🔗NPS Mellon Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow: Including All Women in the Sequel at Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument
American Conservation Experience
This Fellowship is placed with the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument (BEPA), a unit of the National Mall and Memorial Parks in Washington, DC. Established by Presidential Proclamation 9423 on April 12, 2016, in the historic Capitol Hill headquarters of the National Woman’s Party (NWP), BEPA interprets the story of the NWP as “a leading advocate of women’s political, social, and economic equality.” The NWP’s museum collection of artwork, textiles, furniture, and other artifacts were transferred to NPS in 2020, just prior to the organization’s dissolution.
The Fellow will work with the museum curator to research objects in the recently acquired National Woman’s Party collection to establish provenance and significance. Using this research, the Fellow will collaborate with interpreters to plan a redesign of the museum exhibits, using items from the collection to create an interpretive space that invites visitors to engage with complex, nuanced stories about the fight for woman suffrage and the ongoing struggle for social, political, and economic equality. The Fellow’s research will be crucial in shaping the interpretation of the long women’s equality movement, a foundational story of American history not captured in any other place within the NPS system.
Each NPS Mellon Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow will complete work in four areas. Fellows will (1) perform project-based research; (2) share research results; (3) produce and substantially contribute to interpretive and educational products; and (4) pursue career-focused work.
1) Project-Based Research: When the NWP transferred its collection of three-dimensional items to NPS, the remainder of the NWP paper archives and documents were transferred to the Library of Congress (LOC). The Fellow will have the opportunity to research these collections and develop scholarship from both the NPS and LOC collections, which have previously been largely untapped in the literature. As part of working with the collection, the Fellow will assist the Cultural Resources staff to resolve questions about the collection by researching the provenance and significance of objects, especially those with ambiguous origins. The fellow will also be introduced to scholars and other professionals who are also working with BEPA to tell a fuller story of the NWP and their legacy.
In year two, the Fellow will consult with their mentorship team, as well as other subject matter experts as needed, to propose a project for their second year.
2) Sharing Research Results: The Fellow will collaborate with their support team to share the results of their applied research with their hosts, cohort, Fellowship project team, the larger community of NPS staff and partners, and ultimately to visitors and community partners. The Fellow will have the opportunity to develop public presentations at several venues, including BEPA, the Library of Congress, and the Alice Paul Institute. This research will be shared on various platforms, including webinars, educational and interpretive content on NPS.gov and in-person sessions.
The Fellow will be expected to develop and sustain connections with program-provided mentors and host staff, associated NPS staff, members of their Fellowship cohort, and other Fellows across the tenure of the program. In addition to being provided mentorship and support themselves, the Fellow will have the opportunity to mentor others and to enrich staff knowledge by organizing events such as virtual speaker series and presentations. Twice a year, the Fellow will participate with their cohort and other Fellows in a virtual conference for NPS staff and partners to provide updates about their research. The Fellow will be responsible for tracking and reporting accomplishments and for supplying copies of interpretive, educational, and research products to their host and to the National Coordinator.
3) Interpretive and Educational Products: The Fellow’s research will be instrumental in informing the redesign of museum exhibits and educational offerings at BEPA. The current exhibits do not contextualize the NWP within the larger women’s equality movement or the long struggle for civil rights. They highlight a few “heroic” women without acknowledging the influence of other social movements or organizations. Interpretation of race and class tensions are absent from the exhibits, as are the stories of the many Black, Indigenous, Asian, Latina, and other women of color who have been instrumental in the struggle for equality. There is also currently no interpretive content about LGBTQ issues. The museum exhibits do not include any acknowledgement that the NWP’s exclusively white leadership was often narrow-minded, bigoted, and exclusionary. Throughout the project, the Fellow will have the opportunity to create smaller-scale interpretive products, such as wayside exhibit panels to engage pedestrians and temporary exhibits in the library. Depending on the direction of research, the Fellow may also choose to design curriculum-based activities for K-12 or college student visitors, scout programs, videos, and outdoor programming to expand interpretation to the garden space.
4) Career-focused Research and Products: In consultation with their mentors, the Fellow will carry out a career-centered project. About 20 percent of the Fellowship will be dedicated to this scholarly work that advances the Fellow’s career path. The Fellow will be supported by a multidisciplinary team that draws on local, regional, and agency-wide expertise. In addition to NPS staff, the Fellow will also have an external mentor whose expertise includes the history and practice of public humanities.
Essential Responsibilities and Tasks:
- Conduct original research into the history of the National Woman’s Party in the context of the long women’s equality movement; synthesize existing research to share with NPS and partner sites
- Collaborate with museum curator and Cultural Resources staff to resolve collection data gaps by researching the provenance and significance of objects, especially those with ambiguous origins.
- As cataloging improves, work with NPS and partner staff to enhance exhibits, design wayside interpretive panels, inform visitor interactions, and reinterpret traditional narratives. Using research, make recommendations regarding exhibit redesign. Design and/or provide training and guidance for interpretation and education staff.
- Assist with coordination of virtual and/or in-person programs to share research findings from this and other Mellon Humanities Fellowships with NPS staff, partner sites, and the public.