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Behind the Study: Why I Decided to Pursue a Museums Studies DURA Project


For the summer of 2018, I wanted to build upon the final research project I had completed for Dr. Earle Havens’ Fall 2017 Bibliomania course, which focused on analyzing the founders’ intentions in the making of two historical institutions, both of which survive to the present day. That research compared El Escorial Palace and the George Peabody Library, in order to compare aims of the architects as a way to understand intention of library space used then, and now. In viewing these institutions as manifestations of societies they have served as educational centers, I was able to demonstrate their integrity as cultural spaces have remained true to their creators’ original missions throughout time.

     When I first proposed this project, I was quite determined to continue exploring the cultural role played by the George Peabody Library in Baltimore during its first twenty years of public operation: from its initial post-Civil War opening in 1867 and the subsequent 1878 expansion, into the late 19th century. Upon further exploration, I had the intent to answer these specific research questions: 1) “How did the Peabody Library, as one of America’s first great public research libraries, grow, function, and eventually transform in terms of its collections, physical adaptations, and public services?” 2) “How did perceptions among members of the reading public in Baltimore change over time about the Peabody Institute, both through its institutional development and in terms of its collections? Were these changes representative of the broader shifts of American cultural identity reflected in its book collections and acquisitions?”

     Book collecting during the first years of Peabody’s public service could be thought of as an extension of a philanthropic mission, and in concentrating on how this mission has been accomplished from a humanistic perspective, I proposed to explore books about architecture that date from 1867 to c. 1887 in the collection to perceive how this transpired within the historical record. One of my research interests in attempting to address these questions with Peabody Library archival materials and relevant printed sources such as the Trustees’ Reports and Baltimorean newspapers, is how the institution has addressed George Peabody’s requirement that the library be made available to women and men throughout that time. In doing so, I analyzed Edmund G. Lind’s reports of his architectural plans and how civil unrest induced by the imminent Civil War played into his ideas, as well as the public’s impression of the Peabody Library after the Civil War, with materials from the more general Peabody Institute Archives in the Friedheim Library. Amongst these research collections are the manuscript correspondence and diary entries of the first Peabody Provost-Librarians, early accession book records to track particular acquisitions for Peabody’s collections, and internal records and reports pertinent to the production of printed catalogues of the Peabody Library.

     I present to you an outcome of my research efforts, which includes images from the archives and associated images of the Peabody Library describing my research findings through the Winston Tabb Special Collections Research Center. This exhibit encompasses comparative thoughts on how early application and public services provision in Peabody space compares with the Brody Learning Commons and Milton S. Eisenhower Library as both dynamic and adaptive library spaces similarly designed to reflect changes in cultural expectations and library functions. 


I want to thank Dr. Earle Havens--for without his courses, Halls of Wonders and Bibliomania, I would not have discovered my love for studying rare books and collections; for showing me how to be an academic in both STEM and humanities disciplines; for his guidance throughout my search for graduate school; and above all, for his patience as my mentor. Thank you. 

I would also like to thank Matthew Testa, archivist of the Friedheim Library, and Paul Espinosa, curator of the George Peabody Library. They offered me research tips and gave me a wealth of resources to work with. Lastly, I would like to thank the Winston Tabb Special Collections Research Center of the Sheridan Libraries for awarding me the Dean's Undergraduate Research Award (DURA), and the entire committee for giving me a chance to pursue this project.

About Daisy Duan

This DURA project was completed by Daisy Duan, a Johns Hopkins University senior double majoring in Biophysics and Applied Mathematics, during her summer of 2018 shortly after the completion of a biopharmaceutical internship. In the fall of 2019, she will begin her graduate studies at Yale University as a Biological & Biomedical Sciences student on the Biochemistry, Quantitative Biology, Biophysics, and Structural Biology (BQBS) Track, also completing courses in the Integrated Program of Physical and Engineering Biology (PEB). During her free time, Daisy enjoys studying rare books, and makes frequent visits to historical and cultural museums. It was with this project she was able to discover a new side to research--the side that isn't STEM-oriented. She hopes to someday be able to bridge these two disciplines and encourage younger generation scientists to develop research skills outside the STEM arena. 


Daisy Duan |

(1) Dr. Earle Havens, Nancy H. Hall Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, Sheridan Libraries Visiting Associate Professor in German and Romance Languages and Literatures
(2) Matthew TestaArchivist of Arthur Friedheim Library