Tag Archives: history

Day Nine of the CMLE Summer Fun Library Tour!

The sharing of knowledge is our mission, but sometimes can be..kind of icky.

Houghton Library contains countless curiosities. Perhaps the most disturbing example is Arsène Houssaye’s Des destinées de l’ame (FC8.H8177.879dc), bound in human skin.

In the mid-1880s, Houssaye (1815-1896) presented his recent book, a meditation on the soul and life after death, to his friend Dr. Ludovic Bouland (1839-1932), a noted medical doctor and prominent bibliophile. Bouland bound the book with skin from the unclaimed body of a female mental patient who had died of a stroke.”

While books bound in human skin are now objects of fascination and revulsion, the practice was once somewhat common. Termed anthropodermic bibliopegy, the binding of books in human skin has occurred at least since the 16th century. The confessions of criminals were occasionally bound in the skin of the convicted, or an individual might request to be memorialized for family or lovers in the form of a book.

Although this is the only known example of an anthropodermic book in Houghton’s collection, Harvard libraries hold one other example: the Countway Library’s Center for the History of Medicine holds a French translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Lyon, 1597) which may have an anthropodermic binding.”


Libraries are amazing places. Sometimes you find things that are fascinating, sometimes they are kinda gross. Information is always important to have and to share; this is just another example of the huge breadth of ideas, materials, and services that exist in the library profession!

Minnesota Historical Society: Resources for Teachers!

If you are teaching, you are using videos. And the Minnesota Historical Society has a variety of videos available for you, to help you get familiar with their resources and be ready to share them with your students!

“Discover new teaching practices and refresh your pedagogy with these short videos aimed to give introductions to new or modernized teaching ideas, strategies, and social studies skills. Released monthly, the videos will range in topics such as introductions to primary source instruction to literacy practices in the social studies. Watch this page, Facebook, or subscribe to the e-Newsletter for new videos.”

Concept-Based Instruction

Concept-Based Instruction

Segment 1: What is Concept-Based Learning?

Concept-based learning helps students focus on “life’s big ideas” which are applicable to other situations. Learn why concept-based learning is important and how concepts differ from knowledge and skills.

Length: 9 min.
Presenter: Ryan Higbea

Continue reading Minnesota Historical Society: Resources for Teachers!

Protect Your Library the Medieval Way, With Horrifying Book Curses

Medieval scribes protected their work by threatening death, or worse.

AASL Recommended Apps: Humanities & Arts: Spies of the Mississippi: The Appumentary

spies_mississippiIn June 2016, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) announced their 25 Best Apps for Teaching and Learning. The apps encourage qualities such as innovation and active participation, and are user-friendly.

The app Spies of the Mississippi comes from a book by Rick Bowers, which was made into a PBS documentary. The app is filled with primary resources that tell the story of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, which was founded in 1956 to preserve segregation and spy on the civil rights movement. The app has videos, a timeline, interactive map, as well as lesson plans and discussion questions.

Cost: Free
Level: Middle and High School
Platforms: iOS

Watch this video to get an idea of how the app works:

Ancient library wars!

Libraries were trophies in the ancient world


People generally think of librarians and other library folk as mild-mannered,  maybe even reserved, people that are passionate about books, learning, and information in general. But historically, libraries used to be a source of high competition and conflict!

This article from Atlas Obscura details how several dynasties in the ancient world had a constant rivalry with each other over which kingdom had the best library collection. The biggest competition was between the libraries of Alexandria and Pergamum (located in present-day Turkey). Kings poured their resources into preserving Greek culture and promoting scholarship, as well as acquiring ancient texts and writings to make their collections more valuable.

Of course, new ideas and interpretations of readings were important to keep libraries current and thriving. The article describes how competition to attract and keep scholars in libraries grew so fierce that the treatment of scholars became similar to today’s world of professional athletes: “Much like how athletes are drafted to rival teams in today’s sports, libraries “attracted scholars by offering one better wages than the other kings.” Sometimes, the kings took it a step further and actually put scholars in prison so they couldn’t take their intellectual pursuits to a different kingdom.

Today’s libraries may not have quite the same level of competition with each other, but they continue to be essential institutions in society, possibly because their value was discovered and preserved to such an extent in the ancient world.