Fellowship: Baird Society Resident Scholar Program – Smithsonian Institution Libraries (Washington, D.C., USA)

Deadline: January 15, 2017 for appointments between September 1, 2017 and August 31, 2018. We are currently accepting applications.
The Baird Society Resident Scholar Program, funded by the many annual donors to the Smithsonian Libraries, was established to support the study of some of the Smithsonian Libraries’ most unique and valuable holdings: our rare books and Special Collections. Stipends of $3,500 per month for up to six months are available for individuals working on a topic relating to these collections. These collections are located in in Washington, DC and New York City, and include:

  • 19th- and early 20th-century World’s Fair printed materials
  • Manufacturers’ commercial trade catalogs in the National Museum of American History Library (285,000 pieces representing 30,000 companies from the 1840’s to the present) used to study American industrialization, mass production, and consumerism
  • Natural history rare books in the Cullman Library (pre-1840 works on topics such as botany, zoology, travel & exploration, museums & collecting, geology, and anthropology)
  • Air and space history in the National Air and Space Museum Library’s Ramsey Room for the study of ballooning, rocketry, and aviation from the late 18th to early 20th centuries
  • James Smithson’s library in the Cullman Library
  • European and American decorative arts, architecture, and design in the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Library, which span from the 18th to the 20th century
  • History of art and artists, exhibition catalogs, catalogues raisonnés, serials and dissertations concentrated in the area of American art, history, biography, and nearly 100,000 vertical files filled with artists’ ephemera.

Detailed descriptions of collections eligible for Baird funding can be found here.
Scholars wishing to use the history of science and technology rare materials in the Dibner Library as their primary resource should apply for the Dibner Library Resident Scholar Program.
About the Award
Doctoral students and post-doctoral scholars are welcome to apply. To be competitive, the applicant should describe in detail how he/she intends to use the Special Collections of the Smithsonian Libraries. While the Libraries’ extensive general collections may be used to support scholars’ research, the proposed project must center on use of our Special Collections. The Smithsonian Institution Libraries holdings may be browsed in our online catalog, SIRIS.
The selection of scholars is based on:

  • the need to consult specific eligible holdings in Special Collections (application must include a bibliography of specific titles or a description of specific collections to be used).
  • evidence of the applicant’s ability to carry out the proposed research (as outlined in letters of reference, reviews of previous work, publication record, etc.).
  • the quality of the proposal (importance of topic, its originality and sophistication of approach, the feasibility of research objectives, and relevance to the collections).

We welcome international scholars. Applicants whose native language is not English must be able to demonstrate the ability to write and converse fluently in English. In addition, depending on the topic and specific research materials required, applicants should have an understanding of Latin or other foreign languages sufficient to make substantive use of Special Collections materials. English translations are not always available.
The residency must occur between September 1, 2017 and August 31, 2018, but does not have to be taken all at one time. Scholars are expected to be in residence at the Smithsonian full-time during their award tenures (plans to be away should be discussed in advance, if possible), to devote full-time effort to the research proposed, and to be regular users of Smithsonian Libraries special collections. The scholar will have access to the Smithsonian Libraries’ other collections and patron privileges such as interlibrary loan services. Scholars may be invited to address an informal colloquium of Smithsonian Institution staff and fellows on the topic of his or her research.
Stipends are not disbursed until after the scholar’s arrival but can be used for any purpose, including travel. No additional allowances are available. The Smithsonian Office of Fellowships and Internships (OFI) manages the award procedures.
In submitting an application for the program, the applicant does not incur any obligation to accept the award if selected.
If you have further questions about the Baird Society Resident Scholar Program or the collections, email SILResidentScholars@si.edu, or call +1 202-633-3872. Feel free to contact the individual branches if you have specific questions about their collections.
How to Apply
Applications must be submitted through the Smithsonian Online Academic Appointment system (SOLAA). You will be required to create an account. Please review the SOLAA User’s Guide on their website to familiarize yourself with general application procedures. Technical assistance is available via email from the SOLAA site.
In addition to completing the general application form, applicants must also provide the following to complete their application package on SOLAA:

  1. Statement of your research (not more than 1000 words, double-spaced). Your proposals should include the following:
  • Full description of the research you plan to undertake at the Smithsonian Libraries
  • The importance of the project both in relation to the broader discipline and to your own research goals
  • Justification for conducting your research at the Smithsonian and using the special collections at the Smithsonian Libraries
  1. Selected bibliography of titles or collections which are relevant to your research proposal.
  1. Curriculum Vitae, reflecting your education, previous or current fellowships, grants, and awards, and a brief description of your research interests. Include undergraduate and graduate institutions, inclusive dates or study, areas of study, degrees earned, and major publications.
  1. Two letters of reference (these will be uploaded directly by the referees).

Letters of reference: You are responsible for contacting two individuals who will evaluate your proposal and are familiar with your scholarly work. You must provide each referee with a complete copy of your proposal sufficiently in advance for them to prepare a letter of support in time to meet the deadline. Include with your proposal a copy of the Referee Letter (see the pdf below) so that they are aware of SOLAA application procedures. You may monitor your application, including whether or not letters of reference have been submitted, via your SOLAA account. Letters of reference must be submitted by the deadline for the application to be considered complete.
For more information, visit: http://library.si.edu/about/internships-and-fellowships/fellowships/baird-society-resident-scholar-program
Referee Letter Baird

Review of "Book Repair Techniques for Special Collections," The Campbell Center, July 30 to August 2, 2012

The Campbell Center for Historic Preservation Studies offers valuable opportunities for conservators to update their skills, and to increase their productivity and scope of practice through its excellent series of conservation refresher courses.
Last summer I attended the new course, “Book Repair Techniques for Special Collections,” at the Campbell Center in Mount Carroll, Illinois. The four-day course provided me and the other four participants with an informative and practical immersion in the theory and ethics of rare books conservation, an overview of binding history and structures, and hands-on experience with rare books stabilization techniques.
Our instructor, Olivia Primanis, the senior book conservator at the University of Texas at Austin’s Humanities Research Center, presented the course as a combination of lectures, class discussions, technique demonstrations, and hands-on practice.
Each student filled out a condition report and treatment proposal for a damaged book they brought with them, then discussed it with the class so we could consider treatment options as a group.

Elise Calvi, conservator at the Indiana Historical Society, practiced book board reattachment with joint tacketing.    Photo credit: The Campbell Center for Historic Preservation Studies.
Elise Calvi, conservator at the Indiana Historical Society, practiced joint tacketing to reattach a board. Photo credit: The Campbell Center

The hands-on portion of the course included opportunities to practice testing methods, paring leather, lifting leather and cloth covers, consolidating corners, rebacking, reattaching spines and boards, and repairing damaged sewing. The small class allowed Olivia to give each student plenty of individual attention.
I found Olivia to be a gifted and inspiring teacher who excelled at teaching treatment techniques and sharing the knowledge and insights she’d gained during her career as a bookbinder, conservator, and former library conservation program instructor.
An aspect of the class that I found especially valuable was Olivia’s emphasis on treatment decision-making and being aware of the factors that influence our decisions, such as time available for the treatment or the conservator’s knowledge of techniques. She spoke about how preferred treatment approaches have evolved over time, corresponding with changing bias in book conservation, and challenged us to consider how our current biases might be viewed by conservators in the future.
Olivia discussed the importance of determining the cause of the failure or damage before treating the book, considering whether the planned treatment would transfer the stress to a different location, and recognizing when repairing broken book structures might not be best for the book. Certain types of physical and bibliographic evidence may need to be preserved, such as wax in a liturgical book or a historical patina and fingerprints indicating use.
She reminded us that each step of the conservation treatment influenced the way the book moved. We had the opportunity to explore this for ourselves by handling an identical set of books she had treated using different techniques, and by trying the techniques during the hands-on practice.
The Campbell Center’s remote yet charming small town location could have been a disadvantage, but the staff and instructors worked hard to build community among concurrent classes through optional trips in the evenings to area restaurants and the Raven’s Grin, the town’s unique haunted house. The course fee included housing in the Campbell Center campus dormitory, communal breakfasts and lunches, and access to the library’s computers and wireless internet.
The informal, collaborative environment encouraged students and instructors from different classes to share and learn from each other. Our class was treated to an excellent guest lecture on leather and parchment when Dr. Sheila Fairbrass-Siegler, a conservator and chemist who taught the concurrent “Introduction to Organic and Inorganic Materials” course, offered to present the talk for us one afternoon.
Olivia’s course gave me the opportunity to learn and practice new treatment techniques, and to focus deeply on why and how we treat rare books, including the consequences of our treatment decisions.
“Book Repair Techniques for Special Collections” will benefit general collections conservators, conservation technicians, library bookbinders, and conservators of paper and photographs who wish to expand their skills.
The workshop will be offered again on July 24 to 27, 2013 at the Campbell Center. In addition, Dr. Fairbrass-Siegler will teach a new “Parchment Conservation” workshop at the center from July 17 to 20, 2013. A limited number of $300 FAIC scholarships are available. For more information, visit www.campbellcenter.org.