of the second century of a partnership that expands scholarship and nurtures innovation.

From an immersive exhibition that married art and technology to digital collections that bring history into sharper focus to the hardware and software that expand learning beyond the classroom, CUL offers the resources and staff expertise that shape a world-class academic experience.

Introducing the meta-exhibition

How is an art exhibit curated? How do students apply their studies outside the classroom? How do libraries bolster teaching and learning?

These are just a few of the questions addressed in the meta-exhibition "Are You Close Enough? SMU Libraries as Learning Spaces." The meta-exhibition, described as "an exhibition within an exhibition," takes an in-depth look at how curators and students used SMU libraries and collections to produce "Post Chiaroscuro: Prints in Color after the Renaissance" at the Hawn Gallery in Hamon Arts Library, September 16-December 13, 2013.

Inspired by a digitally enhanced show at a Dallas museum, Sara Outhier, Hamon's digital media librarian and a member of CUL's Year of the Library Committee, developed the meta-exhibition. Outhier, joined by committee member Michelle Hahn, Hamon's music catalog librarian; Tyeson Seale, Information Commons technology coordinator and committee co-chair; and web designer Beth Andresen pulled back the curtain by utilizing mobile technology, photography and video to craft a unique digital experience that continues to live online:

They worked in tandem with Lisa Pon, associate professor of art history in Meadows School of the Arts, and Sam Ratcliffe, head of the Jerry Bywaters Special Collections at Hamon Arts Library and exhibit coordinator for the gallery.

Pon proposed an exercise that allowed the 10 undergraduate students in her "History of Western Printmaking, 1400-1750" course to serve as curators of "Post Chiaroscuro." They wrote informational captions about the artifacts displayed, which included works from the Bywaters Special Collections, SMU's Bridwell Library and the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.

Samantha Robinson, a second-year student in the art history master's program, developed and installed the gallery exhibit and provided support for Pon's class.

In an entry in the online journal that traces the evolution of the meta-exhibition, Hahn writes that the project defined "what a library is all about: bringing people together to learn from the available resources, to help each other grow in their understanding and to create new information."

A digital path to the past

Navaho Blanket Postcard

A postcard titled "The complete story of a Navaho Blanket, Canyon de Chelley, Arizona," ca. 1915, Fred Harvey Co. Collection, DeGolyer Library.

The DeGolyer Library's Fred Harvey Co. materials, part of the U.S. West: Photographs, Manuscripts and Imprints digital collection, inspired students in an SMU-in-Taos May term class to examine the use of Native American imagery from different angles.

In the course "Imaginary Indians of the Southwest," Steve Weisenburger, Mossiker Chair in Humanities and Professor of English in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, delves into "popular views of Southwestern Indian peoples – the Navajo, Hopi and Pueblo – at a significant moment in U.S. history, roughly 1900 to 1940."

Students got a firsthand look at how two significant businesses in the region at that time – the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway (AT&SF) and the Fred Harvey Co., known for its Harvey House dining establishments located along the railroad – relied heavily on images of North American Indians to promote travel in the Southwest. Digitized booklets, postcards and ephemera from the collection date from 1901 to 1930.

Several students made extensive use of the materials in written projects.

"Probably the most important pedagogical aspect of this course is the students' extensive uses of primary source materials," Weisenburger says. "They also learn ways to properly cite digitized materials for which it was good to have clear, easy-to-use metadata."

Cindy Boeke, CUL Digital Collections developer, credits Carrie Johnston, an SMU English Ph.D. candidate, with annotating the materials. Johnston's detailed research of the Fred Harvey Co. and the AT&SF factors into her dissertation, "Waiting, Working, and Writing Women in the Southwest, 1883-1939."

Selected materials from the Fred Harvey Co. Collection may be viewed online at cul/wes/fredharvey_index.asp.

Anatomy of an instructive partnership

Fondren Library's Touch Learning Center (TLC) becomes a virtual anatomy laboratory for students studying the human organ, skeletal and muscle systems.

Equipped with iPads and a large projection screen, the TLC offers an optimal learning environment for students enrolled in Anatomy and Physiology I and II, says Megan Murphy, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Applied Physiology and Wellness, Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development. She calls the TLC "an invaluable resource" for enriching the classroom lab experience.

Touch Learning Center

Megan Murphy, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Applied Physiology and Wellness, uses the Touch Learning Center in Fondren Library to supplement lab work for students studying anatomy and physiology.

"Our anatomy-based lab is largely dependent on students viewing models in the classroom, and we have come to the realization that they need additional methods to view, study and quiz themselves on the skeletal and muscular systems," explains Murphy.

Tyeson Seale coordinated the purchase of software for the classes – iPad apps developed by 3d4Medical, an award-winning technology company – and worked with Murphy and her colleague Scott Davis, assistant professor, to generate a 3D experience that helps students understand the intricacies of the human body.

"In actual dissection, one can visualize the organ, such as the heart, but with the software and access to the TLC, the students can actually observe it at work," Murphy says. "They can connect a sometimes abstract and limited description of structure and function to an actual observable motion.

"The software allows students to look at structures layer by layer, and there are video options that allow them to see the organ system function," she explains. "They also can use the self quizzes as study guides."

She identifies another key benefit of the TLC: "It gives students the flexibility to study and review the material they learn in the classroom and in the laboratory on their own."

Learn more about the TLC online at