1. Tell us a bit about the general focus of your research. What questions did you initially set out to answer?
-My research focuses on the establishment of Acadia National Park, the first of its kind east of the Mississippi River and the only one created entirely from donations of private land. Because of its unique beginning, I believe that Acadia sheds light on the convergence of two movements in the early twentieth century, the conservation movement and private philanthropy. At the same time, I want to examine how the issues of class and access, which permeated contemporary discussions of national parks and charity, may have complicated Acadia’s creation.
2. How did your interest in this topic develop?
This past summer, I worked as an intern at the Rockefeller Archive Center, where I learned about the Rockefellers’ involvement in Acadia’s creation and about the emergence of large-scale, private philanthropy. This shifted my focus to the broader study of charity, especially in the economically polarizing Progressive era, and I decided to explore how Acadia’s unique creation demonstrated a new means of philanthropy.
3. Have you faced any challenges in the course of your research? How have these difficulties affected your project?
-I’m fortunate that I am researching a local topic because most of my primary sources are at archives and libraries in New England and, thus, are fairly easy to access. However, in the early stages of my research, I found that there are surprisingly few scholarly works on Acadia and almost nothing related to its establishment. This has forced me to reorganize my project around the broader themes of conservation and philanthropy, but it also gives me the opportunity to research a largely unexplored topic.
4. What sorts of methods and sources have you utilized in researching your topic?
-Given the nature of my project, there are a lot of local libraries and archives that have relevant books and documents. MaineCat has been particularly helpful for obtaining secondary sources about the Mount Desert region. I have also conducted primary source research at Acadia National Park, the Maine Historical Society, and the Rockefeller Archive Center, and I hope to look at collections at Harvard and the National Archives during the year.
5. Do you have any advice for fellow students who are thinking about undertaking an independent research project?
-If you like extended research and immersing yourself in a very specific topic, then an independent study is a great opportunity to polish your scholarly skills. There will be a lot of reading, and it is important to schedule your time well. I have found it very helpful to send my adviser a draft of everything that I need to submit at least a week before the final copy is due to my committee.
Dorr and Eliot on Jordan Pond