Dr. Megan Walsh, chair of the Department of English at St. Bonaventure University, has been awarded a 2019-2020 National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship at the American Antiquarian Society.
This award grants Walsh, a professor of English, support for four months of residency to work at the AAS, a major independent research library. The AAS-NEH fellowship was awarded for research on her third academic book project, “Bad Archives: Extra-Illustration and the History of Information Management in the United States.”
Walsh’s project examines the history of libraries, data collection, and the organization of knowledge in the United States in the 19th century. She is investigating the critically understudied, but hugely important, practice of extra-illustration — readers would cut up and then glue historical documents, pictures, and other valuable texts into rare books, often “ruining” them in the eyes of modern librarians and curators.
With the explosion of print at the beginning of the 19th century, readers created countless scrapbooks, blank forms, systems for note taking, and card catalogs to organize the vast amount of details and data that they had begun to encounter daily.
Extra-illustration, a method of sorting and storing information used by the owners of many major private libraries, provides a vital context for these other techniques, and serves as a reminder that our digital moment is yet another — rather than the first — information age.
On the whole, “Bad Archives” aims to significantly rethink the complex material histories of the information management systems on which we continue to rely.
The National Endowment for the Humanities “supports scholarly research that advances knowledge and understanding of the humanities.”
Walsh’s AAS-NEH award is part of the NEH Fellowship Programs at Independent Research Institutions (FPIRI), which grants “fellowships at institutions devoted to advanced study and research in the humanities. The FPIRI program sponsors fellowships that provide scholars with research time, a stimulating intellectual environment, and access to resources that might otherwise not be available to them.”
The American Antiquarian Society, affiliated with the NEH through the FPIRI program, “houses the largest and most accessible collection of books, pamphlets, broadsides, newspapers, periodicals, music, and graphic arts material printed through 1876 in what is now the United States, as well as manuscripts and a substantial collection of secondary texts, bibliographies, and digital resources and reference works related to all aspects of American history and culture before the 20th century.”
AAS was presented with the 2013 National Humanities Medal by President Obama.
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