Special Collections & Archives

Archives and Manuscripts and Rare Books

Freshman Fellows FAQ

Note: This information will be updated over the summer for JHU 2021 applications!

  • To apply, you need to write a brief essay (750 words or less) about why you want to participate (noting which collection you want to work with or proposing your own research topic), and fill out our admission form.
  • Send your essay (or any questions about the program) to jhuspecialcollections@gmail.com
  • Applications need to be received by 11:59pm on Friday, September 9th.
  • Special Collections staff will select 4 first-year students as fellows.  Decisions will be based solely on the quality of the essays.  Decisions will be made by Friday, September 16th.
  • Each topic is assigned a mentor.  The mentor will help you navigate the research process, learn about Special Collections, and offer assistance on making your project shine!
  • End project ideas may include doing a scholarly talk at the historic George Peabody Library, creating a series of curator chats on Youtube, or even hosting a gallery evening showcasing your research in our Special Collections Reading Room! Your mentor will provide guidance on the best ways to showcase your original research!
  • Note: If you select your own topic, check to make sure we have Special Collections materials that align with your proposed area of research.  Feel free to get in touch with Heidi at hherr1@jhu.edu if you have questions about proposing your own topic!

Class of 2021 Applications

Information for applying to the 2017-2018 Fellowships will be available over the summer. In the meantime, feel free to review the information on this page as this year's application process will be the same as last year's.

Apply to become a Special Collections Freshman Fellow!


Select One of These Topics, or Create Your Own!


Vintage Games A-Go-Go:  Just how did teenagers amuse themselves before ye olde Snapchat? Why, with oodles of colorful and creative games and novelties, of course!  Be the first researcher to explore our newly acquired collection of 19th century and Roaring Twenties-era games and mobile toys, including fancy French paper dolls, Charlie Chaplin ephemera, and educational games that actually encouraged the mixing of the sexes (basically, get ready for a major case of the vapors). Take a chance, explore centuries-old game theory, and learn about forgotten pop culture. You will totally end up a winner!

Travel, Plunder, Prejudice: The George Peabody Library has an amazing selection of books on travel and exploration dating to the Renaissance.  These books revel in the excitement of discovery, but also reveal troubling views on the cultures that Western adventurers encountered.  Travel through the centuries this year, and dive into a world of old maps, engravings, and ancient books and see what they tell us about cultural assumptions in the Age of Exploration.

Yearbook, Yearbook Evolution:  Alas, the storied Hopkins yearbook ist kaput now, but its legacy is remembered in the hallowed halls of the Special Collections Reading Room, where yearbooks dating back to 1889 are lovingly kept. Swoop into vintage Blue Jay history and discover how the yearbooks evolved: what did students wish to remember through the ages and what kinds of changes to the content and format of the yearbooks were made? While you are at it, get a chuckle or two from all the proto-hipster facial hair on display!

Did You Hear The One About the Student Who Got Into Hopkins?:  Believe it or not, but Baltimore used to be a major stop for comedians in the early 20th century (no, they didn’t just swing by for a quick crab cake before yukking  it up in a more glamorous locale).   Thanks to two teenagers, the Ottenheimer Brothers, Charm City quickly became associated with cheap, popular, and ever-so-tawdry joke books.  Guess what? We have a collection of their joke books! Why not have a laugh and explore the forgotten history of Ottenheimer Publishers and discover what tickled the funny bones of your ancestors!

The Shakespearean Legacy: The Garrett Library holds a number of early editions of the writings of Shakespeare, from the first four folio editions of the complete works, to quarto editions of three plays and 17th century titles attributed to or satirizing the Bard.  Yet the library also holds modern illustrated editions, miniature editions, and children’s editions as well.   What, if anything, can be learned from these different presentations of canonical texts by perhaps THE canonical author for English literature?   There are numerous angles to investigate, such as choosing one play and examining a variety of formats, looking at the treatment of the opus overall, focusing on how Shakespeare was edited for children, or even analyzing costume or staging!

Game of Dorms:  Did you know that there were no dorms until 1923? So where (and how) did students find housing near the original campus and at Homewood?  Student addresses were published in early University Registers, so it was pretty easy to see where your friends and enemies (!) lived. Use your GIS skills to chart downtown locations and see what areas were favored and speculate on why. What types of amenities did former students want to live by?  How have things changed and stayed the same when it comes to finding a blue jay nest to call one's own?

Not Lost in Translation: Love studying languages and solving mysteries? Then use your ever-growing foreign language skills to reveal the content of highly important, but rarely studied rare books held at the historic George Peabody Library.  See if you can figure out why the books were important, what caused their downfall (Is it the Illuminati? Duh, it’s always the Illuminati), and why they should be embraced by the masses once more! Collection strengths include works written in French, German, Italian, Latin, and Spanish.

By Smash the Iron Cage (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Laurence Hall Fowler and the Baltimore War Memorial:  In 1921, Laurence Hall Fowler won a national juried competition for the commission to design the monument that would serve as Baltimore’s memorial to the soldiers and sailors of Maryland who fought in World War I.   The building would subsequently become the monument to Maryland veterans of subsequent wars.   How does the Baltimore War Memorial compare to those designed for other cities?  What architectural precursors may have influenced Fowler’s design choices?  What function has the monument played in this “monumental” city’s past and what function does it fulfill now?

Rachel Carson at JHU:  Did you know that Rachel Carson,the  prominent conservationist, marine biologist, and author of the Silent Spring, attended graduate school at Hopkins? Just what was Rachel Carson’s graduate student experience like, and what was it like to be a graduate student in the early 1930s?  What challenges did she face that other graduate students (men or women) did not have to deal with?

You will have access to Carson’s extensive student file!

All the World's A Stage!:   London experienced Great Exhibition fever in 1851 when  Prince Albert showcased the best of England's industrial might and innovation at the first-ever world's fair! The Great Exhibition was so successful that it led to a plethora of world's fairs in which nations would put their cultural pride and achievements all on on display to the paying public. Our World's Fair collection includes materials from the very first exhibition, as well as as souvenirs, scrapbooks, photo albums, letters, and personal diaries from major international conventions held throughout Europe and the United States.  Take a tour through these fairs of yore and discover their history and impact on global culture!