Opening up old books: treasure hunting in UM’s botanical archives

Opening up old books: treasure hunting in UM’s botanical archives

Updated on 10 Feb 2021 | Published on 08 Feb 2021

In this collaboration between evolutionary biologist Roy Erkens, the University Library and Wikimedia Netherlands, students analysed botanical history books in the context of present-day science during a 4-week research project.
The aim of this project is to do a comparative analysis between the content of an interesting, important, and/or peculiar plant-biology related book and current day’s knowledge on that topic. Then students write a review about the book and publish it on Wikipedia. Part of the project is to learn how to write a book review and how to write for Wikipedia, supported by volunteers from Wikimedia Netherlands. Students also acquire academic skills and get acquainted with primary sources which creates a stimulating educational environment and leads to critical thinking.

Chosen books
The students chose the book “The Nervous Mechanism of Plants”, published in 1926 by Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose. The book summarises his most recent findings in the area of plant physiology which investigate the different aspects of neural transmission in plants. Wikipedia article

And “Physiological Plant Anatomy“, published in 1884 by Gottlieb Haberlandt, which focuses on the investigation of each plant tissue layer and the final analysis of their physiological performance regarding the previous and includes drawings from Haberlandt himself. Wikipedia article

Student experience
Curious to know how students experienced this project? See what thoughts Emmeline, Verena and Nina had during this 4-week research project and get tips on how to consult primary sources and writing a Wikipedia article.

Normally students are shown around in the closed stacks during the kick-off of such a project. However during the pandemic, students joined a virtual Special Collections tour, whereby they got to see examples of botanical ‘classics’ and other collection highlights.

Our collaboration with Wikimedia NL is a fine example of how we advance education. By writing a Wikipedia article, students practice referencing, citing sources and writing from a neutral point of view. Did you know that we are the most active university in the Wikipedia Benelux Education Program?

Contact us
Maastricht University Library stimulates, supports and facilitates the use of UM’s Special Collections and the thoughtful integration of digital technology to advance education and research. Think about how using these books can add value to some of your courses. If you want to know more about how we can support you, contact curator Odin Essers via Ask your librarian.

  • Author: Souhaïlla Koudan


This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License.

Library update


Last updated: 10/02/21

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