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Creative Collaboration: A Librarian-Faculty Partnership

By Mary Buckley
Associate Professor, Dance and Director, International Arts & Culture Women’s Leadership Program

Art historian Anne-Catherine Abecassis talks with students in GW’s “Modernism in the Arts, Then and Now” class at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. Photo credit: Jeremy Pittman.

Bill Gillis, research services coordinator at the GW Libraries, and I have worked together on academic and co-curricular projects over the past seven years. This rewarding partnership continues to evolve and expand, and now includes collaborative coursework, conference talks, and the presentation of student-driven projects. I would like to share two recent collaborations as examples of how others may find their way into library-faculty team projects.

Last summer, Bill and I led a team-taught study abroad course, “Modernism and the Arts, Then and Now.” Paris became our situated learning environment, with the early 20th century Ballets Russes company as the focal point of cross-disciplinary creative work. Artists working at this time frequently gathered socially to discuss projects, share ideas, and comment on new innovations. Bill and I tap into this community resource model and host research salons for our students, referencing Bryn Mawr/Haverford College education professor Alice Lesnick’s work on odd-angled questions and Davidson College professor Van Hillard’s theme of bibliography as a social network.

Students are encouraged to ask questions of the city, the art, and each other, and to think of the physical sites, performances, and art as primary source material. We use the metaphor of their bibliography as a dinner party guest list. Who might bring interesting perspectives, different points of view, or expertise to their research ideas? What odd-angled questions might students ask of their topics? Bill brought these research topics to the pre-existing class, enhancing and expanding delivery of the course material.

Following the Paris salon model, Bill and I hosted “The Creative Process,” a presentation of student work at Eckles Library for Colonials Weekend. Winners of the Eckles Prize for Freshman Research Excellence and student artists from the Elizabeth J. Somers Women’s Leadership Program shared their journeys from idea to fruition, through paper, visual work, or performance. Student participants were encouraged to lead an interactive discussion with the audience. We were all exposed to new ideas and work in this celebration of creative student projects.

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