Examining My Brackenridge Project Through a New Lens

Hello all! I’m Margaret Barnes, and I wanted to share the new discoveries I’ve been having throughout my time here as a Brackenridge Fellow.

As we approach Week 5 of this fellowship, I am increasingly grateful for the resources which I have been provided with, both from the interdisciplinary nature of the Brackenridge Fellowship, and from the University Honors College itself. As progress on my independent project grows, so does my progress in understanding research methods beyond that of the historians. 

Placed in cohorts the first week of this fellowship, we met each other and introduced our projects, what we hoped to accomplish through them, and why they mattered. My group is filled with multiple disciplines – engineers, psychologists, social sciences, even video game design and myself, a representative of the humanities in our group. Our projects each range from testing proteins in a lab to hopefully assist heart regeneration after a heart attack, creating a video game exploring an abandoned mall outside of Pittsburgh in order to study society’s perception of abandoned spaces and their possible socioeconomic effects, and even collecting and researching the oral history of those on the autism spectrum. 

In such a diverse group, I hope to become more understanding of the different approaches to research, and specifically learn how to develop my own research into something beyond the page, something which creates the social impact that the paintings I am studying would have in their own time. Academic research always strives to impact the world around it, and I am very much looking forward to learning how to take the impact and themes from my research and communicate them beyond the community of academics. 

Already, I see several similarities in my work and those of others. A group member of mine is in a psychology lab, studying how children choose, react, and respond to different toys, labeled as male, female or gender neutral through current societal standards (blue for boys, pink for girls, etc.) While psychology seems so far from the nature of my studying, both of our projects center on the visual, on perception. We see how and intend to understand how people look at objects, and how they respond and are perceived in the modern day. 

With so many disciplines represented, and even more importantly, so many research methods, it seems impossible that we would have anything in common with our research – and often, I found that the biggest obstacle for us is to discover the meaning and impact which each of our projects has the potential to bring. But therein lies the strength – through our constant dialogues every week, as we share updates on our work and research methods, we are not only growing in understanding of each other’s projects, but in how to communicate our own, and how to perceive the impact of all disciplines – an important skill in the field of research, one which cannot be found solely through interactions with researchers within one’s specific discipline. 

As I bring in more paintings, visuals, and research in order to expand the perspective of my research, I find an increasing understanding and influence of gendered roles, space, research methods, and beyond to enrich my own works.

To read more about my research, visit the link below to my introduction post!

Figure 1: Madonna di Loreto (Madonna of the Pilgrims), Caravaggio, Rome, Basilica Sant’Agostino, c. 1604

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