Sponsored by the Tabb Center with co-sponsorship from the Alexander Grass Humanities Institute, Inheritance Baltimore, the Singleton Center for the Study of Premodern Europe, Bill Tyler, and the Virginia Fox Stern Center for the History of the Book in the Renaissance.

Next deadline: April 4, 2023

The Dean’s Undergraduate Research Awards, or DURAs, are available for undergraduates working on independent research projects that draw on primary source materials in the rare book, manuscript, and archival collections of the Sheridan Libraries. These collections span 5,000 years of rare and unique objects and texts, from ancient cuneiform tablets and Egyptian papyri to 20th-century African American photography and U.S. suffrage movement records.

Each award, in the amount of $3500, supports research conducted from May 2023-April 2024 and the development of projects based on this research, e.g. an academic essay, online exhibition, film, digital humanities project, or other deliverable. (See “Recent DURA Projects” below for examples of past student research projects.) Applicants should submit a proposal and one letter of recommendation by April 4, 2023. Eligible research repositories include University Archives, Special Collections, the Institute for the History of Medicine in East Baltimore, The George Peabody Library, and the John Work Garrett Library at Evergreen Museum & Library.

A fellowship award of $3500 will be given to each recipient, which is intended to be used as a cost-of-living stipend but can be utilized for additional research expenses. Fellows will receive half of the award at the beginning of the project and the other half at completion.

Two additional awards of up to $5000 are available for the summer of 2023, funded by Inheritance Baltimore, for research with JHU Africana collections. Awardees will be mentored by Inheritance Baltimore fellows within their areas of expertise. Interested applicants for these specific awards should contact Dr. Shawntay Stocks, sstocks3@jhu.edu, Assistant Director of Fellowships and Community Engagement for Inheritance Baltimore, for more information about eligible collections.


  • The fellowships are restricted to JHU freshman, sophomore, and juniors. Seniors are eligible to apply if their proposed project will be completed prior to their graduation.
  • Applicants must identify a faculty mentor and/or Library curator who can help them identify materials for research, formulate proposals, and conduct research.
  • Awardees must submit a final project based on their research (e.g. essay, film, digital humanities project, etc.) no later than April 18, 2024 and give a brief presentation about their research at a public event in April 2024.
  • Awardees must write a short blog post about their research by April 18, 2024.

Application Instructions

Applicants are strongly urged to contact DURA coordinator Dr. Joseph Plaster or Inheritance Baltimore DURA coordinator Dr. Shawntay Stocks in advance to discuss proposals and collaboratively develop applications.

Applicants should submit via email to Dr. Plaster, at jplaster@jhu.edu, by April 4:

  1. A two- to three-page, single-spaced proposal that addresses each of the following:
    • the specific topic to be explored and question(s) you want to investigate
    • specific rare book, manuscript, oral history and/or archival materials in the Sheridan Libraries’ collections that you propose to examine
    • qualifications for conducting the research (e.g., your undergraduate status, general academic interests, related classes, personal or work experience, related research)
    • your timeline for completion of the project scheduled, including how often you and your mentors will meet about the project
    • expected outcome(s) of the project (e.g. developing an honors thesis topic, research paper, exhibition, digital application, etc
  2. One letter of recommendation from a faculty mentor or librarian mentor. Your mentor should send a recommendation letter indicating their support and commitment to mentoring your project by e-mail, to Dr. Plaster, at jplaster@jhu.edu, by April 4.

Applicants will be notified of our decisions by April 20, 2023.

Recent DURA Research Projects

  • Jessica Shelton: Black Migration and Latinx Immigration in Baltimore (2022)

    Summary: Shelton will explore Black migration and Latinx immigration in Baltimore, Maryland in the 20th century with a focus on the Highlandtown area. They will analyze the relations between African Americans migrants and Latinx immigrants as well as the shared history of the Great Migration in connection to Latinx immigration, drawing on a wide array of sources: newspapers such as the Baltimore Afro American, Special Collections’ Maryland African American History and Culture collection, and other local sources. The outcome of this research will be an academic paper.

    Advisor: Lawrence Peskin

  • Han Zhang: Chinese National Health Governance (2022)

    Summary: Han Zhang’s research addresses the legacy of medical orientalism and colonialism that, they argue, remains prominent in modern discourse on global health. Zhang will produce an essay on Chinese national health governance and its co-evolution with global health governance, drawing on Special Collections’ “Chinese Public Health Campaign Slides” and related materials, which includes educational slides on a wide range of global infectious diseases, including tuberculosis, whopping cough, diarrhea, and malaria, from the 1950s through the 1970s. Zhang will draw on these materials to understand the making of Chinese national public health in the mid- to late-twentieth century, a critical period in the formation of nascent global health governance.

    Advisor: Alexandre White

  • Huyentran Vo Ngomai: American Romance Comic Books (2022)

    Summary: Ngomai will conduct research with Special Collections’ recent acquisition of midcentury American romance comic books, which offer valuable insight and a unique lens into the era’s youth culture and are a rich primary source for gaining a more nuanced understanding of mid-century American events, ideas, and social issues. The expected outcome of this research is to create a physical deliverable in the form of a short graphic novel that is based on the romance comic books of the 1950s and adapted to the contemporary social and political context.

    Advisor: Heidi Herr

  • Dionna Gant: Black History Artifacts in Baltimore (2022)

    Summary: Gant will conduct research and compose an independent essay for Memory We Hold in Our Hands: Black History Artifacts in Baltimore and Beyond, an illustrated anthology that pairs photographs of archival objects with essays by curators, archivists, historians, and community advocates. The collected essays will help readers imagine Black experience/s from the time period in question—an intersection between people of the past and the present, with the object serving as the connector. Gant’s research will highlight compelling objects that speak to the Black experience and offer a gateway to readers to discover JHU’s Special Collections.

    Advisors: Gabrielle Dean, Tonika Berkley, Kali-Ahset Amen

  • Abigail Wren: Elizabeth Cobbold Valentine Collection (2022)

    Summary: Wren will conduct research with Special Collections’ Elizabeth Cobbold Valentine collection, which contains an album of over one hundred hand-cut valentines, many with 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

  • Cas Gustafsson: “William Stukeley and the Presumption of Truth” (2021)

    Summary: Gustafsson is producing a short documentary film, drawing on JHU’s Bibliotheca Fictiva Collection, that explores the concept of “authenticity” and the ways people determine the legitimacy of information. Gustafsson writes: “William Stukeley, with his complex relationship with historical ‘accuracy’ and archaeological and textual ‘evidence’ offers an exceptional focal point for this exploration.” Gustafsson’s documentary will draw on archival materials to produce a timely interrogation of our current era of “misinformation.”

    Advisors: Dr. John Mann, Film and Media Studies; Dr. Earle Havens, Sheridan Libraries

    View Film

  • Jessica Shaffer: “Notions of Witchcraft and Magic in the American Women’s Suffrage Movement” (2021)

    Summary: Shaffer is producing an online exhibit exploring the connection between occultism and suffrage, drawing on the Women’s Suffrage Special Collection’s assortment of suffragette and anti-suffragist postcards and political cartoons. Shaffer writes: “first I will complete a comparative investigation of suffrage era political cartoons for their use of witch-like figures and motifs, and second I will explore the writings of prominent American suffragettes for their opinions on faith, religion, and occultism. I hope to answer the following questions: What is the legacy of witch imagery in anti-suffragist and suffragette cartooning? How do these witch motifs manifest, and to what effect do they serve?”

    Advisors: Dr. Heather Furnas and Ms. Heidi Herr, Sheridan Libraries

    View Online Exhibition

  • Natalie Thornton: “Translating the Trades: Then and Now” (2021)

    Summary: Thornton is producing an academic paper and a series of blog posts on the genre of the early modern arts and trades in the collections, focusing on translation and research of the book De Omnibus Illiberalibus sive Mechanicis Artibus…Liber (1574) with poems by Hartmann Schopper and woodcuts by Jost Amman, at the George Peabody Library. Thornton plans to draw connections between the trades in the text and the occupations as practiced today in the surrounding community. Thornton writes: “I do not just want to translate the Latin poetic interpretation of a baker, doctor, potter, or shoemaker; but to go out and interview and learn the challenges and rewards of those professions as they are practiced today.”

    Advisors: Paul Espinosa, Curator, George Peabody Library

  • Joyce Ker: “In Conversation with Marion Buchman” (2020)

    Summary: Ker conducted research in the Sheridan Library’s Marion Buchman papers, which document the career and personal life of Baltimore poet Marion Buchman. Ker interpreted her research by creating a scrapbook, “In Conversation with Marion Buchman,” that juxtaposes Buchman’s interviews, correspondence, photographs, and reading lists with original poetry Ker wrote “in conversation” with Buchman’s archive. Additionally, Ker wrote a research paper, which she published in The Macksey Journal based on her DURA research and scrapbook project.

    Advisor: Nancy Nguyen, Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars

  • Heidi Hansen: “Hopkins’ Books of Hours” (2019)

    Summary: The Book of Hours had a central place in late medieval French life, as both a devotional text and a status symbol for those who were able to afford them. In preparation for a senior thesis, Hansen examined the books of hours in the Sheridan Libraries’ collections in order to understand what these texts can tell us about the lives of middle and upper class 15th century men and women in this region.

    Advisors: Dr. Anne E. Lester, History; Neil Weijer, and Dr. Earle Havens, Sheridan Libraries

  • Michael Harper: “The Word as Image and Vice Versa: Italian Futurism and International Dada” (2019)

    Summary: Italian Futurist and Dadaist artists and poets revolutionized the conception of the word and engaged with it in terms of its visual potentiality. Harper examined the ways in which the avant-garde questioned the book as an artistic object and its fundamental materiality. In an academic paper, Harper examined “the influence of Italian Futurist print culture, and the innovations and ironies that are present, on Vorticist modes of expression.”

    Advisors: Dr. Molly Warnock, History of Art; Donald Juedes, Sheridan Libraries