Student Research Projects

Students who take part in our undergraduate programs pursue independent research projects using primary-source materials in the Newberry archives.

A student handles photos from the Newberry's dance archives as part of her undergraduate research project.

“The World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893: Colossal Success or Grand Failure?”

Nathan La Mantia, University of Illinois Chicago

UIC student Nathan La Mantia participated in the 2021 Newberry Library Undergraduate Seminar. 

In this video presentation, La Mantia introduces his research project on the World’s Columbian Exposition. La Mantia describes the grand vision and goals that the organizers had for the fair, and how they managed the fairgoers' experience to create a certain kind of effect. He explains how much of the spectacle of the Midway relied on depictions of racist, sexist, and classist stereotypes. He then shares some of the Newberry materials—including the diary of Mary Chase and the letters of Francis Sever—he used to assess the reactions of fair visitors.

“The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters: Crossroads of Labor Unionism and Civil Rights”

Jasmine Reed, University of Illinois at Chicago

University of Illinois at Chicago student Jasmin Reed participated in the 2021 Newberry Library Undergraduate Seminar.

In this video presentation, Reed introduces her NLUS research project on the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. First, she describes the goals of the union’s leader, A. Phillip Randolph, and how his interest in interracial unity enabled him to lead the African American Brotherhood into incorporation with the American Federation of Labor. Then she shares how she examined the Brotherhood’s propaganda materials to show how the group operated as both a labor union and civil rights organization.

"Changing the Narrative: The Photography of Helen Balfour Morrison"

Mia Moore, Roosevelt University

Roosevelt University student Mia Moore participated in the 2022 Newberry Library Undergraduate Seminar. In this video, she shares a piece of her research into the work of photographer Helen Balfour Morrison.

Moore introduces her research by explaining how she became interested in Morrison after she saw a photograph of Richard Wright taken by Morrison at a Newberry collection presentation. Moore describes how the Wright photograph was part of Morrison’s collection of “Notable Great Americans,” and how it was unusual because the generally serious Wright was captured smiling. Moore explains how this curiosity led her to examine another collection of Morrison’s, "Sugar Hill and String Town,” which documented African Americans in a Kentucky free town in the 1930s. According to Moore, Morrison’s creative process—especially her attention to her subjects as individuals—enabled her to capture a different view of her subjects than some more well-known documentary photographers of the Depression Era.


Inventing Mexico: Maps, Manuscripts, and Materiality, 1521-1921

Jan 17–May 04, 2023 — 2:00pm–5:00pm

In the 2023 Newberry Library Undergraduate Seminar, students will analyze how texts and images have shaped “Mexico” as a concept.

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