Monday, April 15, 2013

Announcing the Mellon Scholars in Early African American History

Detail of woodcut from The American Anti-Slavery Almanac from 1837 (Boston 1836).
This June, the Library Company will launch its Mellon Scholars Program, a four-year initiative designed to strengthen the field of Early African American History by promoting scholarship in this area and helping to diversify the ranks of academic historians. Through a $425,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the program will encourage young scholars from underrepresented backgrounds and others to pursue historical research in early African American history, help prepare them for graduate careers, and offer fellowship support for research in our collections. This new initiative builds on the existing Program in African American History, which was founded in 2007 through a grant from the Albert M. Greenfield Foundation to formalize the Library Company’s pioneering contributions to the field.

The Mellon Scholars program will support scholars who lack traditional professional resources by offering research internships for undergraduates and summer research preparedness workshops for those applying to or having recently entered graduate programs, and funding four short-term fellowships, one dissertation fellowship, and one post-doctoral fellowship annually. On an ongoing basis, the Program in African American History will also conduct outreach initiatives to under-resourced colleges and universities to make their faculty aware of what we have to offer, and will engage in a range of activities designed to promote a supportive professional network among EAAH scholars. The program is designed to have lasting impact by nurturing and supporting the progress of promising scholars from their final undergraduate year throughout the duration of their careers.

In addition to bringing together scholars, the Program in African American History also educates and engages the general public through exhibitions, lectures, and programs. The Library Company recently launched a Facebook pagefor the Program in African American History to increase public awareness of our collections and contributions to Early African American History. With incomparable collections, a stellar reputation in the world of research libraries, a distinguished network of fellowship alumni and advisors, and institutional relationships with a diverse range of educational and cultural institutions, the Library Company is uniquely placed to advance understanding of Early African American History and provide a support system for promising academics. 

Going Beyond the Reading Room

From "If the foot fits," "Beyond the Reading Room," March 2013.
Our blog “Beyond the Reading Room” has become one of the best places to learn about what goes on behind-the-scenes at the Library Company. Started in 2009, our staff members share their latest curatorial discoveries and research interests. This March, Chief of Reference Connie King was able to identify the mystery women from the American Book of Beauty by reaching out to our dedicated readers. Curator of Art and Artifacts Linda August shared the recent discovery of a missing foot from William Penn’s desk, and earlier this year, Digital Collections Manager Nicole Joniec explored the life of magician, necromancer, and ventriloquist Signor Blitz by examining objects from the Print Department.

From "Medallions on 19th Century Bindings," "Beyond the Reading Room,"August 2012.
These informal blog posts from our staff members provide insight into new topics of exploration in their research. Chief of Conservation Jennifer Rosner wrote a blog entry about papier-mâché bindings while completing her essay “Papier-Mâché Bindings: Shining in Black and Gorgeous with Pearl and Gold,” published in Suave Mechanicals: Essays on the History of Bookbinding, vol. 1. Concetta Barbera, Digitization Technician, studied Victorian photocollages to create an invitation for our “Philadelphia on Stone” exhibition, and her work on our upcoming exhibition “Remnants of Everyday Life” is sure to be fodder for future blog posts.

Meet Louise Beardwood

While the Library Company depends on financial support from individuals, foundations, and other sources to maintain our standards as one of the country’s preeminent research libraries, a dedicated corps of volunteers makes equally valuable contributions. Mrs. Louise Beardwood, a retired librarian, spends one morning a week in the Print Department, researching hard-to-identify images, conducting searches of the catalogs, and entering information about readers and reproduction rights into a database. Along with her professional skills, Mrs. Beardwood brings a willingness to be helpful in any capacity, which makes her a particularly invaluable volunteer. Although she’s not sure just how long she’s been volunteering at the Library Company, Mrs. Beardwood knows what keeps her coming back. “The women in the Print room,” she says, “are unfailingly considerate, polite, charming, and attentive to the needs of their readers.”
Volunteer Louise Beardwood (r) speaks with Curator of Prints and Photographs Sarah Weatherwax 
For more information about volunteer opportunities at the Library Company contact Membership and Development Coordinator Emily O’Rourke at or consult the current listing of open volunteer opportunities at

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