New Haven, ornithology, and Mexican costume are subjects of award-winning essays

  • Smiling woman with shoulder-length brown hair and wire glasses, gold hoop earrings and blue short-sleeve shirt open at collar stands in courtyard with brick facade behind her and two grey figures in partial view of water fountain at left.
    Lydia Broderick ’23
  • Young woman with dirty blonde hair pulled back wearing hoop earring and looking over her left shoulder at camera. Her shoulder with a white tie strap is visible. The blurred background shows a tree and colorful foliage.
    Elaina Foley ’23
  • Woman with long wavy brown hair and two choker-length necklaces and black top smiling against a blurred outdoor background
    Sofia Ortega Guerrero ’23
June 26, 2023

Lydia Broderick, Elaina Foley, and Sofia Ortega-Guerrero—Class of 2023—have been awarded Yale Library’s Diane E. Kaplan Senior Essay Prize. Each year, the award recognizes a Yale College senior for excellent use of research materials from the library’s diverse special collections and for exceptional writing.

In recognition of the high quality of the record 24 submissions received, the committee selected 3 student essays for the prize this year.

  • Lydia Broderick (Ezra Stiles College)
    Broderick’s essay is titled “Militants in the Model City: Richard Lee, the Hill Parents Association, and the Limits of Citizen Participation in New Haven’s Urban Renewal Anti-Poverty Programs.” It traces the many diverse factors that led to the displacement of residents in the Oak Street neighborhood of New Haven after the first major urban renewal project in the 1950s. Broderick’s faculty advisor was Regina Kunzel, Larned Professor of History and of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Read Lydia Broderick’s full essay.
  • Elaina Foley (Saybrook College)
    In the essay “Sense-able Hauntings: Ethics and Narratives in Ornithological Specimen Preservation at Yale’s Peabody Museum,” Foley considers the more than 152,000 bird skins, bones, eggs, nests, and other “avian fragments” in the collection of Yale Peabody Museum. The essay explores, Foley explains, the “locked spaces of museums’ death-rich collections” and the complex emotions of staff members and curators as they maintain what is “on one level, an avian crypt.” Foley worked with faculty advisor Joanna Radin, associate professor of History of Medicine. Read Elaina Foley’s full essay.
  • Sofia Ortega-Guerrero (Ezra Stiles College)
    In “Between Specificity and Myth: An Analysis of Carlos Mérida’s Mexican Costume,” Ortega-Guerrero analyzes a portfolio of serigraph prints by Guatemalan-born artist Carlos Mérida (1891–1984). The prints are images of Indigenous Mexican people in regional dress. The portfolio and companion booklet were issued in 1941 in an edition of 1,000, marketing a “mythicized Mexican image to U.S. consumers,” Ortega-Guerrero writes, “collapsing territorial expanses and ethnic, cultural diversity under a homogenizing national title.” Ortega-Guerrero’s advisor was Catalina Ospina, professor in the Department of the History of Art. Read Sofia Ortega-Guerrero’s full essay.

These Kaplan Prize­–winners were acknowledged with a certificate during their residential-college commencement ceremonies. Each received $500 and publication of their winning essays on EliScholar. The Kaplan Prize has been awarded continuously since 2003, and publication on the EliScholar platform began in 2015. The 29 Kaplan Prize essays published there have since been downloaded more than 25,000 times.

The 2023 Kaplan Prize Section Committee included these staff members of Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library: Paul Civitelli, library services assistant; Moira Fitzgerald, program director, reference and research services and user assessment; Jennifer Garcia, senior administrative assistant; Bill Landis, education program director; Katherine Lempres, acquisitions assistant; Rebecca Maguire, library services assistant; and Hannelore Segers, librarian. Melissa Grafe, John R. Bumstead Librarian for Medical History, head of the Medical Historical Library, also served on the committee.

The Kaplan Prize—previously the Manuscripts and Archives Senior Essay Prize—was renamed in 2013 to honor the memory of Diane Kaplan (1947–2012). Kaplan worked as an archivist in Manuscripts and Archives for more than 35 years, and her contributions aided and inspired generations of researchers and colleagues.

Eligible essays are based on research in any of the Yale Library special collections. Essays from any academic department on any topic are eligible for consideration.

Read more about the Kaplan Senior Essay Prize and read past prizewinning essays.

Read about all Yale Library prizes.

—Deborah Cannarella