Adventures in the Archives: The New John Hersey Scholars Program for Upper Mids

John Hersey, Class of 1932 (Misch)

Hotchkiss is proud to announce the establishment of the John Hersey Scholars Program. This June, ten selected upper mid students will conduct archival research in history, politics, economics, and philosophy during a two-week residency program at Harvard. They will be the first high school students ever granted direct access to the vast array of archival materials held in the university’s libraries.

Dr. Lisanne Norman ’94, instructor in humanities and social sciences, will direct the program, which is named after Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist John Hersey, Class of 1932. Dr. Thomas Fisher, instructor in humanities, will assist Norman in directing the program. 

“I’m very excited for students to have access to one of the world’s most incredible archival resources,” said Norman.

“Students will have an opportunity to handle, understand and analyze ancient documents, and personal papers of key historical figures. For instance, they might even delve into a collection of some of the most stunning Russian theatrical designs! The opportunity to discover something unique and to form their own thoughts based on what’s directly in front of them rather than someone else’s opinion or interpretation is key to their development as critical thinkers and scholars.”

Scholars will be selected in March and will immediately begin planning their research projects based on Harvard’s significant collections of historical and sociocultural materials. They will also meet with Hotchkiss’s archivists and librarians to learn about working with delicate papers and to gain experience using online finding aids, databases, and similar tools. Once at Harvard, students will spend their mornings working on research in the library. In the evenings, they will revisit the day’s findings in advising sessions with an instructor. When they return in the fall, the scholars will continue the program in an honors course, where they will learn more in-depth research methods and complete their scholarly work. 

The program will be designed to draw students into a self-directed process of historical investigation and archival exploration. “It's an amazing opportunity for students who have benefited from the scaffolding of research projects in their prep, lower mid, and upper mid years to take the next step in charting their own intellectual courses and producing something that is truly their own,” noted Fisher.  

Instructor in English Dr. Jeffrey Blevins, who recently founded the MacLeish Scholars, a similar program that focuses on literary archival study at Yale, noted that, “Underlying both Hersey and MacLeish is a core pedagogical thesis: that primary-source study offers a uniquely rich opportunity to encourage students to dig deep into the work of real scholarly inquiry. The historical archives that students will be exploring are so large and complex that, even when dealing with major figures, students are likely to come across materials that have not yet been studied closely. They will be spelunking in the caves of a largely forgotten history, and in doing so they stand to make concrete contributions to scholarly research.”

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