Report by Kat Boniface
Deadline: June 15.
Response time: Early Fall (I heard back Sept. 2).
Who is eligible: pretty much everyone. Concerned? Ask the staff. They’re fabulous.
Dates: Up to two months in the following calendar year; you list two choices on your applications.
Funding: Up to $2,000/month, paid biweekly while in residence.
Travel: Plan on a cab, etc. from Dulles airport. 30 min.
The hardest part of the application is getting all the pieces into a single pdf. Save yourself the headache and look for an online tool that can combine multiple file formats into a single pdf. There are lots. Make sure you look through the catalog, but keep in mind that not everything has been entered. If there is a topic you are investigating that you think fits the NLSM, but you can’t pinpoint your sources in the catalog, ask the staff. Don’t forget to look through the art collections and archival finding aids.
I ended up having a minor scheduling conflict, as my students’ final was scheduled much later than I’d expected. I had to arrive a day late, and since there was no one due to come in right after me, I was able to add that day at the end of my stay. I only applied for two weeks. I should have applied for a month! It’s worth checking the schedule and seeing what exhibitions and events are planned before deciding on your dates. There may be something you want to see! While I was there, I went to the “Coffee with the Curator” for the Andre Pater exhibit at the Museum.
The closest airport, as mention above, is Dulles. My flight came in at midnight, so Istayed the night in a hotel by the airport, and took a lyft down to Middleburg early the next morning. I was perhaps a bit excited, and arrived bright and very early before any of the staff. I strolled around the grounds a bit, exploring the various equine sculptures. The area is absolutely beautiful. The Library and Museum are two separate, neighboring buildings. The Chronicle of the Horse offices are nearby.
The little cottage where fellows stay is behind the Museum, and set slightly into the hillside. It is surprisingly private. There is a sitting room with a couch, desk, hardline internet connection, and a fabulous view: Audubon bird paintings adorn the walls next to windows looking out on birds chattering the the trees. The kitchen has a full stove as well as microwave, coffee maker, toaster, and fridge. Dishes are provided, and the cabinets accrue leftover dry goods from past fellows. There is a Safeway a few blocks away. I went shopping every few days, partly so I didn’t have to carry much back and partly just to stretch my legs. Towels are provided for the shower, and extra blankets and pillows for the bed. The mattress is a bit old, if you have room to bring a topper with you it might be worth it. The cable for the internet will (just barely) reach into the bedroom, which was great, since jet lagged as I was I definitely wanted a movie before bed. There is a cleaning service for the cottage, and I was told laundry is available in the Library building somewhere, though as I was a short stay I didn’t avail myself of it. The NSLM is also just a few blocks from the Middleburg Tack Exchange, which somehow I still haven’t been to.
The important stuff, right? I spent several days reading the Sporting Magazine from its initial publication through 1866 (being the period I’m researching). As first, I did read every equine or breeding article, and skim the rest, but once I had the rhythm of the publication I started just taking photos; invest in a good pdf scanner before you go! Still, I wish I’d had more time to just read through them. Even those couple of days changed the direction of my research. While many of the Sporting Magazines are available on googlebooks, they’re often misnumbered or otherwise mislabelled. Going through them in order was amazing. I also explored the open stacks (and found my nemesis),
and checked out a few of the books there to read in the evenings when the Library was closed. The Library itself has wifi, so it was easy to take notes, look things up, livetweet some of my reading, and have the catalog at my fingertips.
The bulk of my visit I spent downstairs, with the rare books and archive, which is not open to the public. This isn’t an option everyday, so I tried to save my general reading upstairs for days the archives were closed. The bulk of the rare books were 18th and 19th century, which suited me well, but earlier works are well represented. The archival papers are mostly 19th and 20th century, which wasn’t useful for me but I’m sure there is still plenty of work to be done with them. Again, and as with any research trip, when in doubt ask the staff. Even when not in doubt, ask the staff. They know answers to questions we don’t know to ask.
I am still finding new things in the scans I took while I was there.