Amherst College’s Folger Shakespeare Library has been awarded a $1.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support a collaborative research project, Before Farm to Table: Early Modern Foodways and Cultures. The interdisciplinary, multiyear project will mine rich and underexplored collections at the Folger and create new partnerships among scholars, librarians, conservators and digital humanists, as well as practitioners outside the humanities.
“We are thrilled for our colleagues at the Folger and grateful to the Mellon Foundation for providing this generous support,” says Amherst College President Biddy Martin. “It will support cross-disciplinary research in the Folger’s collections by a diverse group of scholars and leaders in their fields.”
According to the Folger, the project will highlight new voices and genres from the past and contribute to social and cultural histories, as well as forging new grounds for meaningful conversations with experts from inside and outside the humanities. In addition, the project will produce public events and exhibitions. A working group of scholars will coordinate the project’s agendas and activities when the grant begins on Sept. 1, 2017.
Students who participate in The Amherst-Folger Fellowship will be introduced to the project in January 2018, and Amherst faculty will be invited to participate in aspects of the program once it is finalized. Projects might include, for example, creating a study of the kitchen as a space in the household, a map of London’s markets, an online edition of a Folger receipt book, or the scaffolding for a fully searchable database of food imagery in engravings.
“Before Farm to Table will use the pervasiveness of food in everyday life as a window into early modern culture,” says the Folger’s executive director, Kathleen Lynch. “Participants will investigate big questions about the way food participates in and actively shapes human knowledge, ethics and imagination.”
The Amherst-Folger Connection
Henry Clay Folger graduated from Amherst College in 1879 and later became president of Standard Oil Co. He died in 1930, two years before the Folger Shakespeare Library’s dedication. His will specified that the library be administered by Amherst—a move that came as a surprise to the College.
The library, located in Washington D.C., is now home to the world’s largest Shakespeare collection, as well as major collections for research in European arts, culture and history from the early 15th century to the end of the 18th century. Learn more at www.folger.edu.