Public Humanities Fellows

Tabb Center Public Humanities Fellows are non-institutionally affiliated organizers, artists, cultural workers, public historians, and knowledge-creators who mobilize and creatively interpret materials from the Sheridan Libraries’ rare book, manuscript, and archival collections.

Nicoletta Darita de la Brown
Nicoletta Darita de la Brown

Nicoletta Darita de la Brown

Nicoletta Darita de la Brown is an award-winning interdisciplinary artist and chamána (shaman) who comes from a long line of healers. She is Black Latinx; proud to be a first-generation Panamanian born in the United States. Her artworks re-conceive the life of an artist as thriving, nourishing herself and others through her art practice. Her performances have been staged at The Phillips Collection, Washington DC; The Smithsonian, Washington DC; and The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore MD. Her video and installations have been presented at The Tribeca Film Festival, New York, NY; the Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore MD; IA&A at Hillyer Gallery, Washington DC; and Cardinal Gallery, Baltimore MD.

As a Public Humanities Fellow with the Winston Tabb Special Collections Research Center, de la Brown will explore and respond to Special Collections materials, especially collections focused on black women, through video artwork, self-portrait photography, and site-specific performance art. During her archival research she will ask a variety of questions: “How many black women are living in the archives? How many black women are hidden in plain sight? What happens to us when we are invisible? How can I feel seen as a black woman?” The project celebrates ourselves out loud, on purpose, and unapologetically.

Learn about de la Brown’s exhibition Be(longing): Unveiling the Imprint of Black Women Hidden in Plain Sight

Dean’s Undergraduate Research Award (DURA) Fellows

Rex (Youjian) Xiao: Revisiting Teenage Counterculture through Midcentury Romance Comics (2023)

Rex Xiao is conducting research with Special Collections’ romance comic book collection, exploring midcentury American life and teenage counterculture. By examining how romance comics, rooted in conservative values, reflect the spirit of progression and revolution in the context of the counterculture, Xiao’s project will offer a fresh perspective on the meaning of self-expression and non-conformity in mid-century America. The expected outcome will be an animated documentary short film based on selected comics coupled with historical footage from the internet archive.

Advisors: Heidi Herr, Jimmy Joe Roche

Zhikang Xie (Leo): The Imperial Encounters: The Presentations of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom in British Media from 1850 to 1895 (2023)

Zhikang Xie’s research analyzes the evolution of late Victorian British imperialism. He will draw primarily on George Peabody Library Special Collections and John Work Garret Library Special Collections to study academic writings and memoirs by British participants and witnesses. The expected outcome of this research is an academic paper about the presentations of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdoms in various British media and printing materials, including newspapers, periodicals, memoirs, and letters in the second half of the 19th century.

Advisor: Dr. Katie Hindmarch-Watson

Emma Petite: Exploring the Black Panther Party Newspaper Archive (2023)

Emma Petite will mobilize Special Collections’ Black Panther Party Newspaper as well as the archival papers of Eddie Conway at UM Baltimore to understand the unique role the Panthers exercised in Baltimore and the degree to which they were involved with the Panthers’ national politics. Her intention is to generate a research paper as well as informative presentations at community centers in the Baltimore area and contribute to the effort to commemorate Eddie Conway’s legacy.

Advisors: Dr. Victoria Harms, Dr. Stuart Schrader, Dr. Heather Furnas

Abigail Wren: Elizabeth Cobbold Valentine Collection (2022)

Wren is conducting research with Special Collections’ Elizabeth Cobbold Valentine collection, which contains an album of over one hundred hand-cut valentines and handwritten love poems. Wren argues that the album is a window into the material culture of upper-class Regency-era society and illuminates the roles of women in that culture. After transcribing the poems, comparing the verse to previously published Cobbold poems, and investigating the materials that make up the album, Wren will create an online exhibition of selected valentines.

Advisor: Heidi Herr

Madeleine Schmitz: Translating Lou Andreas-Salomé’s Ma. Ein Porträt (2023)

Madeleine Schmitz will begin translating Ma. Ein Porträt, one of the rare first editions of Lou Andreas-Salomé’s works at Special Collections. She is interested in the way that the initially very appealing, likable men are ever more emphatically revealed to be “out to control” the women. The expected outcome of this research is an online exhibit with a biographical sketch, images, a translation of a significant excerpt, and extensive justification for this translation.

Advisor: Dr. Katharina Kraus

Special Collections First-Year Fellows

Noel Da: Across the Burning Sands (2023)

Da is conducting research with the Across the Burning Sands sheet music collection, exploring over 200 years of music, art, architecture, celebrities, and history through the lens of popular music. The discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 spurred a flurry of fascination with Middle Eastern history, culture, and art. Even before this discovery, the United States had an unyielding obsession with the Middle East and Asia, featuring exoticized images of its geography, people, and architecture in popular culture. Since television and cinema hadn’t yet become widely available, this “Egyptomania,” as it was called, was often expressed in the form of sheet music.

Advisor: Sam Bessen

Maneeza Khan: Investigating Early Student Records (2023)

Khan is researching the history of undergraduate student admissions at Hopkins, focusing on student files from 1876 to 1943 in the records of the Office of the Registrar (RG-13-010). The files shed light on university applications and admissions requirements, letters of recommendation, and data collection practices in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Among topics Khan will consider are the ways admissions requirements changed over time, what information applicants volunteered about themselves, and what achievements, experiences, and backgrounds the University most valued.

Advisor: Brooke Shilling

Clare Levine: Activist Cooking (2023)

Levine is analyzing the intersection of cooking and activism through the lens of vegetarianism. Focusing on Special Collections’ recently acquired vegetarian cookbooks spanning over 100 years of culinary activism, Levine’s research will examine how vegetarian activists promoted their quests for social justice, animal and food reform, and even commune fellowship through the publication of recipe and back-to-nature lifestyle books.

Advisor: Heidi Herr

Virankha Peter: It’s Greek (or Latin or Spanish or Italian) to Me

Virankha is exploring the humanities and engineering aspects of classical Latin, translating a host of texts on a variety of subjects that have never been rendered into English. The author Italo Calvino once called the translator his “most important ally” who “introduce[d] [him] to the world.” By translating hitherto untranslated works in Latin held in Special Collections at Johns Hopkins University, Peter will introduce readers to the world and be introduced to the libraries at Hopkins in turn.

Advisor: Mackenzie Zalin