Visual Encounters With the Past: Teaching Visual Literacy to Enhance Historical and Cultural Understanding

Publication Date


Document Type

Book Chapter

Organizational Units

University Libraries


Critical visual literacy, Information literacy, Librarian curator faculty collaborations, Primary source research


At the University of Denver, the reference librarians and special collections curator have developed strategies to incorporate visual literacy into instructional sessions across multiple disciplines. In this chapter, we will discuss our collaborations with faculty in anthropology and in history to help students interpret tangible and digital archival visual information that will inform their understanding of historical contexts and meet learning outcomes in two classes: “Native American Resistance in the Digital Age” and “World War I.” Whenever we partner with faculty to include visual literacy in non-arts courses, we start with course outcomes and work with the faculty to determine how the incorporation of visual literacy can help reach those goals. Our process is iterative, practice based, flexible, and ever evolving. This chapter will provide practical strategies that educators can use to implement this type of collaboration at their own institutions.