Recently an email arrived to the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology from a seventh grader from Birchwood School in Cleveland, OH. She wrote:
“I am participating in National History Day, a competition where a student researches and presents a topic that fits in the year's theme, which is this year Debate and Diplomacy in History: Successes, Failures, Consequences. I have chosen to present the debate surrounding heliocentrism in a website. My website placed first at District and is moving to the State competition.
I am visiting the Washington, D.C. area over the weekend and Monday and returning on Tuesday. I am writing to request an appointment to visit the Dibner Library to refer to/view primary resources about geocentrism/heliocentrism (books, tools written/used by Kepler, Galileo, Copernicus, and others). Could I please get an appointment for Monday?”
We were happy to give an appointment to the student and pulled appropriate primary sources for the visit. She came with her mother, both equipped with a camera. We spent a good hour looking at the rare books and talking about them, while she took notes, pictures and video clips. It was a joy to work with this young researcher and both she and her mother expressed that seeing the Renaissance and 17th century editions of Ptolemy, Copernicus, Galileo and Hevelius was one of the most uplifting experiences in their lives.
Johannes Hevelius, Machinae Coelestis Pars Prior [and Posterior]
[Celestial machines, or astronomical instruments], 1673-79.
It is more than possible to repeat such experiences and this is one way to expand services in the Dibner Library. In addition to our resident scholars, visiting college and graduate classes, we are glad to have younger audiences to come and view rare books (naturally with necessary precautions.) Looking at the sophisticated website of our young Monday visitor one can realize that scholarly research can start at seventh grade or maybe even earlier.
p.s. our young researcher's website WON! "My website won at the State competition and I will be going to the National competition [which runs from June 13 through 17 in Washington, D.C.] Thank you very much for the opportunity to research at the Dibner Library and for your insights!