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Pforzheimer Fellows Tackle Library Projects

An update on efforts of inaugural Pforzheimer Fellows.

Heng Du and Enrique Diaz work together on a maps project

July 15, 2014—This summer the inaugural Pforzheimer Fellows are delving into projects across Harvard’s libraries, bringing a fresh perspective and learning about career opportunities.

The fellowships are named in recognition of Carl H. Pforzheimer III’s generous gift to the library.

James McSpadden, a history PhD candidate, is working with the uncatalogued papers of Henrich Brüning, chancellor of Germany, held by the Harvard University Archives. The experience has given him a new appreciation for the work and knowledge of library staff, saying, “I’ve been surprised at how much work happens behind the scenes! I’ve found it very interesting—I can ask staff [any] question, [even] about handwriting when it’s difficult to read. Researchers only see the reference archivists, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg.”

While the fellowships are a professional opportunity, the immersive learning experience has been provided valuable insight for his academic career as well. “My dissertation touches on Brüning and the political world he inhabited,” James explained, “but after looking in every folder and opening every envelope in several unprocessed accessions, I have a much better picture of Brüning as a person.”

Heng Du, a PhD candidate in East Asian languages and civilization, is focusing on two projects with the Map Collection. She helped to redesign the Lamont Library Information Kiosk by gathering and analyzing user feedback and applying findings to make design decisions. Additionally, Heng is developing an intuitive navigational interface for the Map Collection’s Sea Atlas Chart Digitization Project by pairing historical geo-referenced map information with modern data tools.

Alina Lazar, a PhD candidate in Romance Languages and Literatures, is working with a collection of 20,000 zines acquired by the Harvard College Library. She is inventorying the collection, and is posting her observations (1, 2, 3, 4) on Houghton Library’s Modern Books and Manuscripts blog.

The Fellows’ mentors have enjoyed seeing their own work from a different perspective. Robin McElheny of the Archives said, “The Archives’ staff is having an unprecedented opportunity to share in the discoveries, delights and enthusiasms of a working historian.”