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Teacher workshops demonstrate value of primary source materials in Ransom Center's collections to enhance learning

By Danielle Sigler

Teachers attend a workshop about using Watergate materials in their classroom in 2011. Photo by Pete Smith.
Teachers attend a workshop about using Watergate materials in their classroom in 2011. Photo by Pete Smith.

In elementary school, my class took a field trip to the main branch of the Houston Public Library. We learned how to use the microfilm machines, and I was allowed to look up the front page of the newspaper from the day I was born. I still remember the “Ransom Recovered” headline, a reference to the Patty Hearst case, something about which I knew absolutely nothing.

That moment sitting in front of a microfilm reader is as vivid to me now as it was 30 years ago. Suddenly, there was an entire world before me. I had discovered the appeal of research and of primary source materials. I certainly wouldn’t have articulated it that way at the time. I just knew that I had found something new and interesting that suggested limitless possibility.

That love of research ultimately led me to the Ransom Center. And appreciating the value of using primary source materials in the classroom has inspired the Ransom Center’s teacher workshops.

For the last five years, the Center has offered seminars for teachers on topics ranging from the 1920s to Watergate. These workshops provide the Ransom Center with the opportunity to share collections with educators from around the state who can then take their experiences and digital materials back to the classroom and their students. Local teachers can also follow up by bringing their students to tour the exhibitions.

This spring, the Ransom Center will be hosting two workshops related to the exhibition The King James Bible: Its History and Influence. The first workshop will examine the historical influence of the King James translation and is designed for social studies teachers at the junior high and high school levels, while the second workshop will focus on the King James Bible’s literary influence and is designed for language arts teachers at the junior high and high school levels.

A grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, made these workshops possible. Thanks to their support, teachers will leave the workshop with a copy of Gordon Campbell’s Bible: The Story of the King James Version 1611–2011, an edition of the King James Bible, and digital images from the Center’s collections to use in their classrooms.

By supporting the work of local educators, we hope to foster the next generation of scholars and help students understand how vital the care and preservation of our cultural heritage is.

Ransom Center librarian assists high school student with class project

By Harry Ransom Center

The Ransom Center’s reference desk receives about 150 new inquiries every month, but this particular question caught their attention for its unusual question and the age of its sender. Ransom Center Librarian Richard Workman worked with a Georgia high school student, providing him information for a class project about Ezra Pound. Many of Pound’s papers reside at the Ransom Center.  Their email exchange in its entirety is printed below.

Photo of Ezra Pound by E. O. Hoppe
Photo of Ezra Pound by E. O. Hoppe

From: Will
Date: Monday, April 9, 2007 13:34:50 -0400
To: <reference@hrc.utexas.edu>
Subject: Ezra pound

My name is Will.  I am a Jr in high school in Jones County, Georgia. I have been assigned a group project (which I am the leader) in my Literature class.  My group of 7 must put together a luncheon introducing one of Ezra Pound’s works.  We are required to actually put together the program honoring Mr. Pound and his work of our choosing.  We must decide where this luncheon would have been held – then actually cook the food – which MUST be a dish Ezra Pound enjoyed, serve the beverage – which MUST be a drink Ezra Pound enjoyed (non-alcoholic), provide background music which Ezra Pound would have chosen, create an “era-appropriate” atmosphere of the restaurant, and find out if Mr. Pound enjoyed an after-dinner cigar or anything of that sort. The Literature teachers will be the luncheon participants  (they get to eat the food, drink the drink, listen to the music and also our oral report and program honoring this particular work.) The worst part is – we were assigned this Tuesday April 3 and must present it Friday April 13 (how appropriate).

My question is – we can find lots of information on Ezra Pound’s works and life, but not intimate information like what food and drink he preferred, what type restaurant he might frequent, etc.  Do you have any suggestions where we may search.  I have searched for hours on the internet just to come up with this e-mail address.  I pray you will read this and respond in time for us to get the research and work done.  Please take this seriously.   I would be grateful for any help you may give us.

Thank you!

Sincerely,

Will

 

From: Richard Workman
To: Will
Sent: Tuesday, April 10, 2007 11:15 AM
Subject: Ezra Pound and food

Dear Will,

Your project sounds fascinating. You have very creative teachers, and I’m sure you must be enjoying your class.

The Harry Ransom Center holds a collection of Ezra Pound’s papers, consisting mostly of manuscripts of some of his works and a large selection of his correspondence. I haven’t read every letter in the collection, but I believe they mostly deal with his theories of literature, politics, and economics.

I think your best bet is a biography of Pound. The one I suggest is by Humphrey Carpenter. It’s titled A Serious Character: The Life of Ezra Pound. It has an extremely detailed index which I think will be very helpful to you. If you look under the entry “Pound, Ezra Loomis” in the index, you will find a long entry broken up into several sections. Under the section titled “Character, Interests, Outlook, and Style” is an entry for “food, love of” followed by about 30 citations. This should give you plenty of information to construct your luncheon. As for music, Pound was famous for his love of modern classical music, and the biography is full of mentions of his musical activities.

I hope you can find a copy of the book in time to bring your luncheon off. If you have difficulty, let me know and I’ll see if we can be of further help.

Good luck with your project and keep enjoying literature.

Sincerely,
Richard Workman

P.S. One of my colleagues suggested that the ideal thing to serve would be pound cake!

 

To: Richard Workman
From: Will
Sent: Thursday, Apr 19, 2007
Subject: Re: Ezra Pound and food

Dear Mr. Workman –

Our project went wonderfully well thanks to your help!!  Our county library didn’t have the Ezra Pound book you suggested and neither did the Macon system, but we found it in the system a few counties over (about 1 1/2 hr away), so my mom drove over and picked it up for us.   After studying that book, we decided to serve Chicken a la Lucy with new potatoes and green beans for the main course, also salad and, for dessert, peach ice cream on pound cake (we took your colleague’s advice!).  We chose to decorate the classroom like St.Elizabeth’s mental hospital and held the “luncheon” in the hospital cafeteria.  We received 10 out of 10 on our evaluation sheets from 3 of the teachers (we didn’t get to see the sheets from the other 2) so we feel pretty sure we did well – though we haven’t received our grade yet.

I just want to thank you on behalf of our whole group for your help.  We were really up against it and you came through for us! Thank you so much for your help and for being so thorough and professional in your work.  God bless you.

Sincerely,

Will
Jones County, Georgia

(PS – My mom graduated from Killeen High School which isn’t too far from Austin – but she went to UGA and FSU instead of staying in Texas)

 

 

To: Will
From: Richard Workman
Sent: Thursday, Apr 19, 2007
Subject: Re: Ezra Pound and food

Dear Will,

You made my day! I’m so glad to hear that your project was a success. It sounds like your group put its heart and soul into it. Bravo!

I am very happy that I could contribute in a small way to your triumph, and I hope this experience leaves you with a lifelong love of literature and, incidentally, a warm feeling for librarians. If there’s one thing we love to do, it’s help people.

Please pass along my congratulations to all the members of your group and to your very clever and creative teachers. And thanks very much for bringing me up to date.

Best wishes,
Richard Workman