Paul Nyhus Travel Grants

Professor Paul Nyhus (1935-2005) These travel grants are established in the name of Professor Paul Nyhus (1935-2005), a member of the Department of History from 1966 to 2004. Professor Nyhus served as Acting Dean of Students in 1969, Dean of Students from 1970 to 1975 and Dean of the College from 1975 to 1980. These grants are intended to facilitate primary research in either an advanced seminar, an advanced independent study or an honors project in history. There are three types of grants.

Nyhus proposals will be reviewed by members of the history department, and in most cases, applicants are notified of the committee’s decision within three weeks.

Mini Nyhus Research Grants

The history department offers Nyhus mini-grants to fund research expenses up to $250. These may include such expenses as access to online journals, travel to archives, or attending applicable conferences; mini-grants will not be awarded for regular expenses that may accompany any course, such as photocopying materials or purchasing books.

Mini Nyhus Application Deadline: Applications will be considered in three rounds, with deadlines of November 3, 2017; February 16, 2018; and April 6, 2018. Applications must be submitted via email to Rebecca Banks ( no later than 12pm on each of these days.

Application Materials: 1) Application letter that briefly states the grant’s purpose, 2) estimated budget of expenses, 3) brief endorsement by a member of the history faculty.

Small Nyhus Travel Grants

The Department offers grants of $500 each, for travel to archival collections, microfilm, conducting or transcribing interviews, or copying archival materials.

Small Nyhus Application Deadline: Applications will be considered in three rounds, with deadlines of November 3, 2017; February 16, 2018; and April 6, 2018. Applications must be submitted via email to Rebecca Banks ( no later than 12pm on each of these days.

Application Materials: 1) Application letter that briefly states the grant’s purpose, 2) estimated budget of expenses, 3) endorsement by the faculty supervisor of the project.

Large Nyhus Travel Grants

Professor Paul Nyhus (1935-2005) Bowdoin CollegeThis $2000 grant is for travel, lodging and research expenses related to an honors project. Each year, the Department will grant awards in two rounds: April and November.

Large Nyhus Application Deadline:Applications will be considered in two rounds, with deadlines of November 3, 2017 and April 6, 2018. Applications must be submitted via email to Rebecca Banks ( no later than 12pm on each of these days.

Application Materials:
1) Narrative proposal of no more than 1000 words in length explaining the topic to be researched, the student's background relative to the proposal, the method and sources to be used, and any contacts already established with other scholars, interviewees or archives;
2) tentative budget, as detailed as possible, for how the grant would be used;
3) Bowdoin transcript;
4) letter of support from the faculty supervisor of the project.


Past Nyhus Small Grant Awards

Amy Collier '12
During my senior year at Bowdoin, I completed an honors thesis with Professor Connie Chiang. My project examined how the emerging philanthropic and conservation movements, as well as the rise of tourism, contributed to the creation of Acadia National Park and complicated the relationship between year-round and summer residents on Mount Desert Island. I was fortunate enough to receive a Nyhus Travel Grant, which I used to travel to the Rockefeller Archive Center in Sleepy Hollow, New York, and to the Harvard University Libraries, as well as to various archives and historical societies around Maine.  I read through speeches, newspaper articles, donation receipts, pamphlets, and, most importantly, original correspondence between park founders, contributors, and critics.  Because of the lack of scholarly work on my topic, these primary sources were the foundation of my thesis and largely shaped the development of my project.

Molly Porcher '13
For my thesis, I am researching the way the way African history has been taught in American public schools. In particular, I am looking at the way Africa and African history have been represented in the history curriculum over the past half century and how changes in these representations are related to the American political and social environment. In conducting my research, I wanted to analyze primary sources like textbooks and curriculum barometer of how the treatment of African history in schools has developed.

Thanks to the resources provided by the Nyhus travel grant, I was able to travel the education archives located at Stanford University’s Cubberley library to explore these materials. The experienced was fantastic and rewarding, and the primary sources I was able to access were phenomenal! With the help of the friendly and resourceful library staff, I found and studied a variety of curricular materials, dating from the mid-1940s to the early 1970s. These included outlines of world history curricula, as well as units and courses designed specifically to address African history. The Cubberley library also has a fantastic collection of historical textbooks—the earliest are from the 19th century!—that allowed me to study the transformations in the way school texts presented Africa continent and African history. My research trip was a memorable and meaningful experience that, most importantly, allowed me to conduct the breadth and depth of research I imagined when I first undertook this project.

Previous Nyhus Travel Grant Recipients 

Past Nyhus Large Grant Awards

Elizabeth Tarbell

Near the city of Kunming in southwestern China lies Dianchi: a 115-square-mile lake. The body of water is central to to the city--and region's--past and present identities. Having inspired Qing Dynasty poets to write vivid couplets about its pristine qualities and grandeur, the lake's ecosystem was altered in wake of Mao's Great Leap Forward beginning on New Year's Day in 1970, and during Kunming's rapid industrialization at the turn of this century. Today, Yunnan Province is a burgeoning hub of global environmentalism (Hathaway, 2013), yet its centerpiece, Dianchi, is currently classified as Grade V water quality (not fit for industrial or agricultural use) according to  the Ministry of Environmental Protection of the People's Republic of China. Still, the lake is steeped in the vibrant cultures of Yunnan Province's diverse population, which includes 26 of China's 56 ethnic minority groups.

This past August, building off my coursework in History, Environmental Studies and Chinese, I traveled to Kunming using two research grants from Bowdoin, including a Paul C. Nyhus Large Travel Grant, to produce a preliminary historiography of Dianchi, which will be the focus of my senior honors project. I gathered existing data on Dianchi from both the Yunnan Provincial Library and the Yunnan Provincial Archives; I performed site visits to the lake itself and the Yunnan Nationalities Village. I also informally spoke with locals during my stay. My extensive study of Chinese language allowed me to grow my network on the ground and will continue to be crucial to my project in the future as I continue to read primary and secondary sources throughout my final year at Bowdoin.

I had three main objectives for my research: grasping a sense of the site, understanding the historical context of Dianchi, and learning where to look for more information. As my research continues this year and possibly with a Fulbright grant next year, I intend to be able to describe and write about the site visit with accuracy, as well as understand the local perspective of Dianchi's role in regional identity, having completed my fieldwork in Kunming this summer. Experiencing the place firsthand was an imperative component of beginning to write this environmental history.

Because Dianchi represents the intersection of culture and environment at a pressing time in Kunming and greater China's history, I hope my research will provide a case study for others to address the question in this age of globalization: how can nations negotiate economic pressures and the preservation of nature and culture? I also hope to contribute by building bridges through the interdisciplinary lens of environmental history. In China, environmental history is under researched and I hope to contribute to this growing field, like scholars Judith Shapiro and Mark Elvin, whom have spearheaded such work.

Patrick Toomey

The Nyhus Travel Grant allowed me to live in Johannesburg, South Africa for three weeks, where I did research at Wits University's GALA archive, the only archive of gay and lesbian history in all of Africa. The research I did there is forming the basis of my honors project this year, which focuses on the gay rights movement in South Africa during the height of the apartheid government's power.

Most of my research was on a man named Simon Nkoli, a black South African who combined his fight for gay rights with the struggle against the racist apartheid regime. I was able to comb through documents from various gay rights groups of the 1970s and 1980s, most of which were based in Johannesburg, as well as the personal letters of Simon Nkoli. Most of these letters were written between Nkoli and his lover while Nkoli was in prison for "treason," and they gave me a fascinating insight into this period of his life.

The opportunity to travel to South Africa and perform research in the GALA archives has already proven integral to my honors project, and I am excited to build upon this research in the coming months. Living and working in South Africa was a life-changing experience, and I hope to be able to return sometime soon.

Martin Krzywy

Thanks to a Nyhus Travel Grant, I had the opportunity to travel to Washington, DC and conduct research for my honors project on the city's failed midcentury highway program. Over the course of a week, I was able to access primary source documents at the DC Public Library and the Historical Society of Washington, DC that would prove instrumental to my project. Additionally, having time to walk through the city and see where these roads might have been built helped me to better conceptualize the issues at play in the freeway fight.

As this was my first real experience with archival research, the amount of material I had to dig through was a little overwhelming. My two main resources were court documents related to the lawsuits brought by community members in order to halt highway construction, as well as the collected papers of several local community organizations involved in the anti-highway movement. While not all of the briefs, newsletters, correspondences, flyers, and newspaper clippings I found were directly relevant to the scope of my project, they were crucial in helping me learn more about the people involved in this fight over the nation's capital.

Having access to documents from different groups involved in the same fight allowed me to parse out the different reasons Washingtonians had for opposing the roads, as well as the different methods they used to push back against government initiatives. While much of my earlier research was based in secondary accounts of the story or in newspaper coverage of the events, being able to read the words of the citizens fighting to protect their neighborhoods helped me add a level of intellectual nuance to my project that I could not have achieved without the assistance of the Nyhus Grant.

Lucy Knowlton

Thanks to the Nyhus Travel Grant, I was able to live and research in New York City for the summer. I completed my work at the Margaret Sanger Papers Project, a document collection at New York University. Being in the city where Sanger began her activism and gained fame made the experience all the more exciting. This research was the base for an honors project about Margaret Sanger and the birth control movement as a case study for the changing perceptions/definitions of public and private in 20th century America.

I looked mostly at documents on micro-film- a challenging task which I had never done before- from the Library of Congress and Smith College collections of Sanger's papers. This included both published works, pamphlets, memos, personal letters, diary entries, newspaper clippings, and a whole host of other documents. The variety was initially very overwhelming but gave me a diverse range of sources to use for my writing. It was incredible to follow historical events and intra-movement goings-on through the papers, and fortunately I had the help of the director (Esther Katz) and assistant director (Cathy Hajo) in deciphering handwritten sources and giving advice on where to look.

I hope to look at the primary sources I gathered, along with a host of information sheets compiled by the MSPP, through the lens of public/private discourse. Sanger's letters to a group of prominent scientists and physicians will be especially illuminating as I study how the support of eugenics and applying science to society developed and changed over the first half of the 1900s. I definitely understand the movement and my goals for my honors project more fully thanks to my immersion in the document collection.

Leo Shaw '15

Thanks to a Nyhus Travel Grant, I traveled to Buenos Aires this summer to research the practice of architecture and urban planning in that city and in Argentina in the early twentieth century. Through an independent study this semester, I am exploring the cultural history of architecture in Argentine society as it came under influence from a wider current of nationalism that bridged fields from literature to politics.

By examining a large body of professional architectural journals from the first three decades of the twentieth century in the collection of the Central Society of Architects, I was able to gather the perspectives of designers, critics and politicians whose arguments shaped the built environment of the city in response to the prevailing cultural attitudes of the day. I also got to see the key cultural functions of design reflected in the documentation of two specific projects: the records of the Ministry of Public Works on the historical preservation of Buenos Aires’ cabildo, or original town hall, and the letters and unpublished monographs relating to the house of Ricardo Rojas, the principal nationalist cultural thinker of the time in Argentina.

As an aspiring architect and a history major, my academic interests have focused on questions of how aesthetic culture assimilates and produces change, especially in cities. This project has helped me better understand the cultural impact of design in public space by tracing the connections between the construction of the city and the construction of a complex national identity.

Previous Nyhus Grant Recipients


Campus News: Travel Grants Established Honoring Paul Nyhus (March 10, 2005)