Medieval manuscripts: music students see, touch and find the real thing (MUSIC-281-01)

Students viewing manuscript

Students of music history regularly study musical works from the Middle Ages to the present day. However, learning about the lives and practices of people from hundreds of years ago can feel very far removed from the modern life of a Mount Holyoke student. In the fall of 2015, the students of Assistant Professor Adeline Mueller’s music history class partially closed that gap by examining primary sources: historical score publications and manuscripts produced as far back as 1350.  

Professor Mueller, Library, Information and Technology Services (LITS) liaison Chrissa Lindahl, and Archives and Special Collections director Leslie Fields worked together to design a hands-on experience for students. The students were able to examine materials hundreds of years old: touch calf vellum with hand scribed notes, page through a book of popular songs someone in the early 18th century may have purchased to sing at home, and develop questions around a “mystery leaf” (found in a LITS office!) to solve the mystery of its provenance.  

Students examined the materials, worked together to develop questions and hypotheses around them, then learned how to begin research investigations to learn more about the true history of the items. Seeing and learning about an actual Medieval manuscript lead two students to discover a second original leaf on campus in plain sight!

If you are interested using primary sources to enhancing your students' learning experiences, please contact your LITS liaison and/or Archives and Special Collections