My Freshman Fellows Experience

Enjoy this post by Kiana Boroumand, one of our Freshman Fellows for the 2016-2017 academic year!

The last time I wrote a blog post, I had finished my first semester of college and finally narrowed down a research topic for my fellowship (dress reform!). Now, not only have I finished freshman year, I’ve also finished my time as a Freshman Fellow. And it was all so wonderful that I want to talk about it.

So, let’s start at the beginning: I first heard about the fellowship at the Special Collections Open House during orientation week. I was brand new to college, and everything felt different and exciting—but Special Collections, as different and exciting as it was, also felt familiar. I was attached to the place before I had any reason to be, but I couldn’t help it. Surrounded by all those amazing books, by the history contained in their boundless, beautiful pages, I knew immediately that I would apply for the fellowship. A short time later, I was notified of my acceptance, and the journey began.

Every Tuesday, I would meet with Heidi to discuss my findings, and somewhere along the process, what I was doing became about so much more than a research project: I was at Special Collections, bringing down the patriarchy! I was thinking about fashion and clothing in ways that I hadn’t before, and feeling empowered by the strength and bravery of the women whose works I was reading—women who, hundreds of years ago, were saying things that society, to this day, still isn’t comfortable with hearing. And the coolest part of it all was that I got to tell people about. Over the course of the spring semester, I spoke about my research at three major events—the last and most special of which was FlowerMart, one of the most popular festivals in the city. On a beautiful Saturday in the beginning of May, I had the privilege and pleasure of standing behind a podium in the George Peabody Library and discussing the work that I had done, sharing my perspective.  I gave my presentation – “The Gender Politics of Fashion: The Dress Reform Movement and First Wave Feminism” – in one of the most beautiful libraries in probably the entire world, and it was all thanks to my fellowship, to Heidi, and to everyone else at Special Collections who helped me along the way.

In fact, I had such a great time, that I’m back at Special Collections for the summer! This past semester, while I was completing my fellowship, I applied for and was awarded the Dean’s Undergraduate Research Award (DURA) to continue my research in fashion. This new project is focused on the twentieth century, and it’s even more anti-sexist, anti-patriarchal than the last one. I’d tell you more about it, but where’s the excitement in that?

I will say this, though: if you’re thinking of applying to the Freshman Fellowship or doing research in Special Collections, do it. Do it. Besides the obvious reasons (growing intellectually, developing better research skills, and more), it also allows you the opportunity to make a difference. To take what you have learned, what you want to learn and do something with it, something larger than yourself. And, yes, I know: This all sounds trite, grandiose, vague. But it’s true, and I’m testament to it. A lot of the research done in Special Collections tends to be about the same things: European history, old white men doing what old white men did in those days, etc. There’s nothing wrong with that (by all means, do the research that calls out to you!), but it’s also not all there is. I wanted to do research on fashion and dress reform and feminism; and, with the help of Heidi, Special Collections is now home to an abundance of new, fabulously feminist materials that weren’t there before. Materials that we’ve acquired because of my research. What’s cooler than that?

As my time in Special Collections continues, I can’t wait to see where my DURA research will take me.  But, thanks to a pretty phenomenal year, I’ve got high expectations.

Egypt: The Birthplace of Flip Flops?

king tutankhamun sandals

Courtesy of the American University in Cairo. Artistic interpretation of Tutankhamun's open shoes. The original can be seen at the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. Drawing by Mikko H. Kriek.

It's summer and flip-flops are in full bloom! Over the centuries, shoe designers have added heels, blinged them out, and crafted them from a variety of materials. The obsession for this ancient sandal has even sprouted its own national day (#nationalflipflopday). Today, the flip-flop industry generates billions in revenue sales (ref. Havaianas, 2017). So, who invented these wonderful shoes?


"Thong footwear" has been around for thousands of years and excavated from ancient sites on many continents. However, it appears that the general consensus is that they were made famous by the ancient Egyptians.  The term “flip-flop” was popularized in late 20th-century western culture, named for the sound the sandal makes when it slaps the bottom of the heel when walking.

king tutankhamun egyptian footwear british museum

Fiber sandal featuring a sewn-edge and plaited detailing. Photograph by A. 't Hooft. Courtesy of the British Museum (BM EA 4451), London.

It's possible the Egyptians called the shoe thebet, because of its use in the city of Thebes.1 (Pioneering Egyptologist Sir John Gardner Wilkinson's book,  Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians, provides a nice copy of a hieroglyphic of sandal makers at Thebes.) The Egyptian sandal dates as far back as 4,000 years (Middle Kingdom, ca. 2050-1800 BCE), but it’s possible thong footwear emerged even earlier during the Unification Period (i.e. Early Dynastic Period ca. 3,100 BCE) when Upper and Lower Egypt merged.

Contrary to mainstream media (e.g. Katy Perry’s Dark Horse video) and Hollywood films  (Cleopatra), thong sandals were plain and not worn indoors. A typical sandal was constructed of Halfa grass (Desmostachya bipinnata), papyrus or palm leaves, and weaved similarly to coiled baskets. Sandals often identified a person's social status: the average Egyptian walked barefoot, including royal officials, but by the Middle Kingdom, sandals became associated with pharaohs and the wealthy.

king tutankhamun tomb sandal

Marquetry veneer sandal from the tomb of Tutankhamun. André J. Veldmeijer. Courtesy of the Ministry of Antiquities/Egyptian Museum Authorities.

An ah-mazing pair of flip-flops was discovered among King Tutankhamun's possessions; pictured here is a purplish, marquetry veneer sandal from the tomb of Tutankhamun.Egyptologist and American University in Cairo (AUC) Professor Salima Ikram says, “With some of Tutankhamun’s shoes, they used bits of gold, birch bark, bone and maybe even glass inlays to decorate and create luxurious and glamorous footwear.”2 Today, we’d see this kind of haute couture sandal in luxury department stores. However, the ancient craftsmanship is still unmatched today.

king tutankhamun tomb egyptian footwear

Sewn sandal from the tomb of Tutankhamun with linen cover. Photograph by André J. Veldmeijer. Courtesy of the Ministry of Antiquities/Egyptian Museum Authorities.

Historians and archaeologists have analyzed ancient flip-flops to learn about their relevance in the social lives of  wearers. For example, religious symbolism has been discovered on footwear denoting use in religious ceremonies. Or how one used a flip-flop might express deference to authority, that is, if it was removed in the presence of royalty or high-ranking officials.  Contrarily, flip-flops today are just flip-flops: fun sandals to wear to the beach, to the office, or even to a wedding. Aside from rubber and man-made materials, modern society hasn’t improved much on the ancient Egyptian craftman's work. Retailers are capitalizing more than ever on this ancient innovation, and we’re still enjoying them!

For more information about ancient Egyptian thong footwear:

1  Zaki, M. (2008). Legacy of Tutankhamun: Art and history. Giza, Egypt: Farid Atiya
Press, 130.
2  "King Tut's Sandals Featured at Ancient Egyptian Footwear Exhibition," News at
American University in Cairo, October 11, 2015.


House and Homewood, part II, by Faith Terry

Because I believe the issue of student apathy has been part of our history since the university’s founding, I didn’t think my final project would be complete without discussing the full evolution of student housing and its interaction with student life in general. For the project, I divided the school’s history into distinct time periods and investigated the most important changes that happened in each. For example, I think that the era of change from the late 60s to the 70s is one of the most important time periods to examine, not only for the events that happened during those years but the lasting effects these had on the future of housing. At the same time, some of the most captivating information I found during my research came in the form of images. Throughout the archives of Hopkins News-Letters and yearbooks are some incredible photographs, providing views of evolving student life, as well as the growing campus itself. For that reason, I knew I needed to include plenty of images in my final project.

In order to combine these crucial images with my wide view of campus history, I decided to create a poster series. For this series, I designed a poster for each of the time periods I considered to be most important to understanding how housing has impacted student life. For each time period, I provided a brief timeline of major changes to housing, like new buildings built or purchased, as well as changes in the students themselves. This included a variety of topics, from the preference for self-government that students exhibited in the 1950s and 60s, to the changes brought about by the transition to co-education in 1970.

As a finale to my fellowship experience, I had the opportunity to present my posters as well as speak at the Special Collections Freshman Fellows Panel, both chances for me to explain and share my research with others. Throughout the year, especially when researching particular time periods or topics, it could feel difficult to see the greater narrative that surrounds student housing. The creation and presentation of my final project, however, brought together all of these elements in way which helped me to gain a greater sense not only of my skills as a researcher, but also of my position as a Hopkins student in a complex and storied community.

House and Homewood, part I, by Faith Terry

Freshman Fellow Faith Terry hosts a poster session.

Freshman Fellow Faith Terry hosts a poster session.

After beginning my freshman fellowship experience last semester, I found myself with a solid foundation of knowledge regarding student housing. The information I had found during the first half of my project seemed to span a variety of time periods, and a wide number of topics, leaving me with even more questions about where my research might take me. Some particular subjects that I wanted to research further included the history of integration on campus and the changing roles of fraternities. In addition to more particular topics such as these, however, I also wanted to see a larger picture about how housing has changed since Hopkins’ founding. As I continued my research into the spring, I looked to expand my knowledge on these specific areas in order to create a more encompassing view of the changes to student housing and how they interacted with student life.

Housing culture at Hopkins 1976-1922. (Faith Terry)

During this last semester, I investigated some of these more particular topics, looking at social issues such as diversity on campus, as well as more administrative changes such as the shifting preferences between different housing options, including dorms, apartments, and fraternities. Much of my research progressed in this way–moving on to topics that caught my interest, and discovering the ways in which these issues either influenced or were influenced by student housing.

For example, I also looked at how student transportation has changed over time, especially looking at how different forms of transportation have allowed students to move further away from campus or into new areas of Baltimore. This topic of student connection to the city as a whole is one that I found particularly fascinating, and which reveals much about changing student attitudes. In addition to these more specific areas, I’ve generally looked more closely at certain time periods in order to get a better idea of how changes in housing were influencing individuals and affecting student life in particular ways.

A lavender poster, which is one of four posters featuring the history of student housing at Johns Hopkins University, designed by Freshman Fellow Faith Terry.

Housing culture from 1923 to 1947. (Faith Terry)

In particular, I especially looked closer at the late 60s and 70s to see how student housing fit in with some of the sweeping social changes that were happening at the time. This time period seemed to stand out to me as a transitional bridge between the earlier years of the campus and the current, more modern atmosphere. For a long time, Hopkins seemed to pride itself in the individuality and informality of the undergraduate programs and seemed to use more resources on building up the reputation of its graduate programs. The 1970s presented a number of opportunities for the university to decide whether this sense of informality would be maintained or if changes would be introduced to accommodate growing numbers of students as well as more and more diverse student populations.

While this time period was particularly interesting, I found that this tension between informality and formality, individualism and community existed in differing forms throughout the history of the university. In fact, I think this legacy is something students still struggle with today. In my own experiences, I’ve often heard students complain about the lack of enthusiasm among students, especially in extracurricular pursuits. Hopkins students can often come off as solely academically-minded, sometimes seeming even apathetic to other issues. I think that this student attitude is directly connected to our roots in the European research institute model and the individualism that has long been the prevailing atmosphere at Hopkins. Changes in housing have always seemed to accompany and influence these changes in mood and created new and growing opportunities for community at Hopkins.


Special Collections Obtains Lothar Schreyer’s “Kreuzigung”

Geliebte Mutter. Resource: still image. Genre: woodcuts. Date issued 1920 - 1921.

Geliebte Mutter. Resource: still image. Genre: woodcuts. Date issued 1920 - 1921.

The Sheridan Libraries’ Special Collections, a treasure trove of research and teaching material, has just grown by one very significant acquisition. A gem in the multi-faceted field of German Expressionism was recently added, thanks to the generosity of the Friends of the Johns Hopkins University Libraries.

Kreuzigung: Spielgang Werk VII. Sturm dir Sturm allen Sturm is an illustrated book from 1920 with 77 full-page, hand-colored pochoir woodcuts and 5 full-page images of mask costumes. A very unusual book, it is a fascinating addition to our significant avant-garde collection.

What on earth is this book with such a ponderous title? The author, Bauhaus artist Lothar Schreyer, who founded an experimental Expressionist theater group with the artist and critic Herwarth Walden, puts his original ideas on theater into print here. and attempts a transformation of a theatrical text into something quite different from a typical literary work.

Untitled, Leaf XXIIII. Resource: still image. Genre: woodcuts. Date issued: 1920 - 1921.

Untitled, Leaf XXIIII. Resource: still image. Genre: woodcuts. Date issued: 1920 - 1921.

The text is laid out along a three-line staff, like music:

  • The first line depicts the spoken words. The speakers are designated by colorful symbols which correspond to the performers' costumes.
  • The second line lays out the vocal rhythm, pitch, and volume.
  • The third line is the stage directions, conveyed in symbols and words.

Related to this new book, we have a large run of the magazine founded by Herwarth Walden, Der Sturm. This publication was extremely influential and its publisher, the Verlag Der Sturm, spawned many other publishing projects. Including the only publication to come out of the Schreyer-Walden collaboration, Sturm-Buhne: Jahrbuch des Theaters der Expressionisten. (The entire run has been digitized by the Blue Mountain Project).

Kreuzigung Title page. Resource: text. Genre: woodcuts. Date issued: 1920 - 1921.

Title page. Resource: text. Genre: woodcuts. Date issued: 1920 - 1921.

The early 20th century avant-garde was complicated! German Expressionists mixed with Italian Futurists, who collaborated with French Surrealists. The combinations of nationalities and movements might be endless. So much is out there, still to discover and piece together. Thanks to our Friends of the Libraries, we have one more piece of the puzzle.





My Solo Travels in Greece: A POC in Paradise

venice mykonos greece

Little Venice and the Windmills, Mykonos Town, Mykonos Island. Photo by Annie Tang.

Part I:  Microaggressions in Mykonos 

When I was asked to write a travelogue on my two-week sojourn to Greece, I could not help but write this through a lens of intersectionality. As a person of color (POC) and a young woman, solo traveling in predominantly white countries intensifies my experiences in these overlapping identities. My identities (more than what was mentioned) influence me, as my outward physical identities influence how people treat me, wherever I am.


meteora monolith kalambaka thessaly

Meteora monoliths, Kalambaka, Thessaly. Several medieval monasteries were built atop the monoliths by monks who climbed and used a system of ladders and pulleys to construct the places of worship thousands of feet in elevation. Photo by Annie Tang.

This international trip was a whirlwind of self-planned inland and island adventures with an itinerary which included: the archaeological wonders of Athens, Mycenae, and Delphi; the geologic awe of Meteora and the Samaria Gorge; and the paradisal islands of Corfu, Crete, Santorini, and Mykonos. As amazing as this trip was (indeed, it is going to be hard to top!), paradise was not perfect; it was slightly marred by racial microaggressions.



From the tourist who assumed I didn’t have my U.S. citizenship, to the waitress who asked if I was one of the Filipino cruiseline workers, as well as the older traveler who demanded I get her a drink because she thought I was one of the part-time workers at a bus station cafe, examples of microaggression were frequent. It is par for the course for POCs traveling abroad, particularly in Western countries. Racial microaggressions are not just a rare occurrence but a constant struggle for minorities at home and on vacation. They are products of a wider systemic way societies look at traditionally underrepresented folks.

samaria gorge greece

Near trail's end of the Samaria Gorge. The trail eventually turns into a spectacular riverbed that hikers hike alongside. The gorge itself is located in a national park on the island of Crete. Photo by Annie Tang

But that is not to say my trip was ruined! This was the best world adventure I’ve had yet. There was nothing like seeing the golden rays of sunset cast against thousand-foot monoliths, topped by medieval monasteries built by endeavoring monks. There was nothing like making it to the end of a strenuous 6-hour hike through one of Greece’s most beautiful natural wonders and diving into crystal blue waters. There was nothing like sharing a Mythos beer with Greek locals and listening to them play traditional folk songs.  

kalambaka thessaly greece

Locals in Kalambaka, Thessaly, playing traditional folk music in a taverna--and getting complimentary carafes of house wine to boot! Photo by Annie Tang.


I was not only touched by the geographic and built marvels, but by the overall kindness and cultures of people from a country I’ve wanted to visit since I was a child..




The following includes more resources on topics discussed in this blog:

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this travelogue, where I talk about my sojourn from a gender perspective, as a solo woman traveler.

Library Tourism

The Reading Room in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (National Library of France), Paris.

At some point, we all travel and explore new places. While you're globe-trotting, don't forget to visit libraries! Seriously, some libraries are tourist attractions and well-worth a visit. Even the New York Times has recognized this insider's tip!

You could start close to home, in Washington DC, at the Library of Congress. The Jefferson Building, near the Capitol, is considered by many to be the most beautiful building in the city. See the Gutenberg Bible! See Thomas Jefferson's library! they always have a featured collection on display. And it has a great gift shop!

Further afield, the Morgan Library and Museum in New York has a fabulous exhibit space, beautiful architecture, J.P. Morgan's private library, and a great gift shop. This library/museum also always features exhibits from its treasures.

Ceiling of the Great Hall in the U.S. National Library of Congress (Washington, D.C.)

Ceiling of the Great Hall in the U.S. National Library of Congress (Washington, D.C.)

Going west? The Huntington Library in San Marino, CA has art collections and botanical gardens in addition to the library. It's known for a splendid collection of the history of science, among other things. It also hosts exhibits, and has a great gift shop.

Going abroad? The Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris is a fabulous space to visit, with exhibits, great collections, a spectacular view, and - a gift shop! The British Library in London is fabulous. And the national library in Florence, Italy - Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze - awaits you too. In Madrid, the Biblioteca Nacional is a destination. You could even visit the National Library of China in Beijing, Russia in St. Petersburg!

Sure, all these libraries have great websites, and their catalogs are online. But it's not just about the books (although they have fantastic collections). Experience the space, the architecture, the exhibits, and, well, the great gift shops!

Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, Professor of Greek

Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, Johns Hopkins' first professor of Greek, was born in 1831 in Charleston, South Carolina, and was orphaned at a young age. Gildersleeve proved to be a precocious child who displayed a hunger for classical learning. His determination took him first to the College of Charleston, then to Jefferson College in Pennsylvania and on to Princeton, where he earned his bachelor's degree at the age of 18. He then went to Europe for advanced study, earning his doctorate at Göttingen in 1853, at the age of 22. Returning to the United States, he became professor of Greek at the University of Virginia in 1856.

When the Civil War began in 1861, many faculty members in the south resigned their positions to join the Confederate armies. Gildersleeve accepted a staff officer position in the summer of 1861, and he returned to the army each spring at the conclusion of classes. During a skirmish in the Shenandoah Valley in September 1864, Gildersleeve was delivering orders to the front when gunfire shattered his leg. Gildersleeve's comment summed up the incident: "I lost my pocket Homer, I lost my pistol, I lost one of my horses and, finally, I came very near losing my life." As a result of this wound, he would bear a limp for the remainder of his life. During his convalescence, brooding over the prospect of a postwar South dominated by the North, Gildersleeve considered abandoning the academic life and joining the conflict in Mexico with Maximilian.

Overcoming his despair, Gildersleeve returned to Charlottesville and resumed his duties, helping to rebuild an institution ravaged by war. In later life, he reflected, "At the University of Virginia, I learned what scholarship and toil meant in terms of growth and inner rewards." Students came to cherish the rigorous training they received at the hands of this Greek master. A brilliant scholar, Gildersleeve was known to be very demanding of his students, singling out with biting comments those he felt were performing below their abilities. As he matured, his classroom demeanor softened.

After failing to persuade a Harvard scholar to relocate to the new Johns Hopkins University, Hopkins president Daniel Coit Gilman was directed to Gildersleeve. Gilman tendered an offer to Gildersleeve that the latter accepted in December 1875.

Gildersleeve’s hiring helped allay the fears of many who nervously watched Gilman, from Connecticut, build a university with a bequest from a pro-Union railroad baron. Their fear was that the new university would employ only those sympathetic to the North.

Gildersleeve credited Hopkins with satisfying his fondest desires. Writing in 1891, he declared, "The greater freedom of action, the larger appliances, the wider and richer life, the opportunities for travel and for personal intercourse have stimulated production and have made my last 14 years my most fruitful years in the eyes of the scholarly world." In 1880, he founded the American Journal of Philology at Hopkins and edited the journal through its first 40 years. A memorial later declared, "Of Greek authors, there were few with whom he did not have more than a bowing acquaintance."

Gildersleeve retired from teaching in 1915, after a professorial career spanning nearly 60 years, and passed away quietly on January 9, 1924.

Why Not Read About Summer?

The academic year is over, the Memorial Day picnic leftovers are in the fridge, and you're starting to plan your summer activities. If you're like me, one of the most important summer activities is summer reading! Trashy novels, breezy beach reads, it's all waiting for you. Well, why not read about summer?

A subject search for 'summer fiction' in Catalyst yields a few books, but we find more with the subject term summer resorts fiction. There may be other books about summer that don't have the word 'summer' in the subject. A search for 'summertime' in the title gives us novels, short stories, poetry, and a few titles about staying safe in the summer. (I didn't narrow the search to just fiction.)

Play around with other words that remind you of summer. I also tried the following subject searches:

I'm always surprised at what I can find in Catalyst, our library catalog.

Enjoy your summer reading!


Stories from Turkey

Once there was a white elephant, an Indian boy who was his friend, an architect, several sultans, and a mystery. My introduction to Turkish fiction was the beautifully written The Architect's Apprentice (2015). The author, Elif Shafak (sometimes spelled "Safak"), has written eight books; the best known is probably The Bastard of Istanbul.

In an interview on the BBC World Book Club -- my favorite podcast about books -- she spoke very intensely about the importance of diversity and cosmopolitanism. (Listen to it now! Click the icon above her name and close your eyes; it's a radio broadcast.)

In 2006, Turkish author Orhan Pamuk won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Eisenhower Library has 11 of his books. (His Nobel lecture is beautiful.)

In the library catalog, the SUBJECT heading Turkey--fiction gives almost 90 results:

The Library of Celsus is an ancient Roman building in Ephesus, Anatolia (now part of Selçuk, Turkey) built to store 12,000 scrolls.

There is a list of popular Turkish fiction books -- written in English -- from Goodreads.

Here is more from Elif Shafak about Turkish women, diversity, her own upbringing by a single mother, and how her latest novel, Three Daughters of Eve (2016) reflects these themes.

Finally, here is a mystery, or actually several mysteries: a book written in 1943 has suddenly, inexplicably, become very popular. Here is more detail about the plot -- and the murder of the author -- of Madonna in a Fur Coat.