Daily Archives: April 19, 2013

Hannah Mahoney wins an award

History student, SCARC student worker, and all around fabulous person Hannah Mahoney won one of the Libraries’  Undergraduate Research Awards this year for her paper “A Global Affair: Understanding 1960s Geopolitics Through the World’s Fair.” The ceremony was yesterday, which meant lots of clapping and a few tears of pride…

The award for humanities evaluated papers on these criteria:

  • Creativity, originality, and the extent of the use of library services, collections, and resources, including, but not limited to print, non-print resources, databases, and/or primary sources
  • Exceptional ability to locate, select, evaluate, and synthesize library resources
  • Demonstration of the use of these resources through the creation of an original project
  • Clear and effective writing skills
  • Responsible use of information including appropriate and accurate citations and credits
  • An essay that provides evidence of significant personal growth in methods of research and inquiry

Hannah has had lots of experience researching and working in archives, always showing herself to be curious, engaged, and focused on the stories of the people in archives. Her excitement for public history is infectious and she always looks for ways to engage with people and facilitate their own engagement with historic materials. The rest of this post has excerpts from her speech yesterday, which I think really capture why librarians and archivists keep doing what we do!

I want to give a special thanks to Professor Nichols, who I have been lucky enough to have as a mentor this year. I never thought I would meet the professor who would impact me most in college, during my last year. His guidance helped me craft a research paper that I am extremely proud of and made me more confident in my own abilities as an aspiring public historian.

I would also like to thank my research assistant. You may all be thinking, an undergraduate who has a research assistant?! But don’t worry I am just talking about my Dear Ole’ Dad. While all the other students and Dad’s were participating in Dad’s Weekend activities my Dad and I were upstairs looking through rolls and rolls of microfilm. Thank you so much for spending your last Dad’s Weekend helping me research.

A glance at the title, “A Global Affair: Understanding 1960s Geopolitics Through the World’s Fair”, may lead you to the think that you have to be an expert in history, on the 1960’s or on geopolitics, to understand the paper, but that is not the case. I wrote this paper for the non-experts. I used language that would be appealing to all audiences, found sources that would be easily accessible and included photos to keep it interesting.

I have a professor who says, “you shouldn’t end your research at Wikipedia, but you can start it there,” and that is just what I did. I began by writing down a list of key terms I found on the Wikipedia page and entered them into databases such as Academic Search Premier and JSTOR. That yielded a total of one article, but I was able to take the sources from that article and find more leads. As I already mentioned, I used the microfilm rolls from upstairs to look at the New York Times, giving extra attention to the “Letters to the Editors” because I thought they would give interesting points of view. My “neatest” source traveled to me from Cornell. It was a booklet on international exhibitors at the fair that the fair committee at put together. It was a great primary source.

I am proud to say that I am still researching! There are still a few avenues I haven’t explored, mostly the avenue to the New York Public Library to see the New York World’s Fair Collection. I will be taking donations for my trip after this speech!

Friday Feature: Sir Hugh Plat’s The Jewel House of Art and Nature

The Special Collections and Archives Research Center recently acquired an edition of Sir Hugh Plat’s The Jewel House of Art and Nature, published in London in 1653.

This collection of “diverse new and conceited Experiments” compiles recipes, household hints, and practical directions on an impressive variety of useful topics, including: “how to write a letter secretly,” “how to walk safely upon a high scaffold with danger of falling,” “to dry gun-powder without danger of fire,” “to help a Chimnie that is on fire presently,” “to prevent drunkenesse,” and “to help Venison that is tainted.” Mixed in among these trinkets are short treatises on “the Art of Memory,” “the Art of Molding and Casting,” a philosophical treatise on soil and marl, and even alchemical experiments. Intended to appeal to an audience as diverse as its contents, the book contains advices useful to travelers, farmers, housewives, soldiers, cooks, merchants, apothecaries, builders, distillers, and brewers, or indeed anyone who had “either wit, or will, to apply them.”

Plat frequently credits the source of his knowledge on these topics. Usually personal acquaintances, these range from seamen who shared various pieces of useful knowledge learned overseas, to clerics and barbers, to laborers and tradesmen.

Plat’s eclectic compilation provides a fascinating glimpse of the daily needs, desires, and concerns of people living and working in the mid-seventeenth century. It has an important place in the history of science, as it reflects what Deborah Harkness has called “vernacular science”—developments in engineering, chemistry, nutrition, medicine, botany, agricultural science, and physics as achieved by the common people as they  experimented and progressed within these areas. The Jewel House of Art and Nature joins other examples of this democratic genre in our rare book collections dating from the 16th to the 20th centuries.