An ornate library with wood beamed ceilings and bookcases The interior of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.

What if you could spend nine months working and learning at two world-class research institutions while living at one of them? The Amherst Folger Humanities Fellowship will provide Campbell Hannan ’21 with just such an opportunity.

A photo of a young woman sitting in the Amherst College war memorial

Campbell Hannan ’21; photo by Isabel Paine ’21

Now in its second year, administered by the College’s Loeb Center for Career Exploration and Planning, the fellowship sends one recent Amherst graduate to Washington, D.C., to assist with projects at Dumbarton Oaks, a library, museum, garden and research institute owned by Harvard University. From September to June, the fellow receives housing at Dumbarton Oaks while also working at the nearby Folger Shakespeare Library, which houses the world’s largest trove of Shakespeare materials, as well as major research collections in European arts, culture and history from the 15th through 18th centuries. Henry Clay Folger of the class of 1879 founded the library with his wife, Emily Folger, and bequeathed it to Amherst College upon his death in 1930.

Hannan, a history and political science double major from Chapel Hill, N.C., says she decided to apply for the Amherst Folger Humanities Fellowship when she realized it would draw upon her past experience with archival work and digital outreach. A political organizer since her first year of college, Hannan served as chair of the LGBTQ+ Caucus for the College Democrats of Massachusetts, running the caucus’s Facebook account. She also interned as a social media writer for the political action committee Emily’s List. “That’s definitely where I saw the actual effect and organizing power of social media and how you can connect with people a lot more readily and easily via these devices that they already use,” she says.

Hannan also spent multiple semesters digitizing historical materials, such as photos and student publications, in Amherst’s archives at Frost Library. And along with Emma Candland ’23, she took charge of the @frostfinds Instagram account, expanding and engaging the account’s audience with frequent posts, especially about Emily Dickinson.

Hannan says that writing a personal statement for her fellowship application allowed her to articulate, for the first time, how her history major, her interest in politics and her passion for digital outreach all related to one another: it was “a really interesting process of realizing all the things that I’ve done in my college career that actually tied together really well.” The fellowship application process also involved what she declares “the best interview I’ve had in my whole life” with the “best people I’ve ever had to be professional with”: Amherst’s Head of Archives and Special Collections Mike Kelly and representatives from the Folger and Dumbarton Oaks. “We just had this great conversation about how we all love archives and libraries,” Hannan says, “and how I’ve been able to bring it to other people and a bigger audience.”

A young Black woman smiling at the camera

Dominique Manuel ’20

The previous—and inaugural—Amherst Folger Humanities Fellow was Dominique Manuel ’20, a history major from Virginia Beach, Va. She says she had always been curious about Amherst’s Folger Undergraduate Fellowship, and she applied to the postbaccalaureate fellowship because she believed it would build nicely upon her senior-year work as a student museum educator at the Mead Art Museum. She describes herself as “a bit of an archive nerd,” having fallen in love with archival research through a course called “The Black Archive” at Smith College.

During her 2020–21 fellowship, Manuel worked with Dumbarton Oaks’ Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives and transcribed interviews for an oral history project in its Byzantine studies department. She researched the demographics of Washington, D.C., to find out about the segments of the population that were less likely to visit the Folger, and then observed and conducted focus groups to help figure out how the institution could better reach and attract these people. COVID-19 pandemic restrictions meant that Manuel had to work remotely rather than residing at Dumbarton Oaks, but she received a stipend to cover housing nearby. And she enjoyed watching on Zoom as other fellows at the museum, mostly Ph.D. students and postdoctoral researchers, gave weekly presentations on their topics of study.

Manuel now has a summer internship—in person—at the library of the National Museum of Women in the Arts. After that, she’ll enter an online Master’s in Library and Information Science program through San Jose State University, as she hopes for a career as an archivist, perhaps continuing to focus on museum work. “I feel like there’s a very specific vibe of a museum library versus a public library, or even an academic library,” she says.

As Hannan gears up for her Amherst Folger Humanities Fellowship, she hopes this fellowship—at two museums in the nation’s capital—will position her well to figure out whether she’s “more drawn to using my history degree and doing collections work and having political engagement as a hobby” or vice versa.

“It’s a wonderful little grace period that I have to figure out what I really, really love and want to do,” she says. “And I’m so excited.”