History major Jemma Brown ’11 (New York, N.Y.) spent fall semester of her senior year in Turkey at Boğaziçi University, studying the contemporary Turkish art scene and its relations with the Western art market, nationalism, and constructions of Turkish identity. When she came back to campus in the spring, she knew she wanted to focus her senior capstone on Turkish history. But there was one major roadblock: she lacked access to primary resources, a major component of the semester-long research project.
Brown conducted preliminary searches at local archives in the Twin Cities, and at the Minnesota Historical Society, she found what would be the key to her research: a set of unpublished diaries written by an American missionary woman who worked in southern Turkey during the Armenian genocides, which started in 1915 and lasted for two years.
“Her meticulous diaries span more than 40 years,” Brown says. “They offered an incredible window into the realities of the genocide and the complex roles female missionaries undertook while stationed abroad.”
The diaries proved to be an invaluable resource for Brown’s capstone research, which expanded her understanding of Turkish-Armenian-American relations. But that project wasn’t her first exposure to the resources of the Minnesota Historical Society, located four miles away from campus. Brown, an environmental studies minor, conducted archival research one summer for the Environmental Studies Department to provide historical context for a department project.
Her history courses have been marked by flexibility and curiosity that crosses disciplines. “Within the historical field, I have been able to study fields ranging from gender theory and social justice to Andean and Ottoman history,” Brown says. “The major is very conducive to interdisciplinary scholarship, and I appreciate that room for flexibility.”