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 6, 2020. The application period opens on Monday, July 13.
Info Sessions: Monday, August 3 at 11am and Friday, August 7 at 4pm

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 2021.

While the Special Collections Reading Room will be open to researchers during the fall and spring semesters, the program will support students who will be attending classes remotely or who would prefer to limit their exposure to library spaces.  Mentors are happy to meet with students via Zoom or other online channels, and digitized versions of rare materials that align with this year’s research topics are available for students to download.

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 2024. 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.

Please contact Heidi Herr, the program manager, for questions about the research topics or for guidance with the application process. Submit your essay by 11:59PM on Sunday, September 6 to the following address: sc-fellows@lists.johnshopkins.edu

This Year’s Research Topics

Cooks & Their Books (Mentor: Heidi Herr)

Love cooking . . . the books? Then why not spend your freshman year on a culinary odyssey featuring hedgehogs for dessert, manly sandwiches, and radical vegetarian women! Cookbooks reveal not just what people ate or aspired to consume, but also intriguing glimpses into such things as cultural trends, the impact of colonialism on nutrition, and the development of national character. Explore our collection of 18th, 19th, and mid-20th century cookbooks, and while you are at it, try to whip up a recipe or two, learn how to roast a peacock, and treat the bite of a mad dog. Take a delicious (or deliciously disgusting) tour of foodways of yore!

Not lost in TransLATI(o)N (Mentor: Paul Espinosa)

The Latin language did not end with the great Roman writers, such as Cicero or Catullus. Latin had a long, wonderful, and interesting afterlife, all because of its beauty and efficiency. Develop your Latin skills while helping the JHU Libraries translate short and interesting Latin texts that date from the Renaissance era, which have remained untranslated.  Designed for a student with decent Latin experience and interested in growing those grammatical skills. You do not have to be a Classics or Literature major, and since almost every modern subject once came to us in Latin (medicine, theology, history, science) we can find a subject to suit your interest.

Fantastic Voyages:   Mistaken Identity and Flat-Out Lies on Historical Maps (Mentor: Amy K. Kimball)

Long before Google Earth and satellite imaging from space, new places were discovered and described based on eyewitness accounts, written voyage reports, and not a small amount of creativity.    Cartographers copied from each other, sometimes with no or little fact-checking, so mistakes and myths carried from map to map.   The most famous may be Atlantis, but there are so many others.  Hy Brasil, Thule, Bermeja, and Fusang just to name a few.  You will have the opportunity to consider historic maps, atlases, and travel accounts from the 15th century forward.  Get to know the mysterious, crescent-shaped island of Mayda, which may have vanished beneath the waves.  Or explore whether 5th century Buddhist monks traveled from Mexico to China.   There are many routes you could follow – where will the trade winds take you?

Rachel Carson and the Experience of Women Students at Hopkins (Mentor: Jim Stimpert)

Rachel Carson, the author of the landmark environmental studies book The Silent Spring, was a graduate student at Hopkins from 1929-1932, a time when there were very few female students on campus. What was Carson’s student experience like? Explore Carson’s extensive student file to learn about her life at Hopkins, and perhaps compare her experiences to those of other graduate women attending a mostly male institution. For instance, what barriers did women graduate students encounter in the early 20th century?  What were the attitudes of her fellow (male) graduate students?  Her professors?

Sheridan Libraries Dean’s Undergraduate Research Awards (DURA)

Next deadline: March 9, 2020, by 11:59 p.m

The Sheridan Libraries Dean’s Undergraduate Research Awards (DURA) 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 photography; U.S. suffrage movement records; and a growing LGBTQ collection.

DURA supports research conducted over the summer months only (May to August 2020) and are meant to be used as cost-of-living stipends for awardees for the duration of their research. In recent years, awards have consisted of $1,250 for a four-week research period and up to a maximum of $3,750 for a 12-week period of funding. Any additional research expenses during the research period must be drawn from the total amount of the student award, though some costs such as digitization may be possible without charge. Students typically live in Baltimore during this period and use the Libraries’ collections for intensive research. Research outcomes might take the form of a research essay, exhibition, digital project, film, or another production.


  • The fellowships are restricted to freshman, sophomore, and junior applicants; seniors graduating in 2020 are not eligible.
  • A minimum of 25 hours per week of work with the designated research materials is required during the summer months only.

Eligible Repositories

Application Instructions

Submit by email to the DURA Program contact, Joseph Plaster, at jplaster@jhu.edu

  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 in weekly intervals, including how often you and your mentor will meet about the project
    • expected outcome of the project (e.g., honors thesis, essay, exhibition, digital project, etc.)
    • an itemized award budget
  2. One letter of recommendation from your proposed faculty or curatorial DURA mentor, to include:
    • specific information about how long and in what capacity the faculty or curatorial mentor has known the student
    • the student’s academic strengths, qualifications, ability to conduct independent research
    • the general quality of the research proposal

The letter of recommendation may be sent directly via e-mail from your advisor directly to Joseph Plaster, at jplaster@jhu.edu.

Application deadline: March 9, 2020, by 11:59 p.m., all materials sent via e-mail to jplaster@jhu.edu. Incomplete applications will not be reviewed after that date.

DURAs are co-sponsored by the Alexander Grass Humanities Institute and the Charles Singleton Center for the Study of Premodern Europe.

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.