Enjoy this post by Chloe Otterson, one of our 2017-2018 Freshman Fellows, as she reflects on her research experience and shares some exciting news!

I find myself sitting at home, having somehow completed my first year of college. I have not horribly failed my classes, or gotten lost on the Baltimore bus system (more than once), or slept through my exams, or done anything else my past self worried about before going to college. Instead, I’m sitting at home for the first time in many months and I am excitedly thinking about what I will do when I return to school at the end of the summer. In fact, it’s all I talk about, even to my friends from my hometown and my family members.

Why am I so excited?

Because I am writing a play that I will be able to put on next year.

I am able to fulfill this dream of mine because I was very lucky to have had the opportunity to be a Freshman Fellow, which gave me the experience, knowledge, and confidence to pursue my research further to become a fully realized play. I spent the year studying the collection, “Conversations with the Supernatural”, from the wacky advertisements for oddities and supernatural phenomena to the detailed biographies of mediums. I have learned far more than I could have imagined back in the fall, including how to handle primary sources, how to take spirit photographs (double-exposure), how to present my research to my peers, how to interpret my dream about bees (they suggest wealth and success in business, but a sting suggests a betrayal from friends).  I even had the opportunity to help add pieces the collection I was studying. My last blog post talked about my excitement to begin my research. I was so happy to start my project, but I had no idea what it would be or how it would turn out. Would I be giving a presentation about palmistry in Peabody Library? Would I write an article about the position of minorities in the Spiritualist Movement? I barely had a clue about what buildings any of my classes were in, let alone a final research project.

If you told my past-self that in the spring she would be writing a play inspired by the collection she was studying, she would probably be very confused.

“I’m going to be writing a play about ghosts and people will support that?” Current-me is still in awe of how supportive the Freshman Fellows organizers and especially my mentor, Heidi Herr, have been. Heidi and I met regularly and she would listen to me ramble about the strange dream omen I had read about or my interest in women in the Spiritualist Movement and eventually my tentative ideas about incorporating theatre and creative writing into my research. I fully expected everyone to say it was a crazy idea. But instead I was met with overwhelming support from Heidi and the Freshman Fellows program. Heidi encouraged me to apply for grants and I was very fortunate to receive support from the Mellon Arts Committee via the Arts Innovation Grant, which will allow me to put my play on next year.

I greatly look forward to returning to my spooky part of Special Collections in mid-August to workshop my script and also start gathering students for the production. As I sit at home thinking about my experiences this year and my plans for next year, I am no longer filled with the same anxieties that plagued me last summer, only excitement.