Summer research takes Christine Connolly ’16 to Brown – and back to the 16th and 17th centuries

Christine Connolly '16 at work in the John Carter Brown Library.
Christine Connolly '16 at work in the John Carter Brown Library.

Every morning this summer, Christine Connolly ’16 pushed open the heavy wooden doors of the rare books library on Brown University’s campus and settled herself at one of two long wooden tables to read calfskin-bound bundles of sermons, confessionals and other religious tracts. Some are printed in Spanish, others are in Amerindian languages such as Quechua and Aymara from the 1500 and 1600s.

Alongside scholars from Colombia, Mexico, Spain and across the U.S., Connolly worked to translate the meaning of one faith into the language and philosophy of another. “I was surprised how much background I had to cover,” she said.

Connolly, a history major, spent her summer at the John Carter Brown Library Collection conducting archival research on “Sacred Appropriation: The Catholic Church and Indigenous Agency in 16th- and 17th-Century Latin America.” Her summer work with rare books and manuscripts was a continuation of a Mellon Foundation Sophomore Research Seminar in the History Department. Connolly completed a semester of preliminary research last fall at Connecticut College, and she was one of 15 sophomores selected to receive a summer research stipend.

“This is a great opportunity to learn early in the College career what it takes to create original knowledge in the Humanities and Arts,” said Associate Professor of History Leo Garofalo, who is supervising Connolly’s work. “Christine possesses an inquisitive mind and a disciplined approach to revealing the past that serves her well in her development as a young scholar.

The Sophomore Research Seminar paired Connolly and other students with Lindsay Schakenbach ’06, a Ph.D. candidate in history at Brown University. Schakenbach and the students discussed ways to narrow a research question, identify and find sources, and to use what one learns in one source to decipher the next.

“Starting a research project can be daunting and new sources can at first seem nonsensical, but as you immerse yourself in the sources, the people, events and styles of documentation become more familiar,” Schakenbach told the students. “As they do, stay open to new research questions and to changes in the scope, scale or direction of your project. You never know where a document will lead you."



September 15, 2014