I defended my dissertation on May 29th (the day before my birthday!), and since then it’s been quite the thrill ride over here. I’ve moved to Atlanta and started a job as Rare Books Curator at Kennesaw State University, bought a house, and am doing tons of awesome work (as well as some fun travel). I have a new book in the works (two, actually) that deal with culinary history and Colonial England, exhibits, and lots of other things that I’ll share more detail about later. For now, here’s the link to my dissertation, now that I’ve graduated and it’s gone live. I also just had an article based on my dissertation accepted in Library Quarterly, so that’s great news too! It’s crazy to think it’s been almost a year since I defended (and about 10 months since I ended my panic-inducing job search). I can’t wait to see what the next year has in store for me!
I’ve been talking a lot about my dissertation lately (surprise), and wanted to go ahead and stick a quick run down of what I’m doing here too. I’m very excited about the work I’m doing, and I would love to hear your feedback! I’m also happy to share my documentation and talk more about my process with anyone who is interested.
What is this project about?
I started thinking about this topic after being encouraged to look at Ernestine Rose by one of my mentors. The project has evolved over time, and while her career is still the jumping off point, I’m now focusing on her work at the Harlem Public Library in particular. She was at this library from 1920-1942. There are a handful of articles in our field that argue that Rose helped make the library into an innovative community space and an integral part of the Harlem Renaissance (e.g. Anderson, 2003; Jenkins, 1990). While she initially worked to integrate the library by hiring people of color, there are some indications that she dampened her support for the advancement and inclusion of these same folks later on in their careers (Whitmire 2007, 2014).
I’m using the documents held in several New York City repositories (New York Public Library’s 42nd Street Branch and Schomburg Center, Columbia University archives, and New York Municipal Archives) that relate to the library to describe the library, and also to test two theories (more on why that matters later). There are a couple challenges/considerations that I want to mention right off the bat. My research is very context-heavy, so it’s vital for me to describe that context and how the library fits within it, rather than describing the library as though it exists in a vacuum. Equally as important is discussing the role of other people besides Rose within the library. While my focus is on her career, I don’t want to risk overshadowing the contributions of others by only talking about her.
Why does it matter?
There are several big reasons (in my opinion) why this project is important. First of all, most of what’s out there focuses on the library’s role in the Harlem Renaissance, where became a well-known center for events and a place where authors often went to write (Anderson, 2003; Jenkins, 1990). There is not a lot of information currently about the library during the Great Depression and the beginning years of World Way II, both of which would have presumably had a big impact on the library. In addition, no one has thoroughly discussed her work and the library within the broader context of New York City, the New York Public Library system, or society as a whole throughout this 22 year period.
Additionally, no one has applied the two theoretical frameworks I’m using to historical research. The first of these is a framework I’m developing to analyze change (called, appropriately, Change in Historic Institutions). I’ve made a model of this, and plan to share the model in a more detailed post later on, but for now I’ll just focus on the broad concepts. This model focuses on identifying change, discussing whether that change is innovative or adaptive, and its impact and perceptions. Second, I’m looking at Information Worlds, which envisions actors within the variety of contexts they navigate, and uses five concepts (Information value, information behavior, social norms, social types, and boundaries) to describe those worlds and the interaction between them. Both theories are very broad and adaptable, and very context-focused, making them appropriate for this study. These are drastically oversimplified discussions of both theories, so if you have questions, I’m happy to go into further detail!
Finally, I think this work has the potential to be used by professionals in public library settings. When she was working in Harlem, Ernestine Rose had already had some experience in her career (she was about 40 when she took the job), and would have needed to draw on this experience while remaining adaptable and flexible to meet the needs of a quickly changing neighborhood. Her employees also faced discrimination from the library system, and used their own experiences to make the library a dynamic and community-oriented place. The story of Rose and the library as a whole might offer some useful ideas for modern librarians on what to do (and perhaps what not to do) in their own institutions.
References for your reading pleasure:
Anderson, S. A. (2003). “The Place to Go”: The 135th Street Branch Library and the Harlem Renaissance. Library Quarterly, 73(4): 383–421.
Jenkins, B. L. (1990). A White Librarian in Black Harlem: Study to Chronicle and Assess Ernestine Rose’s Work during the Renaissance in Harlem. Library Quarterly 60, 216–231.
Whitmire, E. (2007). Breaking the Color Barrier: Regina Andrews and the New York Public Library. Libraries & the Cultural Record, 42(4), 409–421.
Whitmire, E. (2014). Regina Andrews, Harlem Renaissance Librarian. Urbana-Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press.
Many of the opportunities I’ve come across this week are interdisciplinary, so I have lumped them into broader categories than I might usually. As always, add any to the list that I’ve overlooked!
Library Science, Museum Studies, and Book Studies
The Bibliographical Society: A number of fellowships and bursaries are available for varies interest areas.
Internships: At the Smithsonian; covers a broad range of activities.
Museum Studies Internship: Philadelphia Museum of Art (unpaid).
Collections Intern (unpaid): International Center for Photography.
Summer Internships: National Gallery of Art.
Visiting Fellowship in Law Librarianship: University of London Institute of Advanced Legal Studies.
Jan Merrill-Oldham Professional Development Grant: For students and new professionals interested in preservation.
Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences:
Botstiber Felowship: Grants for work that explores relationship between US and Austria.
Bertha Klausner Research Fellowship: For travel to American Heritage Center.
Clements Center for Southwest Studies: Provides support for new scholars writing books.
Clayman Institute for Gender Studies: Research fellowships.
W.R. Poage Legislative Library: Research grants to use the archives.
Tanner Humanities Center: Fellowships for humanistic research in a variety of fields. Middle East studies and the study of women writers are particularly welcome.
Naropa University: Visiting fellowships for scholars, activists, artists, and others studying Buddhism.
Post Graduate Fellowships in Islamic Art and Culture: At the Bard Graduate Center, NYC.
Fellowships in American Art: At the Smithsonian.
Long Term Fellowships in the Humanities: At the Newberry Library.
Research Fellowships: At the John Carter Brown Library; for Colonial American studies.
Visiting Research Scholars: NYU Institute for the Study of the Ancient World.
UIUC Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellowship: In African American Studies.
Janet Arnold Award: Society of Antiquaries of London; for those researching Western dress.
Bolin Dissertation and Post-MFA Fellowships: For members of underrepresented groups.
Political Science Funding: Through the NSF.
Wills Research Fellowship: Tennessee Historical Society.
Mellon Pre-doctoral Fellowship: Cold War/Post-1945 History.
Neiman Fellowships: For arts and culture journalism.
I Tatti Fellowship: For work on the Italian Renaissance.
Fellows Program: At the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies.
John M. Carey Fellowship: For researching Wyoming and Western history.
Visiting Scholars Program: Institute for Research on Poverty.
Mellon PostDoc Teaching Fellowship: In Penn School of Arts and Sciences.
Research Fellowships and Grants: American Statistical Association.
Funded Fellowships: Through the American Research Center in Egypt.
Woodress Visiting Fellowships: At the Willa Cather Archive.
Postdoctoral Fellowships in East Asian Studies: Johns Hopkins University.
Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grants: National Science Foundation.
Philip Jones Fellowship: Ephemera Society of America.
Lewis Walpole Fellowship and Travel Grants: For those wishing to do research at the Walpole library.
Hoover Library Travel Grant: For conducting research at the Hoover presidential library in Iowa.
Terra Foundation for American Art: Scholarships and Grants
Drugs, Security and Democracy Program: For researchers who are PhD candidates or recent PhD recipients.
Research Fellowships: John Carter Brown library.
Sidney Sussex Research Fellowships: For three years from September 1, 2012. One for arts and social sciences, one for “hard” sciences.
Rowntree Charitable Trust: For those studying the conflict in Northern Ireland.
Palestine Exploration Fund : For study of biblical Palestine and the Levant.
Visiting Fellowships: School of Advanced Study, University of London.
Centenary Bursaries: Through the British School at Athens.
Fellowship Programme: University of London Institute of Advanced Legal Studies.
Anthropology Field School: In Malta. Submit research concepts (can be unrelated to Malta) for consideration.
UNESCO/Japan Young Researchers Fellowships: For researchers from developing countries.