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

Sheridan Libraries Dean’s Undergraduate Research Awards (DURA)

Next deadline: April 4, 2022 by 11:59 p.m

The Dean’s Undergraduate Research Awards, or DURAs, are available for students 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.

Interested undergraduates should submit a research proposal and one letter of recommendation by April 4, 2022, as described in detail below. Each award, in the amount of $2500, supports research conducted in-person from May 2022-April 2023. (DURA fellowships involving pre-1800 rare book and manuscripts materials will be restricted to May-August 2022.)

Research outcomes may take the form of an academic essay, online exhibition, film, or other creative project. Awardees will present their research at a public event in April 2023.

DURAs are supported by the Tabb Center, the Alexander Grass Humanities Institute, and Inheritance Baltimore. They may also be supported by the Singleton Center for the Study of Premodern Europe.


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Awardees must complete their projects no later than April 18, 2023, and present their research at a public event in April 2023.

Application Instructions

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

Applicants should submit via email to Dr. Plaster, at jplaster@jhu.edu, by April 4, 2022:

  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 2.

Applicants will by notified of our decisions by April 13, 2022. Awardees will receive half the funds at the beginning of their research and half at competition.

Recent DURA Research Projects

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

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 ASPIRE Grant 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.

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.