Student Spotlight: Noah Mapes, 2020 Chipstone-CDMC Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow

By Noah Mapes, senior in the Department of Art History at the University of WisconsinMadison, a 2020 Chipstone-CDMC Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow, and Hilldale Undergraduate Research Fellow.

headshot photograph of Noah Mapes - young man with long hair stands outside on steps in front of a stately wooden door
Noah Mapes. 2020 Chipstone-CDMC Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow. Photo courtesy of Noah Mapes.

During summer 2020, I had the pleasure of being among the initial cohort of the Chipstone-CDMC Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows. Focusing on the CDMC pillar of material culture scholarship (other fellows in the cohort focused on textiles and design thinking), I spent the summer working under the guidance of Professor Ann Smart Martin and her team of student researchers to contribute to A Colonial Merchant: The Ledger of William Ramsay. Through the support and training of the Fellowship, I developed much needed research experience as well as a network of like-minded scholars.

A Colonial Merchant: The Ledger of William Ramsay investigates the 1753-1756 ledger of Virginian merchant William Ramsay to examine life within the Ramsay-Dixon general store, its goods, its local and international connections, and its patrons. Specifically, I spearheaded an effort to research and write biographies for customers—with an emphasis on consumers from often marginalized communities—in order to connect their shopping and purchasing patterns to an active colonial world of social and consumer interactions.

19th-century map of northern Virginia with brightly-colored labels of family names and store locations
18th-century map altered by Noah Mapes to show locations of the families in Fairfax County, VA who purchased items at the Ramsay-Dixon general store.

Through the research training provided by the Chipstone-CDMC Fellowship, I not only learned about a colonial world of material goods, but how to conduct a research project. Training began with the application itself as Professor Martin, Professor Sarah Anne Carter—Visiting Executive Director of the CDMC, and I composed a project proposal. This experience taught me how to articulate and present potential work effectively in its nascent stage while also providing a foundation to stand on as the summer progressed. Furthermore, check-ins with the Colonial Merchant team as well as Fellowship staff kept me accountable. I learned how to meet deadlines and, moreover, how to communicate between researchers so that my work can be meaningful to others. My fellowship experience not only improved my ability to explore a topic, but to also to advocate for my research and get the most out of support networks.

quilted petticoat in reds with checkered underskirt on a black background.
Quilted petticoat presented as an example of “check” that a customer may have found in Ramsay’s store. Image: Quilted petticoat, 1760-1790. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. 1985-116,2.

Personally, I am perhaps most grateful for the support provided by the Chipstone-CDMC Fellowship during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to my acceptance into the program, Professor Carter often communicated with me to check in on how I held up personally as well as to assure me of CDMC’s efforts to fund student research at a time when many programs could not. Additionally, my check-ins with Fellowship staff and Colonial Merchant teammates provided social interactions during quite an isolating period. Discussions of Fellowship work as well as individual triumphs and failures in the age of COVID-19 has led to lasting relationships as well as an emotional home within the CDMC community.

Following my summer as a Chipstone-CDMC fellow, I am continuing to work on Colonial Merchant as well as staying in touch with CDMC staff. Though the Fellowship only lasted a few months, I know that I have lasting mentorships and friendships within the program. Likewise, as I still consider myself to be part of the Fellowship community, I look forward to seeing what work the next cohort of fellows takes on.

At time of this blog post publication, The CDMC is  accepting applications for the Second Annual Chipstone-CDMC Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship. Deadline is April 16, 2021.

Noah Mapes is currently a graduating senior at UWMadison studying art history and a Hilldale Undergraduate/Faculty Research Fellow studying with Professor Anna Andrzejewski to complete his senior honors thesis exploring how Native American artists utilize the influence of Pop art as a means of cultural self-determination and identity formation. Alongside his academic efforts, Noah works at the Chazen Museum of Art and UW Archives and volunteers with the Ho-Chunk Nation Museum and Cultural Center and the College of Letters & Science Dean’s Ambassadors. In fall 2021, Noah will be joining Cornell University’s History of Art Ph.D. program to continue researching Indigenous arts.