Stephanie Lampkin '08
Graduate Student in History, University of Delaware
The Newberry Seminar gave me an opportunity to practice and greatly improve my research and writing skills, conduct archival research at one of the best libraries in the U.S., meet prominent scholars and professionals, and enjoy all that the city of Chicago has to offer. My final paper, which explored Italian cuisine and its relationship to the formation of ethnic identity, gave me an opportunity to be more creative and to explore a field -- food history -- which has always interested me but is one that scholars have not seen as a traditional field of academic study. This venture certainly proved challenging, but by taking advantage of the Newberry's extensive collection of menus coupled with memoirs, biographies, diaries, and other archival sources, I learned how to utilize all of the resources that the Newberry made available.
The setting, the big city of Chicago, offered several opportunities to do not only archival work but also to attend lectures and seminars at neighboring historical societies, universities, and museums. For example, the Chicago History Museum hosted a talk titled "Hot Dog! A History of Chicago Food." Monica Eng, a food critic/writer for the Chicago Tribune, and others discussed the history behind the Chicago hot dog. The museum also hosted a talk titled "The Local Option," in which world-renowned Chef Rick Bayless, among others, discussed the importance of local, organic foods and how making the right choices can help the environment as well as the consumer's budget. Chicago is the ideal city to explore when researching authentic ethnic cuisines. Chicago offers a long list of restaurants ranging from trendy and upscale to popular street food.
Chicago's diverse cuisine was only one of the city's best features. Living in an urban city opened up a host of research topics, including those related to education, sports, urbanization, technology, and music. As a class, we also took trips to historic sites within the city including Jane Addams Hull House Museum and the Pullman Historic District. With my interests in museum studies, the visit to the Hull House was both exciting and informative. I was able to network with Lisa Lee, the director. We took a tour of the house and later took a tour of the Pullman district. Hearing these interpretations, examining the museum set-up, and talking with members of the staff was very helpful and insightful as I continue to plan for my museum career.
The Newberry Seminar was an important program that aided me in my preparation for graduate level work. The seminar allowed us to choose topics of our own historical interest (which could include social, cultural, political, or economic history to name a few), utilize the archives, librarians, and all other resources, and to develop our writing skills by creating a final paper that demonstrated our ability to be creative, concise, and persuasive. Facing obstacles, whether it was a shortage of sources or unavailable sources, evaluating the validity of sources, and taking careful notes and bibliographical records are all essential skills that are necessary for successful graduate work. Upon entering graduate school, professors expect students to come in with these skills. As a result of this seminar, I have thus far been a successful MA student in History at the University of Delaware.