Art History Teaching Resources: Not Just for Art Historians

Guest blogger: Macie Hall, from the CER's Innovative Instructor.

AHTR-screenshotThe first week in February, I attended the annual College Art Association conference in Washington, DC and co-chaired a panel titled Rethinking Online Pedagogies for Art History. In an era where higher education teaching and learning are being re-examined, and our institutions are pushing faculty to adopt innovative instructional practices, instructors may find themselves at a loss. It’s great to hear about online teaching, flipped classrooms, exciting apps that will engage students, but how exactly does one go about implementing these new strategies? Our approach for the panel was to showcase ideas and tools for teaching art history by having the speakers introduce innovative approaches, with a focus on key takeaways that could be adapted to an individual’s teaching practices. The topics included using peer assessment, student authorship of course content, gaming, e-portfolios, using Omeka,Neatline, and Voicethread, building an app and a website for an onsite course, and a presentation from Art History Teaching Resources, AHTR.

The great thing about AHTR is that it is a resource that has value for art historians, instructors in other humanities disciplines and beyond.  Some of the content is general, for example, the Library of Pedagogy has descriptions of texts that will be applicable to those teaching in any humanities discipline, as well as general books on teaching practices. A section on Syllabi/Assignments/Rubrics includes models, templates, and advice that can be easily adapted to other subjects.

Scan the blog posts in the ATRH Weekly. Posts on Slow Teaching, Field Notes from an Experiment in Student-Centered Pedagogy, and Pedagogy through Observation caught my eye as being broad-based in their application. And finally, if you are interested in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) or want to know more about it, check out What is SoTL?, an article that will be informative whether you are in the humanities, social sciences, or STEM disciplines.

A Modern Doctor with Many Fields

Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) next speaker in the JHU Conversations in Medicine series is Dr. Cindy Sears.

Dr. Sears is a Hopkins Professor of Medicine, Oncology, and Molecular Microbiology and Immunology. Yet her earliest PubMed article was "The Effectiveness of a Consultation" (American Journal of Medicine; 1983). She and her coauthors analyzed medical consultations to find out how many of the doctor’s initial recommendations for the patient were actually done. They found that "[c]ompliance decreased as the number of recommendations increased. …Compliance was higher when five or fewer recommendations were made.” [emphasis mine]

Her most recent article, published in January of this year, is listed by EMBASE as “in press” with the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes. It concerns the relationship among gut microbiota, dietary nutrients, and cardiovascular disease. She and her colleagues are examining whether HIV-infected men have higher rates of coronary artery stenosis due to the presence of a chemical that is initiated by one’s gut microbiota. There's a multidisciplinary topic for you.

Read more about about her research (scroll down). Obviously, Dr. Sears has studied several quite different aspects of medicine during her journey to becoming a Modern Doctor.

Where:  Charles Commons Ballroom
When:  Monday, March 7, 2016, at 7:00 PM


Materials Science in Paper Conservation, History, and Literature: The Gulistan of Sa’di

Gulistan or Goléstan-e  (The Rose Garden) was written in 1258 CE by a Persian poet whose pen name was Sa’di. The book is comprised of a mixture of poetry and prose and contains a number of intricate paintings.  The text is written in Persian, the official language of the Mughal court, and has incorporated aspects of Sufi teachings, whose “followers seek to find divine truth through direct encounters with God.”  It is considered one of the most influential pieces of Persian literary works.

GulistanOfSaDiThe Sheridan Library possesses a copy of The Gulistan of Sa’di that was estimated to be printed in Iran during the 18th century to 19th century. This manuscript was written on paper rather than parchment, and the paper is believed to be made of plant fiber pulp.  “There is less of an historical record of Islamic bindings than Western European bindings,” says Jennifer Jarvis, Paper Conservator from the Department of Conservation and Preservation, “and therefore the exact age of this manuscript is not known.”

In order to more accurately date the manuscript and develop conservation and preservation directions, Jennifer Jarvis worked with the Materials Characterization class taught by Professor Patty McGuiggan from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in order to determine the composition of the gold colored pigment.

Using a tiny pigment fragment from the border, undergraduate engineering students Walter Duan, Polly Ma, and Yunchan Chen used a series of characterization techniques including optical microscopy, Raman Spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction, Scanning electron microscopy with elemental analysis and AFM, the students identified that the gold pigment is made of a Cu-Zn alloy (brass).   By atomic composition, copper constitutes 85% of the alloy and zinc 15%. Similar compositions are often used in jewelry making, and the metallic, shiny color of this alloy makes it a good imitation for gold.  The measurements also showed that the alloy was first made into powder and dispersed in a solvent before it was applied to the paper.

For more information, contact

Jennifer Jarvis:

Patty McGuiggan:

Top 100 papers as measured by Altmetric

altmetricscoreJHULast March I blogged about altmetrics – how many times a journal article is mentioned in social media and news outlets. There are several companies that perform this work, but Altmetric publishes a list of the top 100 articles for the past year, as measured by them.

They offer an interesting look at the articles folks were tweeting, blogging, and writing about in the news. Their site lets you filter the list by institution, country, subject, journal, access, and Altmetric score.

JHU has 6 articles listed; 5 under Johns Hopkins University and 1 as Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Let’s look at the most highly rated JHU article, number 4: Variation in cancer risk among tissues can be explained by the number of stem cell divisions. It has an Altmetric score of 2,340! Yowza!

This page details all the places Altmetric found mentions of this article. Their search includes:

  • News outlets - multiple languages
  • Blogs
  • Twitter
  • Peer reviews - New post-publication peer review opportunities were mentioned here previously
  • Weibo - the major social network in China
  • Facebook
  • Wikipedia - references by Wikipedia articles
  • Google+

Take a look through all of them. It’s easy to see why these articles caught people’s attention.

#6 - How much plastic is in the ocean?
#16 - Does kissing change the microbes in your mouth?
#24 - Is there a relationship between playing sexist video games and being sexist?
#41 - Is there a relationship between illness and sitting still?
#46 - What’s the range for human penis size?
#91 - Does music relieve post-operative pain?

Top 5 Ways Libraries & Librarians Can Help You

8643067513_8e9f49d1e8_z"Libraries are repositories of books, music and documents, but above all of nostalgia: the musty stacks, the unexpected finds, the safety and pleasure of a place that welcomes and shelters unconditionally." - Washington Post

Guilty library confession: I use Google multiple times per day. I also use it during reference searches...why? Because it's immediate; because full-text articles are often linked to Google when on campus; because even if it's not the right answer, it is an answer; and to verify or figure out some little bit of information I need. Like last week when looking up some law firm rankings, but the law firm name had been misspelled. Makes it hard to find rankings with incorrect information from the get go.

But all that said, here are 5 compelling reasons libraries remain relevant:

5. Not Everything is Available on the Internet. While an amazing amount of useful information is available online, not everything can be found there. Google Books has taken on the huge task of digitizing millions of books from the world's largest libraries, however contemporary authors and publishers may not permit their works to be available for free on the Internet. It is already prohibited by copyright law to make books in copyright fully accessible via Google Book Search. Libraries license numerous academic research journals, databases, ebooks, and other material that are usually inaccessible to someone looking to find that same content freely available on the Internet.

4. Libraries and Librarians Improve Student Test Scores. There have been studies showing that students who frequent well-stocked and well-staffed school libraries end up with higher ACT scores and perform better on reading and writing exams. A 2005 Illinois School Libraries study shows that students who have "high schools with computers that connect to library catalogs and databases average 6.2 percent improvement on ACT Scores." Some articles have suggested that academic libraries improve student retention, that leads us to #3...we can help save you time!

3. Academic Librarians Save You Time. The Sheridan Libraries has subject specialists in many disciplines to help you jump-start your research process. Starting a paper or a project and not sure where to start? Librarians at JHU have created guides that can help you get started no matter where you are...Many guides offer links to core online resources for the subject the guide is about, which can help you get a quick handle on what core databases might be most relevant for you. If you spend more than a few minutes searching and can't find what you're looking for, contact your librarian. We're more than happy to help. If you're not in the library, you can also ask us on our library website.

2. Physical Libraries Adapt to Your Needs. While some from outside libraries might find this surprising, it is very true. The Sheridan Libraries added student-centered space in the Brody Learning Commons - a great space for collaborating, group study, filled with lots of student-selected furniture. You can also reserve a group study online. The MSE Library will also under go a much needed renovation in coming years. Work has already been underway to help us understand more about your research and scholarship needs, a recent example is the visual International Scholarly Communication Survey about research tools.

And, the number 1 way Libraries and Librarians can help you is...

1. Librarians Promote Critical Thinking and Encourage Patrons to Create Content. Librarians know that are students and researchers are not just passive consumers of information - they produce information. Students and researchers use the library to obtain knowledge in order to create their own and new independent works. Our librarians teach classes, guide students through the research process, and have helped students create online journals, edit Wikipedia articles, and helped jump start students' working on group projects.

I still and always will use Google, and there's nothing wrong with that, but hopefully this  gives you a few ideas on how libraries and librarians might be able (and are very happy) to help you.


Adventures in TAPPI

TAPPIHello from the basement of the Brody Learning Commons!  This is our first contribution to the blog.  We are the Heritage Science for Conservation Program housed within the Conservation Department.  We research the deterioration and conservation of materials housed within JHU’s Libraries, Archives, and Museums.

Today we thought we would introduce you both to us, and to a unique facility that is housed on the basement level of the BLC.  This is our TAPPI* room.  This room produces a tightly-controlled and monitored environment that allows us to conduct physical testing on paper.   As the weather outside and even inside the BLC changes drastically all year round, the weather in the TAPPI room stays at a constant 23°C ± 1°C (73.4°F ± 1.8°F) and 50% ± 2% relative humidity.  This allows us to measure the behavior of paper under the same conditions all year.

To learn more about the Heritage Science for Conservation Program visit:

Contact: Molly McGath

Andrea Hall

Sara Zaccaron

*TAPPI is an acronym that stands for Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry, a non- profit that creates many standards for the measurement of pulp and paper behavior.  For more on TAPPI see:


Student Book-Collecting Contest 2016: Application Extension, Feb 29th!

Student Book Collecting Contest 2016

The Sweren Student Book Collecting Contest has extended its application deadline to Monday, February 29th!

The Betty and Edgar Sweren Student Book Collecting Contest recognizes the love of books and the delight in shaping a thoughtful and focused book collection. All undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in a degree program at Johns Hopkins are eligible to enter.

Did we mention prizes?

The competition includes graduate and undergraduate divisions, with the following awards:

• $1,000 First Place • $500 Second Place • $250 Honorable Mention • A display of selected titles from the winning collections in Special Collections in the Brody Learning Commons

• A one-year honorary membership in the Friends of the Johns Hopkins Libraries.

Awards will be presented to the winners in the spring of 2016.


Each entry will be judged on the extent to which the items in the collection form a coherent pattern of inquiry and/or represent a well-defined field of interest. Additionally, consideration will be given to how well the collection reflects the student’s stated goals and interests.


1. Any student, undergraduate or graduate, enrolled in a degree program at the Johns Hopkins University is eligible to enter.

2. All items must be owned and collected by the student who enters the contest.

3. A collection need not consist of, or include, rare or valuable books. Paper-bound books may be included.

4. Although the focus is books, the collection may include other media that supports the collection.

5. Collections can be on any subject. Nonacademic subjects are welcome (past entries include Colonial America, Feminism, Running, Music, and more).

Application Information:

Each contestant must submit:

1.     A cover sheet including the title of your collection.

2.     A 2-3 page essay outlining:  The purpose of the collection, how you started the collection, how the collection was assembled, the items of greatest interest, and ideas for the collection’s future development.

3.     A bibliography of 20 or more items (maximum of 50) in the collection. Each item should be numbered, given a full bibliographic description, and briefly annotated as to its importance to the collection. Please use the Chicago Manual of Style.

4.     A wish list: A second bibliography listing up to 10 items that you would like to add to your collection, with brief annotation stating the reason for adding each item.

5.     Submit as one PDF document including your cover sheet.

*Finalists may be asked to bring a portion of their book collection to the Milton S. Eisenhower Library for final judging. The winning entries will be displayed in the Brody Learning Commons. First place winners of the Sweren contest are also eligible to enter the 2016 National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest, sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA), the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies (FABS), and the Center for the Book and the Rare Books and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress.

The EXTENDED deadline to enter is Monday, February 29, 2016.

Last Year’s Sweren Student Book Collecting Contest Winning Entries:

1st Place, Undergraduate Category: Gillian Marie Waldo, "Everything You Can Imagine is Real." An introduction to graphic novels

1st Place (tie), Graduate Category: Jean-Olivier Richard, A Jesuit's Tree of Knowledge

1st Place (tie), Graduate Category: Justin Kyle Rivest, "Seeing Home From Abroad: The World along the Detroit River, 1670 to present

2nd Place, Graduate Category: Marina Escolano PovedaThe Library of Babel

2nd Place, Graduate Category: Shannon Alt, Volumes of Wonder: From Fairy Tales to Faraday

Submit all entries to:

Sweren Student Book Collecting Contest Dean’s Office/Milton S. Eisenhower Library Johns Hopkins University 3400 North Charles Street Baltimore, MD  21218 or via e-mail: or by fax: (410) 516-5080

Please direct any questions to Shellie Dolan at 410-516-8992 or

Lit Review Anxiety? Use our step-by-step guide.

image001Literature reviews can be tough. Whether you're writing a standalone lit review or writing one to incorporate into a longer research article, they can be intimidating, time-consuming, and frustrating. Each step of the process presents a new challenge: finding information, quickly evaluating it for its appropriateness for your research, summarizing each article, synthesizing your information, and integrating everything into a cohesive review.  It's quite the project!

We can help. One of the biggest challenges is ensuring that your lit review isn't simply an annotated bibliography with some well-worded transitions; synthesizing your information is key. We have a brand new guide that can take you through the process step by step, helping you write your best lit review yet.  Use the templates and strategies in the guide to help you tackle your lit review, and don't hesitate to ask your librarian for assistance at any point during the process.

What is THE best citation tool?

One very common question that comes up, from both students and researchers, is: "What is the best citation tool for doing X?"

It's an excellent question because every year another slew of citation management tools, apps, and software materialize. Often each new app or tool offers a new twist, but basically they help you organize and retrieve information, such as citations for books, articles, and websites by interfacing with library databases. The citation manager works with word-processing software to insert (hopefully) properly formatted footnotes, end-notes, and citations into a paper to create a formatted bibliography. Some tools do a better job of this than others.

Citation tools come in a variety of flavors...for example:

  • Some let you tag and annotate your citations, while others work well in terms of inserting citations and bibliographies into Microsoft Word. Often managers will have a plug-in for Word and some also have browser plug-ins to help capture web links more easily.
  • Many managers have connections that can be turned on for Google Scholar and article databases available to you through the library.
  • Some tools also try to foster group-based collaborative research. Some are designed for specific platforms, some can work on the desktop or online.
  • Some tools focus on managing the PDFs of papers, which can be incredibly useful if you've downloaded lots of them.
  • Some are software on the desktop, others are online, some are a hybrid and can sync between desktop and online versions.
  • Some are free, some cost money.
  • Refworks is available freely to JHU students, staff and researchers.

...see why it can be confusing? It's been hard for us to keep up also, so don't feel bad! We've created a guide to help sort through popular citation tools. Each tool has its own strengths and weaknesses...they also change and improve their functionality frequently. A 2015 Nature article offers an overview to 8 tools that are frequently popular with researchers. Also, there's a great Wikipedia table comparing many tools.

When somebody asks what is the absolute best citation management tool to accomplish what I want to do? It's not straightforward because there is no one single comes down to what features of a citation management tool best match what you want to accomplish.

If you have a favorite citation manager, please share in the comments...especially if it's not one that we've listed on our citation manager guide! If you'd like help with selecting a tool, please feel free to contact us.

John Barth Loves Us: A Valentine to Fiction

JohnBarthLovesUsS: So, what are you doing on February 14? Wanna go on a date?

Z: Hello?

S: …with me and John Barth?

Z: A double date?

S: Also, Rafael Alvarez, Madison Smartt Bell, Matt Porterfield, Rosalia Scalia, and Jason Tinney?

Z: Um. That’s a lot of people for a date?

S: It’s a party, more like.

Z: Oh, well, that’s a relief.

S: It’s a party, but it’s also a reading. JB won’t be there in the flesh, but he’ll be there in spirit, because the party is at his house… his exhibition, actually. An exhibition at the Peabody Library of his manuscripts, books, letters, including those insane bumper stickers at the top of this blog post. Which he did not make, by the way. His fans made them. He had a fan club.

Z: So what about the other people on the date? Rafael, Madison, Matt, Rosalia, and Jason?

S: They will be there, and they’ll be reading from their work. They might do stylistic homages to Barth, otherwise known as imitations. Or, they might read about fiction. Or about love. Or about loving fiction. Which I think is in the job description for fiction writers.

Z: A party that’s also a reading.

S: And also a roundtable. After we eat some cookies and cake, and listen to readings by Rafael, Madison, Matt, Rosalia, and Jason… then they’ll talk about fiction… like, what are you reading, and why? What is fiction in 2016, anyway?

Z: What does that have to do with John Barth?

S: Exactly.

Z: What?

S: Yes. What? What does fiction in 2016 have to do with John Barth?

Z: Ohhhh… what does fiction in 2016 have to do with John Barth!

S: Yes!

Z: What does it?

S: Have you ever read “Lost in the Funhouse”? From Lost in the Funhouse?

Z: That’s the story about the boy who gets lost in the funhouse, right?

S: Yup.

Z: So…

S: Lost in the Funhouse is sub-titled Fiction for Print, Tape, Live Voice.

Z: Meaning…

S: Meaning, it was a printed book that was pretending it wasn’t. Or, at least, it was reminding us that fiction is fiction, regardless of medium.

Z: And?

S: And that is where we are now, dude. Again. Or more so. Are you reading fiction on your smartphone? Or listening to the audio version of a short story collection? Grooving on a tv show serialized like a nineteenth-century novel?

Z: Aha. Got it. Yes.

S: And, more than that, genre is now very mixy, something that we can also trace back to John Barth, in novels like The Sot-Weed Factor and The Tidewater Tales that draw on historical documents and folk tales. So, if you are into a certain film based on a short story… or a short story based on a newspaper article…

Z: Which, yes, happens. I love true crime.

S: …then you can also thank JB for that, at least in part. This is where we are now. But JB was mixing things up back in 1968.

Z: What about Rafael, Madison, Matt, Rosalia, and Jason? Mixy?

S: Definitely also mixy. Fiction mixed with film and television, journalism and history. And even some theatre and music.

Z: Mixmasters! Mixtape. Mixfest.

S: Let’s not overdo it.

Z: One question. What if I’m not all that into Valentine’s Day?

S: No problem. There will not be stupid Cupids all over the place, I promise. It’s a Valentine to fiction. But… um… it would be awesome if you were there too. Sunday, February 14, 2 to 4 pm, at the George Peabody Library. RSVP to

Z: Dude, I’m in. John Barth loves us.