Friday, May 23, 2014

Inaugurating the Mellon Scholars Program

Next month the Program in African American History welcomes its inaugural Mellon Scholars. The Program, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is a comprehensive approach to developing a pipeline of diverse scholars of early African American History. Three interns will join us for four weeks to gain experience in original archival research; guidance on applying to graduate school and developing research agendas; and exposure to the work of research libraries. Utilizing the Library Company's African Americana Collection, each intern will develop a research project that will culminate in a short research paper and a capstone colloquium presentation.

Overlapping with the internship program, our weeklong Mellon Scholars Workshop will host eight students who either plan to attend graduate school or are in the early years of a graduate program in library science or early African American history. The workshop consists of professional development sessions, networking with and mentoring by scholars of early African American history, field trips to local archives of African American history, and research in the Library Company’s African Americana Collection. Internship and workshop participants were selected through a competitive application process, with more than half representing historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

Kwasi Agyemang, Sherri Cummings, and JaMarcus Underwood were selected as Mellon Scholar interns. Kwasi Agyemang is a graduate of George Washington University with a BA in History. He currently works as a research assistant at the Driskell Center for the Study of the Visual Arts and Culture of the African Diaspora at the University of Maryland. Kwasi wants to pursue graduate education in public history. Sherri Cummings received her BA in Africana Studies from CUNY, Brooklyn College. She wants to pursue a PhD study of colonialism in relation to Africa and the African Diaspora. JaMarcus Underwood is currently pursuing an MA in History from North Carolina Central University. He is interested in earning his PhD and, through an internship at the Museum of North Carolina History, has realized he wants to work as a museum curator or an archival researcher.

Marquis Bey (Lebanon Valley College), Menika Dirkson (Villanova University), William Harrison Graves (University of Maryland College Park), Maria Esther Hammack (East Carolina University), Harvey Long (Winston-Salem State University), Tasha Martinez (Bowie State University), Leroy Myers, Jr. (University of Maryland), and Jessica Wicks (Howard University) were chosen as Mellon Scholars Workshop participants.

Abolition Website

Since 2006, incoming Library Company Director Richard Newman has on five occasions taught well-received summer seminars at the Library Company for K-12 teachers on the Abolition Movement. In 2012, the National Endowment for the Humanities—which funds the seminars—provided an additional $10,000 grant designed to supplement the seminar’s pedagogy with digital innovation. The result, unveiled this year, was model educational resource for both teachers and students based on the seminar curriculum that can greatly extend its reach.

The project includes a virtual seminar experience, lesson plans, a map of important sites in the historyof anti-slavery movements around the world, and a YouTube channel playlist of featured seminar speakers and historic site tours, as well as extensive links to primary source materials. The most popular feature has proved to be a map application that allows for crowdsourcing of historic data. As a vehicle for engagement with website visitors, the map application will be an integral part of the site’s growth and sustainability.

“Outsulating” the Ridgway Library

In a continuing effort to maintain our nearly 50-year-old building so that it will continue to meet our needs for many years to come, we have been making a series of capital improvements. Currently two major projects are underway, partially supported by a RACP (Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program) grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Contractors from Domus Construction are insulating the stack floors of our building from the outside in order to greatly increase our energy efficiency. When the building was constructed (in the days of 29-cent gasoline!) no vapor barrier or insulation of any kind was used – just cinder blocks and either cast concrete panels (on the front and back facades) or brick (on the sides). The illustration shows how we are adding a 5-inch layer of “outsulation” to floors three through seven. Once the “top coat” is applied to the insulation material, the appearance of the building will be pretty much the same as it has always been (an important consideration to admirers of mid-twentieth-century brutalist architecture!). But while looking about the same, the building will be much better suited to the storage of our priceless collections – and we will save significantly on energy costs into the bargain.

The second project involves the Limbach Company (which has been maintaining our mechanical systems since the building went up) replacing the old pneumatic controls governing our HVAC system with a digital control system. The new equipment will enable us to monitor the conditions throughout the building much more easily and accurately (and even remotely) and adjust the equipment as necessary to ensure the most stable and comfortable environment for all the “residents” of the building (both animate and inanimate).

Summer is for Internships

As in past years, this summer a number of departments will have the benefit of talented young interns—including several funded by prestigious programs such as the highly competitive International Fine Print Dealers Association Foundation Internship. Join staff members in welcoming Alison Van Denend, Mikaela Maria, Jo Dutilloy, Laura Michel, Paul Bierman, and Giles Holbrow, and welcoming back Emma Ricciardi.

In 2014, the International Fine Print Dealers Association (IFPDA) Foundation will fund a curatorial internship for Alison Van Denend. Alison holds a BA in Art History and French from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI, and expects to receive an MA in Art History with a Certificate in Curatorial Studies from Rutgers this May. She has previously worked as a curatorial intern at the New-York Historical Society, the Montclair Art Museum, and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. Alison will serve as the Curatorial Assistant to the Print Department, helping with accessioning, arrangement, and description of items and collections. She will also assist with reference and public outreach related to the print collections and will contribute posts to the Library Company’s blog and to our other social media outlets about her experience working with the print collections.

In coordination with the Visual Culture Program (VCP at LCP) and the Program in African American History, Mikaela Maria, a Master’s of Public History student at Rutgers will be creating an interactive website showcasing our rare antebellum friendship albums compiled by Amy Matilda Cassey and sisters Martina and Mary Anne Dickerson. Jo Dutilloy, a rising sophomore at Bryn Mawr College, will be joining us through the Tri-Co Digital Humanities Initiative to work on another aspect of this project. She will be creating or expanding Wikipedia entries for the Cassey album contributors as well as mapping contributors’ residences and organizational affiliations, making it possible to include a geospatial component. Artifacts of African American women active in the arts, literary, and antislavery communities, the albums are the focus of a digital humanities initiative in the early stages of development in collaboration with professors and students at Rochester Institute of Technology, Swarthmore College, Bryn Mawr College, and Rutgers University. The beta site will include transcriptions of album essays, annotations, and a timeline.

Laura Michel, soon to become a PhD candidate in US History at the University of Maryland at College Park, will be working independently with Librarian Jim Green on a project to identify rare 18th-century books in the Union Library Company of Hatboro (Pa.) for possible deposit at the Library Company.

Swarthmore College rising senior Paul Bierman will intern in the Development Department for ten weeks beginning June 23. Drawn to the opportunity to learn from Swarthmore alumna Molly Roth about possibilities for non-academic applications of training in Anthropology, Paul has funding from the College to support his time as an intern. He will help research the biographies of historic shareholders, assist with a database migration, and provide logistical support for special events.

Giles Holbrow, an undergraduate student in Rochester Institute of Technology’s Imaging and Photographic Technology department, will be assisting the Library Company with digital imaging as well as other digital projects including a project to make selections from Peter Collinson’s copy of a rare 1739 History of London accessible online.

Finally, Emma Ricciardi, a graduate student of Library Information and Science at Rutgers, is returning for her second summer as the Reading Room Assistant. Not actually an intern but rather a temporary staff member, she will be assisting with reader services as well working on special projects including cataloging modern reference books and adding material to the gay@lcp blog accompanying our “That’s So Gay” exhibition.

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