In partnership with the Office of the Dean of the College, the Brown University Library is pleased to announce that Caitlin McKenna and Sara Damiano are the recipients of the second annual Undergraduate Research Awards. This $750 prize recognizes excellence in undergraduate research projects that make creative and extensive use of the Brown University Library's collections including print, databases, primary resources, and materials in all media. A six member review committee of Brown faculty members, librarians, Friends of the Library Board, and the Office of the Dean of the College selected this year's winners.
"The works submitted this year were unusually strong," said Harriette Hemmasi, Joukowsky Family University Librarian. "It was a very difficult decision to select only two of our many outstanding applicants. Caitlin and Sara had two remarkable works of scholarship that seamlessly integrated primary source material into lively and engaging narratives. Their writings highlight both their keen minds and analytical abilities and the Brown University Library's extraordinary resources."
McKenna's award recognized her essay entitled Golden Orbit: The Black Sun Press in the Shadow of Modernism . Written as a final project for Robert Gross' history of the book seminar, McKenna's paper examines the legacy of Harry Crosby, an American expatriate living in Paris in the 1920s, who ran a publishing company that produced special editions of works by literary luminaries such as James Joyce and T.S. Eliot. Crosby was fascinated by the cult of the sun and railed against an American culture that he deemed puritanical. McKenna drew extensively on a host of library resources to conduct her independent research. She relied on the Rockefeller Library and interlibrary loan services to furnish her with background information and the special collections housed at the John Hay Library to provide her with fresh insight Crosby 's character and interpersonal relationships. To this end, Crosby 's correspondence with friends and lovers, manuscript notebooks, and hand edited proofs proved invaluable.
Robert Gross, James L. and Shirley A. Draper Professor of Early American History at the University of Connecticut, commented on McKenna's deft handling of a difficult topic by noting, "It was on a par with the best papers by advanced graduate students I have received in this course over two decades, and it assimilated its sources with greater ease. Since she was a second-semester sophomore at the time, her essay may well be the best undergraduate research paper I have read in three decades of teaching."
Damiano received the award for her paper entitled "Such virulent temper added to the Rigour of the Laws": Enforcement of the Conventicle Acts in Charles II's England. Damiano's work examines the ways in which laws against nonconformist religious conventicles were enforced during the reign of Charles II. This was a period of time (1660-1685) in English history marked by widespread religious persecution. Damiano made extensive use of the Library's holdings in preparing her paper. She consulted over 25 pamphlets about the Conventicle Acts, assize sermons, and an edition of John Besse's Collection of the Sufferings of the People Called Quakers (1753), held in the John Hay Library.
In supporting Damiano's nomination, Timothy Harris, Munro-Goodwin-Wilkinson Professor of European History, raved, "I found her paper to be extremely well-researched, making excellent use of the Library's holdings. It is well-written, tightly structured, intelligent and thoughtful, and develops a number of highly perceptive insights. It is a truly impressive piece of scholarship."
A private reception will be held at the Library to honor the recipients in late spring.