Special Collections offers a variety of fellowships for undergraduate and graduate students. These experiences offer the opportunity to explore original lines of inquiry while researching rare and unique materials.

Undergraduate Fellowships

Special Collections Freshman Fellows

Next Deadline: Sunday, September 12, 2021. The application period opens on Monday, July 19.
Info Sessions: Friday, August 27 at 2pm, 3pm, & 4pm. All sessions will take place in the Macksey Seminar Room (M-level, Brody Learning Commons).

What Is the Special Collections Freshman Fellows Program?

Freshman Fellows is an academic opportunity designed to introduce students to conducting research with rare books, manuscripts, and archival material during their first year at the Johns Hopkins University. Students selected for the fellowship will:

  • Conduct research with rare books, manuscripts, and archival collections;
  • Analyze items of cultural significance and improve their research skills;
  • Be partnered with a mentor in Special Collections who will provide them with individualized research plans;
  • Create an end-product of their choosing that focuses on their research, such as an academic talk, a poster presentation, or an online exhibition;
  • Receive a $1,000 research award in May 2022.

The Special Collections Reading Room will be open to researchers during the fall and spring semesters. Mentors are happy to meet with students via Zoom or in person, and digitized versions of some rare materials that align with this year’s research topics will be available for students to download from the comfort of their dorm rooms.

Alumni of the Freshman Fellows Program

Freshman Fellows was launched in 2016, and alumni of the program have used the experience to obtain additional research grants, such as the Dean’s Undergraduate Research Award (DURA) and Arts Innovation Grants.

Past Fellows have translated and researched obscure post-Roman Latin texts; explored collections of advertisements, women’s magazines, and books to discover how the 19th century Dress Reform movement impacted first wave feminism; traced the history of Black student activism at Hopkins ; and examined the development of ornithological illustrations through the centuries. They have shared their research through curated displays in the Special Collections Reading Room, poster sessions, and public talks. Feeling inspired? Consider applying to be a Freshman Fellow!

How to Apply

The Freshman Fellows program is very competitive; we only select four students to participate each year. Applications are limited to members of the JHU class of 2025. In order to apply, simply write an essay of no more than 750 words discussing why you want to be part of the program and which one of the pre-selected topics you would like to explore and fill out the application form below.

Please contact Heidi Herr, the program manager, for questions about the research topics or for guidance with the application process. Completed applications are due by 11:59PM on Sunday, September 12.

The application period has closed.

This Year’s Research Topics

Hopkins History Through the Yearbooks

Mentor: Jim Stimpert

Did you know that the very first Hopkins yearbook was called The Debutante? That fact and many more can by yours by exploring the lifespan of our dearly departed student yearbook. Study the evolution and changes in Hopkins yearbooks from its birth in 1889 to its demise in 2015! Learn about long-forgotten inter-class and inter-school rivalries, as well as the development of campus athletics and student organizations.   You could compare and contrast books from different eras or explore how the yearbooks document changes on campus and the wider world at large.

It’s Greek (or Spanish or Latin) to Me

Mentor: Mack Zalin

The author Italo Calvino once called the translator his “most important ally” who “introduce[d] [him] to the world.”1 By translating hitherto untranslated works in Latin, Spanish, or Classical Greek held in special collections at Johns Hopkins University as a Freshman Fellow, you, too, can introduce readers to the world and be introduced to the world of the libraries at Hopkins in turn. No matter what your intended major or research interests may be, your working knowledge of any one of these languages can be applied to translating a host of texts on a variety of subjects that have never been rendered into English.

Reading Between the Rhumb Lines: Mapping the Caribbean

Mentor: Lena Denis

The Caribbean is a vast, diverse geographic and cultural region that various empires have spent centuries mapping for economic gain. These maps are biased views by people unfamiliar with the terrain or its people, intent on exploiting them through material plunder, forced labor, and piracy. Can we use these maps to tell a different story, one that showcases the resilience of this region and the Indigenous ways of knowing that are hidden within the standard map descriptions and place names? Using a collection of recently donated antiquarian maps you can find out! Explore them for yourself while you learn GIS and mapping techniques and see if you can make a new kind of map to tell a more complete version of this region’s history.

Romancing the Comic

Mentor: Heidi Herr

Who needs the Marvel Cinematic Universe when you can create your own comic book thrills and chills from the Golden Age of Romance Comics! Our collection of romance comic books dates from the late 1940s-1970s and is filled with harrowing tales of young women losing their hearts at Woodstock, uncovering romance and espionage in swinging London, and running away with ne’er-do-well truckers to avoid the horrors of attending an all-women’s college.  Spend your freshman year reading saucy stories, learning about the surprising history of women comic book artists in the romance genre, and tracing how the comic books were used to teach teenagers about love, heartbreak and to reinforce traditional gender roles in a rapidly changing world.

Sheridan Libraries Dean’s Undergraduate Research Awards (DURA)

Next deadline: April 2, 2021 by 11:59 p.m

The Sheridan Libraries Dean’s Undergraduate Research Awards, or DURAs, are available for students working on research projects that draw on primary source materials in the rare book, manuscript, and archival collections of the Sheridan Libraries at JHU. These collections span 5,000 years of rare and unique objects and texts, from ancient cuneiform tablets and Egyptian papyri fragments to illuminated medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, 20th-century African American photographyU.S. suffrage movement records, and a growing LGBTQ collection.

DURA supports research conducted in-person or remotely, from May 2021 to April 2022. (DURA fellowships involving pre-1800 rare book and manuscripts materials will be restricted to summer months, i.e. May-August 2021.) Students who wish to conduct research remotely must contact the DURA Program contact, Joseph Plaster (jplaster@jhu.edu), to ensure that the Libraries can digitize their chosen collections. Potential applicants are strongly urged to contact Plaster in advance to discuss proposals and develop applications collaboratively. Research outcomes may take the form of an essay, exhibition, digital project, film, or other deliverable.

The Sheridan Libraries will award a flat amount of $2500 to DURA recipients; awardees will receive half the funds at the beginning of their research and half at completion.  The Undergraduate Research Awards are supported by the Alexander Grass Humanities Institute and may also be supported by the Singleton Center for the Study of Premodern Europe. Want to learn more about DURAs? Check out this News-Letter article about past DURA recipients.


  • The fellowships are restricted to JHU freshman, sophomore, and juniors. Seniors are eligible to apply if their proposed fellowship will be completed prior to their graduation.
  • Applicants must identify a faculty mentor or a curator/librarian, who can help applicants identify materials for research, formulate project proposals, and conduct research.
  • Awardees must complete their projects no later than April 18, 2022 and present their research at a public event (in-person or remotely) in late April 2022.

Eligible Repositories

Application Instructions

Submit by email to Joseph Plaster, at jplaster@jhu.edu by 11:59pm Eastern on April 2, 2021.

  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 and (if relevant) at other archives that you propose to examine
    • qualifications for conducting the research (e.g., your undergraduate status, general academic interests, related classes, personal experience, 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, proposed exhibition, or digital application, etc.)
  2. One letter of recommendation from a faculty mentor or librarian mentor. This person should send a recommendation indicating their support and commitment to mentoring the proposed project by e-mail, to Joseph Plaster, at jplaster@jhu.edu, by April 2.
    • The letter of recommendation may be sent directly via e-mail from your advisor directly to Joseph Plaster, at jplaster@jhu.edu.

Applicants will by notified by April 12, 2021.

Fellowships for Graduate and Undergraduate Students

Hugh Hawkins Research Fellowships for the Study of Hopkins History

Next Deadline: March 9, 2020 by 11:59pm

Hugh Hawkins Research Fellowships are awarded annually to undergraduate or graduate students from any school at Johns Hopkins who wish to conduct research into an aspect of the rich history of Johns Hopkins University. Fellowship recipients are notified in the spring and conduct their research over the summer.

Special consideration will be given to projects exploring the history of diversity at Johns Hopkins or that propose a final product rooted in the digital humanities. The Hugh Hawkins Fellowships will enhance the undergraduate and graduate research experience by providing opportunities for original research in historical collections and for sharing research with the public.

Each fellowship recipient will work closely with a faculty mentor and an archivist mentor during the fellowship. Fellowship recipients’ work will be preserved in the Ferdinand Hamburger University Archives, creating a rich, continually growing, and publicly available body of original scholarship that will serve as a valuable resource for generations to come.

View the complete description of the fellowship guidelines and application process

Singleton Center Summer Library Graduate Research Fellowships

Next Deadline: TBA

The Singleton Center for the Study of Premodern Europe provides summer research fellowships to currently enrolled PhD students in the humanities (Krieger School of Arts & Sciences, Institute for the History of Medicine, Peabody Institute DMA students) who are working on topics spanning the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Enlightenment periods in Europe and European colonies abroad.

For a complete description of the program, visit the the Singleton Center.