ASU collection of rare, historically significant books made accessible to the public online

October 12, 2020

Editor’s note:  This story is being highlighted in ASU Now’s year in review. Read more top stories from 2020.

Editor's note: This story is part of a series from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for National Book Month. Read more from this series: 16 books to read this Halloween.

“The Federalist Papers,” a collection of short essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay in 1788, is one of the most well-known pro-Constitution writings. A first-edition printing of this book, along with 23 other rare books and manuscripts related to significant figures, moments, ideas, debates and movements from American history, can be explored through Arizona State University’s Civic Classics Collection.

The collection, maintained by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, the Center for Political Thought and Leadership and ASU Library, covers a range of topics including the founding of America, political economy, race and America, civil rights history and activism, and first peoples.

Paul Carrese, founding director of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, first established the collection in 2017 in collaboration with senior members of the university administration. Since then, the collection has grown to further research in American political thought and support civic education within and beyond the classroom. 

Gettysburg Address

A photo of Abraham Lincoln’s
Gettysburg Address (1864) from 
a first-edition copy of "Autograph 
Leaves of Our Country's Authors," 
in Lincoln's handwriting from the 
Civic Classics Collection.

Jakub Voboril, a postdoctoral scholar in the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, joined the project after the first handful of items were purchased and helps coordinate the school’s efforts with the library.

“We slowly began to collect items such as a first-edition printing of ‘The Federalist;’ a first-edition printing of Adam Smith’s ‘The Wealth of Nations;’ a contemporaneous printing of the Seneca Falls Declaration or Declaration of Sentiments printed in Frederick Douglass’ North Star newspaper; two signed, first-edition books by Martin Luther King Jr.; a first-edition printing of Frederick Douglass’ biography; and many more,” Voboril said.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the books and manuscripts were regularly on display through public programming. Although no-cost appointments for individuals to view the collection are still currently available, those involved in the project hope to return to normal in-person programming as soon as possible. 

“We want to continue to increase access to the collection, and we are committed to the collection being a public civic education resource for all Arizonans,” Voboril said. “We are constantly brainstorming new ideas to allow more and more people to engage with it. Our virtual guide is a big step in this direction ... but nothing can quite replace seeing the books in person, so we want to hit the ground running when in-person display of our collection becomes possible again.”

Through the virtual guide, a number of materials from the collection have been made available online. On the website, users can explore different titles through videos, text, photographs, learning activities and more.

Voboril said he realized how powerful and moving these books can be when he took one of his classes to visit the library and see a few of the items up close and personal.

“I remember the awe one student displayed when she got to see our copy of ‘The Federalist’ and the excitement of another student upon seeing our copy of the Seneca Falls Declaration. I have been fortunate enough to see these responses subsequently replicated many times. It is wonderful to share a great treasure with others.”

Over the years, countless ASU staff and faculty have contributed to the development of the collection and its associated online resources including library leaders Jim O’DonnellLorrie McAllister and Kathy Krzys, as well as Voboril and Carrese. Throughout the fall semester, three undergraduate students, Anusha Natarajan, Bronwyn Doebbeling and Kathryn Clark have also been helping to improve the virtual guide.

Julie Tanaka, who recently joined the library as curator of rare books and manuscripts and interim head of distinctive collections, said she looks forward to bringing her expertise in rare materials and teaching with special collections to enhance the programming already in place and to expand the use of the collection.

“With the original core of the Civic Classics Collection as the foundation, I would like to build this collection into one of Distinctive Collections' featured collections, expanding the purview to provide the historical context for the ideas that are in these important pieces of American thought and to situate them in a comparative, global perspective,” Tanaka said.

Moving forward, those involved in the project are eager to add to the collection, with plans to widen the diversity of voices and topics included while placing American political thought in a global, comparative context. 

“My hope is that visitors to our collection will find themselves moved by what they see and motivated to engage seriously with the ideas and debates these items contain and become more thoughtful, reflective citizens,” Voboril said. “In this way, the collection would fulfill its purpose to advance both our school’s and the university’s efforts to promote civic education.

Interested in viewing the collection? Reach out to the library directly, or contact Voboril at

Two ASU geographers investigate COVID-19 challenges through a geospatial lens

Projects to investigate COVID-19 research credibility and food insecurities

October 12, 2020

COVID-19 caused a pandemic, but the challenges we face from it extend far beyond the virus. Two professors with Arizona State University's School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning have been selected for fellowships to further investigate these challenges.

The Geospatial Software Institute (GSI) Conceptualization Project, which is supported by the National Science Foundation, has selected 16 researchers from 13 institutions to tackle projects related to COVID-19 challenges using geospatial software and advanced capabilities in cyberinfrastructure and data science. A person wearing a mark reaches for grocery bags outside residence door The pandemic has required many people to replace in-store visits with online food shopping, an opportunity not afforded to those without internet access or a debit card. This disconnect has created food insecurities for many, a subject being researched by Daoqin Tong in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. Photo courtesy of

Vetting research through replication and reproduction

Peter Kedron, assistant professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and member of the school’s Spatial Analysis Research Center, will be using this fellowship to work with his colleague Joseph Holler, assistant professor at Middlebury College, to advance COVID-19 research through assessing credibility with reproductions and replications.

“To make the best possible decisions, we must know more than the results of recent COVID-19 research,” Kedron said. “We must also know how credible those results are because understanding the credibility of research allows us to appropriately weight findings when making decisions about pandemic response.”

To assess credibility, Kedron will incorporate students from ASU and Middlebury College into the research by working with them to see if the research can be reproduced and replicated.  

“Typically, we establish the credibility of research by conducting independent reproductions and replications,” Kedron explained. “However, the novelty and widespread impacts of COVID-19 have limited the opportunity to use reproductions and replications to assess what we think we know. This project will advance COVID-19 research by using reproductions to directly assess the reliability of the research projects of GSI fellows.”

The project will develop teaching modules, training materials, and a pedagogical model for teaching reproducible research practices, as well as the hands-on experience for students as they participate in a virtual workshop series on the tools and practices of reproducible research, support the development of pre-analysis plans, and attempt direct reproductions of COVID-19 research.

More people facing food insecurity during the pandemic

Even when not in the midst of a pandemic, many families and communities face food insecurity. When combined with the constraints of quarantine, including increasing unemployment rates, even more people are faced with this challenge.

“Adequate access to affordable healthy food has become a pressing societal issue due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Daoqin Tong, associate professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and member of the school’s Spatial Analysis Research Center. “The number of families who are food insecure and in need of food assistance has increased substantially during COVID-19. Meanwhile, the social distancing requirement is changing the way that people access food with many people replacing in-store visits with online food shopping and pickup.”

To help understand this issue better, Tong’s project combines a large food access spatial dataset and relevant socioeconomic and demographic data to examine how economic stress and the new rules for obtaining food impact healthy food access during COVID-19. Her study will also produce a food access map to compare the patterns before and during COVID-19, examine the potential factors associated with the food access pattern change, and explore strategies that could be used to help improve healthy food access in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

“The project will be conducted in Maricopa County where healthy food access represents a critical challenge,” Tong said.

With a population of more than 4 million people, the region is among the fastest growing in the nation and one where food access and insecurity was a critical issue even prior to COVID-19.

“We plan to share the research findings through maps and summary statistics with food assistance programs, nonprofit organizations and government agencies in Maricopa County.”

ASU among esteemed group selected for GSI fellowship

The GSI Conceptualization Project is supported by the National Science Foundation, and carried out in partnership with the American Association of Geographers, Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc., the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, Open Geospatial Consortium, and University Consortium for Geographic Information Science. Technical and cyberinfrastructure support are provided by the CyberGIS Center for Advanced Digital and Spatial Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

In total, 16 fellows from 13 institutions were selected to engage in projects of a wide range of subjects with roots in the COVID-19 crisis, including mobility patterns, access to health care and food systems, and racial and disability disparities during the pandemic.

“Geospatial data and tools have enormous potential for helping us address the challenges of COVID-19, and these 16 fellows have exactly the right qualifications and experience,” said Michael Goodchild, research professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and chair of the NSF project advisory committee.

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