In partnership with the Office of the Dean of the College, the Brown University Library is pleased to announce that Kona Shen '10 and Forrest Miller '10 are the recipients of the third annual Undergraduate Research Awards. The awards, which confer a $750 prize, recognize excellence in undergraduate research projects that make extensive and creative use of the Brown University Library's collections, including print and primary resources, databases, and materials in all media. A six member review committee of Brown faculty members, librarians, and the Office of the Dean of the College selected this year's winners.
Kona Shen's research project, a web-based timeline of the Haitian revolution, arose from her desire for a single comprehensive resource that students could use to understand that nation's complex revolutionary process. Inspired by her experience in Professor of Africana Studies Barry Bogues' group independent study project "Haiti, Past and Present: Contemporary Haiti through a Historical Lens," Kona set out to present information on the many people, locations, and events critical to understanding the Haitian revolution in a manageable way. She worked closely with Scholarly Resource Librarians Dominique Coulombe and Patricia Figueroa at the John Hay Library and with Kim Nusco at the John Carter Brown Library, which has the largest collection of original material on Haiti's revolutionary period in North America. Using classic texts, unique online sites, first edition maps, and colonial-era documents, Kona created a site that Professor Bogues describes as "a map of the Haitian revolution which presents in visual form not just the dates... but the multiple shifting alliances and the various groups and personalities involved." The review committee lauded Kona for creating a creative and useful project that could be expanded in the future, and for using Library materials in a unique way. A link to her website will be posted on the Africana studies departmental page.
Forrest Miller's Undergraduate Research Award-winning paper, "American Disposables: Equality, Convenience, Amnesia," considered the cultural impact of America's transition from durable to disposable consumer goods. Written for Professor Thomas Jundt's history course Consumer Culture in America, Forrest's paper focuses on a set of products including plastic ballpoint pens, disposable diapers, sanitary napkins, and furniture made of plastic to explore how they affected family and cultural histories, hygiene, gender equality, and even the way romances are conducted--when Kleenex became widely used, for example, coquetry by handkerchief was rendered obsolete. Professor Jundt commented that Forrest made clear how disposables' convenience and affordability also meant that, except for elites who continue to collect heirlooms, Americans seeking their family identities are no longer aided by concrete objects passed down through generations. Scholarly Resource Librarian Holly Snyder was instrumental in helping Forrest focus on a few specific products by referring him to primary source material. He looked at 1940s and 50s-era magazines on microfilm as well as Sears and Roebuck catalogues from the 1930s and 40s and referred to print works on plastics, consumer culture, and business history. Forrest also accessed the RISD library's industrial design texts and used the Library's online archives to find publications including Bret Easton Ellis's thesis entitled "Is Everything Disposable?" The review committee members commented that reading Forrest's article moved them "to view history since World War II, and the present, in a new and expanded way."
A reception to honor the winners will be held in early May.