🔗NPS Mellon Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow: The Lives of Domestic Workers at Glenmont, Thomas and Mina Edison’s Home
American Conservation Experience
The NPS Mellon Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow will spend their first year researching the six generations of female domestic workers at the Edison family’s Victorian home, Glenmont. In addition to specifics about these workers, the Fellow will also place their experiences into broader social contexts, including labor, class, race, religion, and gender. The Mellon Fellow will also work as a part of an exhibition design team to develop an exhibit plan to open and interpret the workers’ quarters on the third floor of Glenmont to the visiting public. This includes developing components of the exhibit that will provide universal access to this new interpretive feature.
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: The Mellon fellow will use archives at the site and elsewhere to research and record information about the six generations of domestic workers who worked and lived at Glenmont, and to place their lives into broader contexts. Areas of interest to the park include the experiences and impacts of discrimination and marginalization of these workers; the roles of immigration, Americanization, and assimilation in the development of this workforce at Glenmont; the relevance of religion and ethnicities in who was hired and how; how middle-class social norms and morality impacted opportunities for domestic workers during this era, the interactions of the domestic workers with one another and their representation of the historic work culture, as well as how domestic servants fit into, contested, and/or supported existing social class structures. A summary report will be produced which will serve as a tool for park interpreters to develop future programming. Fellows will be encouraged to bring their own areas of expertise, interest, and creativity to this research, including formulating other research questions.
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 prepare and 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. This will include virtual and in-person presentations or workshops designed to be attended by park interpretive staff, interns, and volunteers as well as external park partners and stakeholders. Additionally, the Fellow will present a session at the NPS Northeast Regional DEIA discussion series, a monthly service-wide presentation that highlights topics of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. Lastly, the Fellow will also be responsible for producing digital content such as a video or podcast which highlights their research process and journey. This product will be shared with the public via the park’s website and social media outlets.
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 in a virtual conference for NPS staff and partners to provide updates about their research. During the project, the Fellow will also 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: During the first year of the project, the Mellon fellow will produce a chronological history of the six generations of female domestic workers at Glenmont in the form of a detailed summary report. The Fellow will also document and highlight their research process by producing a video or a podcast which will be shared with park staff and the general public. During the second year of the project, the Fellow will work as a member of the Exhibition Design Planning Team who will produce an exhibit plan to open the third-floor domestic workers’ quarters in the Glenmont mansion to the visiting public. This team will include park staff, NPS specialists in Interpretive Services (Harpers Ferry Center), an outside contractor that specializes in exhibition design, and NPS regional representatives. The Fellow’s support team will help them to identify feasible interpretive products informed by their applied research to produce a digital component for this new exhibit. Because the third floor of Glenmont is not universally accessible, this digital exhibition/program is a crucial accessible element of this project. This product for virtual visitors may include an app, a podcast, videos, social media, an interactive tablet activity, virtual public events, etc. The Fellow’s work will also seek to encourage experimentation and piloting of new opportunities to help illuminate new interpretative approaches and inclusion impacts.
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 upon NPS expertise in interpretation, cultural resources, exhibition design, accessibility, and archival research. In addition to NPS staff, the Fellow will have an external mentor whose work examines and explicates the themes and historic importance of the site, its social history, and the largely marginalized voices of women and domestic workers in the Edison story.
Essential Responsibilities and Tasks:
- Work with mentors to identify and implement research practices that support public history and critical museology.
- Conduct original research into the history of the women who worked at Glenmont and the interrelationship of the lives of these women with each other, and popular social norms and customs of the era, stereotypes related to ethnicity, religion, and morality, as well as to the overall social and hierarchical class structure of the time period.
- Produce a chronological history of the six decades of domestic workers who worked and lived at Glenmont, conducting research on-site at Thomas Edison National Historical Park as well as in external repositories, in order to develop a final summary report.
- Prepare and produce a video or a podcast to highlight their research process and journey, an end product to be shared with the general public.
- Work as a member of the Exhibition Design Planning Team to produce an exhibit plan to open the third-floor domestic workers’ quarters in the Glenmont mansion to the visiting public, use applied research to produce a digital interpretive component for this new exhibit.
- Collaborate with the support team to prepare and present virtual and/or in-person workshops or presentations to share their work with park interpretive staff, interns, and volunteers as well as across the NPS, with external park partners and stakeholders, and academic audiences.