Summer in Grinnell may seem quiet. But four Mentored Advanced Project (MAP) students who are working with Sarah Purcell ’92, professor of history, find it the best time to focus on in-depth research.

The students are working on independent projects related to deaths in the U.S. Civil War and to their commemoration:

  • Elizabeth Sawka ’15, history — Civil War military chaplains' sermons;
  • Irene Bruce ’15, history and anthropology — African American mortality in Louisiana in 1860 and 1870;
  • Joseph Kathan ’15, history and gender, women, and sexuality studies — how Clara Barton was able to subvert the gender norms of the time and become a successful nurse and humanitarian during and after the Civil;
  • Peter Bautz ’15, history and political science — U.S. Civil War veterans' reunions and how they shaped views about the meaning of death in the Civil War

While researching on their own, the group of students has met frequently with Purcell in Burling Library throughout the summer to share their progress and to discuss historical texts and sources.

Purcell says that she spends a lot of time with her students, as Burling is a comfortable place to work and to learn and that the library provides an excellent scholarly atmosphere. With so many research tools close at hand — books, scholarly databases, microfilmed census records, and rare primary source material in Grinnell’s Special Collections and Archives — Purcell and her summer students have called upon the library faculty and staff for help. 

Burling Computing Lab, pictured here, is a great place for Purcell to demonstrate research techniques to her students. And even though historians often work on solitary projects, these researchers have all gotten to be part of a community of students, faculty, and staff in Burling this summer.

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