Winners of the 2014 Undergraduate Research Prize for Excellence in Library Research


The Brown University Library is pleased to announce the winners of the 2014 Undergraduate Research Prize for Excellence in Library Research: Leah Jones ‘17 for her paper “Soldiers of Solidarity: The Boston Committee for Health Rights in Central America” and Richard Salamé ‘16 for his paper “Clocks and Empire: an Indian Case Study.” The field of applicants this year was so strong and broad, the Library decided to award two prizes of $750 each.

In partnership with the Office of the Dean of the College, the Brown University Library sponsors the annual Undergraduate Research Prize, awarded each April. The purpose of the prize is to recognize excellence in undergraduate research projects that make creative and extensive use of the Brown University Library’s collections including, but not limited to, print resources, databases, primary resources, and materials in all media. The project may take the form of a traditional paper, a database, a website or other digital project. Please visit the website for more information:

“Soldiers of Solidarity: The Boston Committee for Health Rights in Central America” by Leah Jones

Jone’s paper tells the story of the Boston Committee for Health Rights. During the Reagan Presidency, when the US intervened to support anti-communist regimes, U.S. support for the counterinsurgency took a significant toll on the populations of Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala. As both a human and political gesture, the Boston Committee, which consisted of Boston area health professionals, tried to relieve the burden on the people of these three countries. Jones describes the genesis of the paper: “The Hall-Hoag Collection of Dissenting and Extremist Printed Propaganda (John Hay Library) provided the foundation for my research….After browsing through several folders in the Collection, one specific folder caught my attention. The Boston Committee for Health Rights in Central America (BCHR) portfolio was actually rather barren and only consisted of six documents: a couple of hand-written notes, two type-written memos, a press statement, and a photocopied New York Times article. This otherwise unremarkable folder addressed one of my passions: the improvement of health conditions in Central America.”

A member of the review committee explains that Jones’s paper “makes excellent use of archival, scholarly, and eyewitness sources to document an overlooked but notable intervention in American politics by a group of concerned professionals….I was even more impressed to learn that this student is in her first year at Brown!” Another faculty reviewer noted that this paper “is first rate investigatory journalism.”  Jones’s faculty sponsor, Naoko Shibusawa, wrote in recommending her paper: “[She] approached this topic just like an investigative journalist, which is a lot of how historical research is like for those of us who study the more contemporary era. Excellent use of oral interviews and correspondence, as well as web research to unearth more information on main characters. This paper was fun to read and inspiring.”

“Clocks and Empire: An Indian Case Study” by Richard Salamé

Salamé’s paper focuses on the destruction of the clock in Bombay’s Crawford Market during the riots of 1898. He gives a British context to the clock, explaining its role in the politics of colonial India, then he posits several justifications for the shooting and destruction of the clock by Indian rioters. Salamé’s faculty advisor, Jo Guldi, praises the research and the final product: “Rick’s paper entailed months of exploration in available archives of Indian newspapers, looking for evidence of clocks in public spaces that would substantiate a subaltern-based, bottom-up account of how Indians accepted or rejected the western standardization of clock time. The paper represents a theoretically sophisticated question of relative understandings of time, and it also made excellent strategic use of unusual archives — Indian newspapers contrasted against the accounts of British elites who caused clocks to be placed in public spaces in the first place.”

As with Jones, a first year student, reviewers were impressed with sophomore Salamé’s abilities: “His explanation of his research shows how he traced the breadcrumbs through footnotes to get to the object of his paper. It’s an inherently interesting approach to history, and the paper is beautifully written. The narrative compels the reader to continue to the end of the story. [He] incorporates other disciplines into his research, looking at literary and newspaper representations of clocks. It’s hard to believe that this student is a sophomore!”

One reviewer praises the research process and its promise in response to Salamé’s work, but the words are apropos to Jones’s work as well: “The gathering of primary sources material from the Indian press, as informed by reasonable command of scholarship on colonial culture and politics, demonstrates a wide ranging and inventive understanding of what library research can accomplish.”

All members of the review committee were impressed with the quality of this year’s submissions. Brown students are taking innovative approaches to research and making meaningful and constructive use of the Library’s resources. We look forward to seeing what students are researching and writing about next year!