Our Author Becomes a Researcher

This is the third post in a blog series about one Winterthur Fellow’s experience in the Winterthur Fellowship Program

The first thing you notice as you unlock the door to Foulsham House, where research fellows live at Winterthur, is that you’ve got some pretty cushy digs for the next month. Comfy room? Check. Fully stocked kitchen? Just bring your groceries. Laundry facilities? You’ve got no excuse for, well, you get the idea… 

Living at Winterthur on and off for a month has been a retreat from all of the million details of my normal life, which has been an education in and of itself. It’s astonishing how many things you can just let go for weeks at a time and the world does not fall apart. It bears contemplating… (insert smiley face emoji). Solving the simple problems of remembering to bring your lunch to stick in the refrigerator and whether to dress for the day in the bathroom after yoga class or go back “home” to change, forms the bulk of my daily “living” at the moment. That leaves me plenty of room for scratching my head about exactly which items to request from the archives to transcribe, photograph, ponder how to use, etc. That brain space is really the gift of the fellowship as much as access to the materials and the helpful support of the Winterthur staff. When the day’s biggest issue is whether to select a coastal trip or a voyage to China as the core of the prototype data, your world becomes much more focused.

There is a sense of urgency imparted by the looming end of the fellowship, in my case that was four weeks away from the day I turned the key at Foulsham House. I live in upstate New York, so it’s not like I couldn’t come back for a day here or there to look at things I missed while on site. But I know that once I return to my life, this project will take a backseat to all of the other things that fill my time. The deadline is more than just a promise to myself and the program. It is the practical finish to the development phase of the work. Like the threat of being hanged in the morning, to quote Samuel Johnson, nothing concentrates the mind of a researcher quite like the knowledge that you will soon have to turn in your keys.

The ease of living at Winterthur, getting around, getting help, finding what you need, and doing the work, makes it all possible. I won’t miss the isolation when I head home, but I am immensely grateful for this time when I am able to step out of things and do meaningful work.

Wallpaper depicting daily scenes from a Chinese village, Chinese Parlor, Winterthur

A cool thing I found in the collection:

As the home of the wealthy du Pont family, the collection of objects at Winterthur naturally includes a great number of items more common in “great houses.” This elegant tea table makes me smile both from the whimsy of the design and how specific it is to the purpose. There is no use for this table beyond serving tea to a group of people. And even for that, it is somewhat clumsy. But, why not?!

Post by Pamela F. Wik-Grimm, Maker/Creator Research Fellow, Winter 2020

Pamela Wik-Grimm writes historical maritime fiction based on her lifelong love of sailing and the sea. She holds a USCG captain’s license and is active as a commercial and recreational sailor. http://www.pamelagrimmauthor.com


This entry was posted in Academic Programs, American Culture Studies, Du Pont Family, museum collection, Students & Alumni. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *