Monday, March 18, 2013

Announcing the 2013-2014 Post-Doctoral Fellows

The Library Company is pleased to announce the recipients of National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and Program in Early American Economy and Society (PEAES) Post-Doctoral Fellowships for 2013-2014. Each of the fellows will spend a semester at the Library Company conducting research that will contribute to a book.

NEH Fellow Craig B. Hollander is about to receive his Ph.D. in History from Johns Hopkins University with a dissertation entitled “Underground on the High Seas: The Illegal Slave Trade of the Early Republic.” He details the innovative methods used by slave traders in the U.S., on the high seas, and in Africa to conceal their activities after 1808, when the U.S. prohibited Americans from participating in the transatlantic slave trade. He learned about the Library Company’s vast holdings in African-American history as a Barra Foundation Dissertation Fellow at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies.

NEH Fellow John M. Huffman is completing his Ph.D. in History at Harvard University. His dissertation, “Americans on Paper: Identity and Identification in the Early United States,” examines the identification papers in use in early American society. While identity has become a fashionable concept in early American studies, Mr. Huffman hopes to shed light on what he terms ‘practical identity’: “the bundle of categories and markers attached to an individual that determined her or his social and governmental access, eligibility, privilege, status, and possibilities.”

NEH Fellow Peter Jaros received his Ph.D. in English from Northwestern University and is now teaching at Franklin & Marshall College. Dr. Jaros also investigates identity in his two projects. He will be revising his dissertation, “Reading and Performing Character in the Early Republic,” which examines character (a concept more familiar to antebellum Americans than identity) as used by novelists, moralists, memoirists, and practitioners of the now-discredited science of physiognomy. He will also begin research on a new book project, “Incorporate Things: Persons and Corporations in Antebellum America.” Starting with the landmark Supreme Court case Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819), he will examine changing ideas of personhood in relation to the rise of the business corporation.

NEH Fellow Britt M. Rusert received her Ph.D. in English from Duke University and currently teaches in the Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. At the Library Company, she will complete her book, “Radical Empiricism: Fugitive Science and the Struggle for Emancipation in the Long Nineteenth Century,” which tells the forgotten story of how early black writers, performers, and non-professional scientists used popular science – including phrenology, anatomy, ethnology, and astronomy -- to construct a distinctively anti-racist science in opposition to the virulent racism that dominated mainstream science at the time.

PEAES Fellow Danielle Skeehan anticipates receiving her Ph.D. in English from Northwestern University this spring. Her dissertation “Creole Domesticity: Women, Commerce, and Kinship in Early Atlantic Writing” examines the intersection between Atlantic commerce and women’s activities as producers and exchangers of textiles. During her post-doc fellowship next Fall, she will study the ways in which articles of cloth and clothing serve as “material texts” that are essential to the social fabrication of eighteenth-century subjects and creole societies.

PEAES Fellow Dr. Daniel Peart is a lecturer in American History at Queen Mary University in London. Dr. Peart is studying the fostering of a national economy through the tariff policies of the North American states from 1816 to 1861. His research will take him broadly into the archival holdings of the Library Company, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and other Philadelphia research institutions.

Strategic Planning at the Library Company

You might wonder what is left to plan for a 282-year-old organization already recognized as being among a handful of the world’s very best research institutions. But, of course, as ways of doing research change and evolve—and as technology makes possible things that would have made Ben Franklin’s head spin (but just for a moment before he promptly saw its full potential and embraced it!)—an institution such as ours must adapt in order to continue to be in the forefront.

Over the recent decades we have grown in a number of directions—acquiring large and important private collections such as those of Michael Zinman and Robert L. McNeil, Jr.; adding a range of fellowships and creating a residential research center in the Cassatt House; undertaking the digitization of our collections; and increasing programs and collaborative partnerships. When we acquired the Carriage House on Irving Street behind the main library building, we knew we needed space to expand into, but we soon realized that we would have to do some strategic thinking in order to prioritize the needs properly.

Our shelves are overfull, but how much additional stack space do we need? What would happen to those storage needs if our collecting scope shifted by a couple of years? How much of our rare material do we want to digitize? Do we want to do this in partnership with other organizations, or on our own? Will we build new web interfaces for our digital files to allow them to be searched and displayed in a variety of ways? And, perhaps most urgently, Where is our next generation of members? What is most appealing to them about what we do?

Formulating answers to these questions and more has involved the entire staff and Board of the Library Company over the last six months, as well as some outside experts in digital humanities, organizational leadership, and public outreach, and we are very much looking forward to sharing the results with our constituents. Look for the public announcement of our final plan later this year!

PIFA Comes to the Library Company for Visual Resources

This spring, the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA) will bring together more than 150 partners in the arts for a month-long celebration of the city’s cultural life. With a “time machine” as the inspiration and a general theme of traveling through history, many PIFA participants have recognized the Library Company as an ideal place to research their productions.

If She Stood tells the story of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, a multi-racial collective of women formed in 1883 which fought to end slavery, protect the lives of newly freed people, and promote causes such as literacy and nutrition. For the production, playwright and director Ain Gordon and filmmaker Nadine Patterson researched the Library Company’s holdings in 19th-century African American and Women’s history. Our daguerreotypes of unidentified women were included in promotional materials. The accompanying exhibition, Freedom, Fire, and Promiscuous Meetings: The Philadelphia Community Lyceum, will include reproductions of materials from our collection, such as J. C. Wild’s 1838 lithograph Destruction by Fire of Pennsylvania Hall.

Where Heaven’s Dew Divides takes its name from an 18th-century Methodist prayer and focuses on the importance of religion for Philadelphia’s African American community during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Mixing dance forms, improvised vocalization, video projection, and original music and song, the production aims to capture the religious fervor and antislavery activism of early African American churches. Performers and choreographers Germaine Ingram and Leah Stein also conducted research in the Library Company’s collections and used images of key religious figures such as the Rev. Richard Allen for promotional materials. Visual materials from our holdings are also likely to be included in the performance as projected images.

If She Stood will be performed at the Painted Bride Art Center from April 26 to 28 and May 3 to 5. The accompanying exhibition will be on view at the Painted Bride from April 5 to May 18. Where Heaven’s Dew Divides is at the Kimmel Center from April 17 to 19.

A Crowd of Railroad Fans for Froio Talk

Almost 100 people attended Understanding the Pennsylvania Railroad: Contemporary Photographs in Response to the Historic Works of William H. Rau on March 7. Speaker Michael Froio is an artist and professor in Drexel University’s photography department. Taking inspiration from a 2002 exhibition of William Rau’s photographs of the Pennsylvania Railroad and the accompanying catalog edited by Library Company Director John Van Horne, Mr. Froio has devoted the last decade to creating an updated photographic record of the Pennsy’s engineering marvels.

Clarifying that he is not attempting to replicate the iconic Rau photographs, but to create new work that seeks to mine the same vein, Mr. Froio documents the rights of way, interchanges, towers, stations, and miscellany of what was once the world’s largest corporation. Clearly as moved by the visionary engineering feats performed by the Pennsy as by the artistic mastery of Rau, Froio mourns the loss of much of our railroad infrastructure and culture even as he acknowledges that it is still a dynamic, evolving system.
The lecture was held in conjunction with Frank Furness: Working on the Railroads. On view through April 19, the exhibition documents the range of projects that the famous Philadelphia architect undertook while working on commissions for America’s greatest railroad systems: the Philadelphia & Reading, the Baltimore & Ohio, and the Pennsylvania.
Michael Froio has exhibited his work at the Biggs Museum of American Art, Woodmere Art Museum, Mainline Art Center, the University of the Arts, and Moore College of Art and Design. He was awarded a New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellowship in 2009, and a Travel Grant from the Center for Emerging Visual Artists in 2007.

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