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Dodd Center assuming integral role in academic programs

When the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center made its debut two years ago, it took President Clinton to introduce it to the world. It was an auspicious beginning and the center has lived up to its promise.

President Clinton spoke on October 15, 1995, at the start of a year of academic, cultural and other events designed to reflect upon the Nuremberg war crimes trials and the status of human rights today.

Now the center's facilities and collections have become an integral part of academic and scholarly activities at the University, from providing first-rate meeting and conference space to drawing collections of primary materials in a range of academic disciplines that can be used in research and curriculum development, and attracting national and international scholars to the University.

"Our first year focused on special events and programming. This past year, we have begun to develop long-term relationships with the campus community," says Thomas Wilsted, director of the Dodd Center.

Construction of the center enabled the University Libraries to consolidate the collections and services of its archives, historical manuscripts and special collections departments in one place. The center's state-of-the-art, environmentally controlled archive has attracted 25 additional collections in the last year alone.

"We are trying to build collections that support the research interests of the University," Wilsted says. "But we are also trying to build collections which have national significance. We can do this because we have a facility that has adequate storage space and is specifically designed for the preservation of archival and manuscript material."

Moving the archives and special collections to the center also has increased their visibility, Wilsted says. There was a 20 percent increase last year in use of materials.

"I think this is due to the fact that we are getting more materials and descriptions of the collections out on the Web and the On-Line Computer Library Center, which is the biggest international biblio-graphic utility," he says, "so people are learning about us and coming in and requesting materials.".

Already scholars from Japan, Newfoundland and throughout the United States have come to the center to use its primary source materials. Wilsted would like some of these scholars to come in for a semester or a year at a time to do research based on the collections and at the same time teach a course.

"This will build stronger relationships with departments and those scholars who come from other universities," he says. "They will be exposed to the center's special collections and teach in their respective disciplines."

The increased emphasis on the University's archival collections has created opportunities for academic units to incorporate primary materials into the curriculum. Last spring, for example, a group of graduate students from the School of Nursing compiled an exhibit on how war has influenced the nursing profession, using Civil War photographs and letters written by Ella Wolcott, a volunteer nurse, from the center's archives of nursing leadership.

"We were able to show that archival materials have other purposes than just research," says Wilsted. Some of the materials in the center "can bring into the classroom a uniqueness not found in a textbook," he adds. "They can ... give students an opportunity to study subjects in different ways."

Last year Douglas Schumann, a master's student in the School of Education, spent three months as an intern at the center, developing curriculum materials that enable teachers to hold a mock Nuremberg trial using the documents as resources. The materials are part of the papers of former U.S. Sen. Thomas J. Dodd, for whom the center is named. Dodd served as executive trial counsel to the chief prosecutor of the Nuremberg International Tribunal after World War II and his papers contain more than 100 boxes of materials dealing with the Holocaust.

Tim Weinland, professor and head of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the School of Education, says the materials offer insights into the issues underlying the Holocaust. "This activity will give children an opportunity to understand in greater depth some of the significant legal and moral questions that arose during the trial," he says.

The School of Education is also drawing on materials from the Dodd Center's children's literature collection to develop a one-day conference for primary school teachers that will be held in November, a day before the sixth annual Connecticut Book Fair. Teachers will meet children's authors and illustrators and "hopefully these teachers will get even more excited about the work of certain authors or illustrators and carry it back to their students," says Judith Meagher, associate dean in the School of Education.

The children's literature collection includes more than 15,000 volumes, as well as original art and manuscripts from authors and illustrators.

"I think it will be interesting and useful for kids to see that a book just didn't happen without people changing words," says Weinland. "Kids are very reluctant to change their writing. This author's program will show kids that writers who get paid for their work actually make changes in their writing."

Wilsted says center staffers will continue to look for opportunities to develop curriculum materials based on other collections.

The center also has enhanced the opportunities for collaboration across disciplines, last month joining other University departments to launch a new lecture series focusing on nature and the environment that will bring outstanding scholars and researchers to the Storrs campus. "The Dodd Center has been one of the key players in promoting collegial interaction between the departments to put together the Edwin Way Teale Lecture Series," says Greg Anderson, head of the department of ecology and evolutionary biology.

Teale, one of the best-loved naturalists of the 20th century, donated his literary manuscripts to the UConn Libraries. His widow donated additional papers and a large part of their personal library.

Wilsted hopes the conferences and lectures, and papers that are published using the collections as sources, will not only encourage the campus community to use the collections, but outside researchers as well. "Conferences and lectures will allow the center to be at the heart of intellectual discussion.".

Luis Mocete