Lawrenceville’s 2023 Heely Scholars in Archival and Historical Research embarked on a two-week odyssey last summer, navigating the “artifacts” in the School’s Stephan Archives instead of ancient tombs. Their goal wasn’t the Holy Grail, but rather a deeper understanding of what their school was like during the Age of Imperialism (approximately 1890-1919), a period of America’s global expansion. Sifting through letters, yearbooks, student records, photos, and more each of the Scholars uncovered a topic of personal interest, pursued it in a fall term research seminar, and presented their findings at an Academic Research Showcase last month.
Led not by Indiana Jones but the equally intrepid history teacher Laura Noboa-Berman, the Heely Scholars in Archival and Historical Research Program is open to rising Fifth Formers who have a love of history, are excellent writers, and have the grit to stick with complex research projects. “Sometimes you need to bounce back when your findings don’t go exactly as expected,” she explained. Students practice their research in the friendly confines of the Stephan Archives developing the skills to conduct their own explorations in the fall. Some students stayed close to investigating Lawrenceville during the Age of Imperialism, others used it as a stepping off point for personal interest study. “That’s the freedom of the fall term seminar,” Noboa-Berman said.
The Stephan Archives are a virtual treasure chest for anyone wishing to research Lawrenceville through the centuries. “The vastness of the Archives is astounding and the lengths the archivists go to to preserve the past are truly remarkable,” said Sofia Carlisi ’24. Fellow Scholar Roscoe Heuer ’24 stated, “The best part of my summer work was immersing myself in the Stephan Archives and getting to read the stories of former Lawrentians."
Inspired by what they found, students followed research trails that led across disciplines and around the globe, diving in the arts, culture, history, government, and more. Heuer, for example, was intrigued by the student records he found on four Japanese students, brothers Tetsuma (Class of 1906), Kisuke (Class of 1919), Rocuro (Class of 1922), and Shiro (Class of 1922) Akahoshi. He elected to study the U.S. occupation of the Philippines. “I selected this project because of the overlap in occupation between Japan and the United States,” he said. “I discussed how the U.S. government rejected American principles of self-determination, liberty, and freedom when annexing the Philippines.”
He hopes his research encourages people to “try to acknowledge the shortcomings of our past so that we can learn and apply those lessons to future situations.”
Carlisi examined the way that media surrounding the sinking of the Titanic influences how society remembers tragedies. After the implosion of the [OceanGate submersible] over the summer, I was interested in the way people started to discuss the Titanic again. The romanticized [language surrounding the sinking] made me wonder why the Titanic seems to be treated differently by the public than other tragedies.”
She found her fall research “unexpectedly” turning into a study of literary themes and how they can be seen in historical retellings. “It became an interdisciplinary work combining my love of history and literature,” she said. “The way that we view history does not just come from textbooks and documentaries. Fiction also influences our views. It is the responsibility of not just historians but artists as well to maintain the integrity of an event’s retelling.”
L10 News Production Director Maggie Blundin ’24 pursued her interest in journalism by studying the intentions and motivations of reporters from the 1890s-1920s known as muckrakers. “While some perceived them as seeking sensation and profits, others saw them as moral forces to enact change,” she explained. Ultimately, Blundin noted, she found the muckrakers employed yellow journalism tactics to bring attention to corrupt institutions and promote progressive change. “These journalists balanced creating tension and exposing corruption, and they believed that promoting unrest was less damaging than allowing corruption to go unexposed,” she said.
All three of the students used variations of the word “fun” to describe their experience as a Heely Scholar –a sentiment echoed by their teacher. “I really enjoyed the amount of time I got to spend with the kids,” Noboa-Berman said. “It’s been really great to see their projects unfurl and the creative directions that they’ve gone in.”
Blundin lauded Noboa-Berman for helping her develop as a researcher and writer and her fellow Scholars for being so “supportive and [making] the research and writing process so enjoyable. We always had a good time and plenty of laughs.” Part of the fun, she said, was the ungraded summer session “because I was able to enjoy the archiving process without having to worry about grades.”
Carlisi was pleased with the freedom the Scholars had to choose their research topics, saying, “The guidance of Dr. Noboa-Berman was instrumental in our class’ enthusiasm over topics that most students our age would know nothing about.”
The Fifth Former highly recommends the Heely Scholar Program to any student who has “a deep interest in a topic, even if it doesn’t have an obvious connection to history. “I’ve always been a large consumer of media, whether that was songs, books, movies, plays, or anything else that I could get my hands on. [In my project] I was able to explore how this related to a major historical event and this had changed my perspective on how I view media in my life. If you write about what you love, the result will not only create excellent work, but will also be a lesson in loving what you do.”
Current Lawrenceville students interested in applying for the 2024 Heely Scholars in Archival and Historical Research Program should contact Laura Noboa-Berman.
For additional information, contact Lisa M. Gillard H'17, director of public relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org.