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Rare book art: UWM Special Collections hosts MIAD students

Continuing a decades-long partnership, students from the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) visited UW-Milwaukee’s Special Collections to research miniature books for Professor Leslie Fedorchuk’s “Magical Miniatures” design elective class.

Students in Magical Miniatures, whose majors range from Illustration and Communication Design to Fine Art + New Studio Practice and Product Design, are tasked with creating books less than three inches tall—no small feat, as miniature books present difficult and unique design and structural challenges.

To assist in researching the history of this format, students took a field trip at the end of January to visit Max Yela, head of UW-Milwaukee’s Special Collections. Yela pulled and presented a range of miniature books from the library’s collection, noting design choices and construction techniques, so that students could explore, handle and research the material.

This most recent visit is one of many in a long relationship between two colleges. Yela and Fedorchuk are both committed to expanding students’ horizons: The two instructors co-taught a book arts class in 2013, open to both UW-Milwaukee and MIAD students. For over a decade, Fedorchuk has been bringing students to do research in Special Collections. Yela has in turn visited MIAD to attend final criticism sessions for Fedorchuk’s classes.

“Our specialty is art and art practices, so for the MIAD student, this resource is invaluable,” explains Yela. “I encourage MIAD students to consider UW-Milwaukee Special Collections as their own repository of rare and special source material.”

“The opportunity that students have to use this collection, and the welcoming way that Max invites them in always raises the bar for student work and discussion,” continues Fedorchuk. “They have a better sense of the history of the genre, as well as the possibilities for using the form of the book.”

UW-Milwaukee Special Collections is open to the public, and Yela encourages MIAD students and interested community members alike to visit. “As a public resource, [Special Collections] is essentially owned by the public, and we as librarians are caretakers of this public trust,” Yela says. “The materials in Special Collections are not your everyday printed objects; they are artifactual evidence that are either unique or hard to come by (a 15th-century book, for instance, or a contemporary artist’s book produced in an edition of five). Where else would you have full, hands-on access to such material without a barrier or paywall?”

Learn about UWM Special Collections, read more about the MIAD visit and explore MIAD’s book arts minor!


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