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Plant Humanities Summer Program

Dumbarton Oaks
July 1  –  26, 2019
Applications due April 5, 2019

Dumbarton Oaks invites applications for a four-week, fully funded summer program focusing on Plant Humanities: the interdisciplinary study of plants, their global travels, and the myriad ways in which they have shaped human culture. The summer program will take place at Dumbarton Oaks, a research institute, museum, and historic garden affiliated with Harvard University and located in Washington, DC. The program is offered in the context of a new initiative at Dumbarton Oaks, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to further the field of plant humanities, in collaboration with JSTOR Labs.

The summer program is intended for advanced undergraduates (juniors and seniors) and graduate students with an interest in plants from perspectives as different as: botany, botanical exploration, the history of science and medicine, environmental studies, art history, and the history of the book and botanical illustration. Program participants will attend seminars and lectures as well as site visits to the Smithsonian, the Oak Spring Garden Foundation, the United States Botanic Garden, and other sites. Guest lecturers will include Sir Peter Crane (Oak Spring Garden Foundation), Therese O’Malley (CASVA, National Gallery of Art), and Elizabeth Hyde (Kean University).

The ten participants in the summer program will learn about the cultural histories of plants, with an emphasis on particular case studies, through seminars and guest lectures. They will also receive training and conduct research in the Dumbarton Oaks rare book collection, which is particularly strong in botanical publications and illustrations. Lastly, through our collaboration with JSTOR Labs, students will receive training and develop content for an open access digital tool, developed by Dumbarton Oaks and JSTOR Labs, whose purpose is to connect primary and secondary resources about plants through visually engaging storytelling.

Admission Requirements  

Priority will be given to undergraduate and graduate students with special interests (demonstrated through coursework or research projects) in the fields of history of science, environmental studies, digital humanities, art history, and/or botany. However, we also welcome applications from candidates who may not already possess skills in digital humanities or the use of special collections, but seek to develop these skills.

Accommodation and Expenses

Dumbarton Oaks will provide shared accommodations on our campus in Washington, D.C., reimbursement of economy-class travel expenses (up to $600), lunch on weekdays in the Refectory, a Library reader’s pass for the duration of the course, and transportation to site visits for successful applicants.


Prospective candidates are invited to submit by email, as a single PDF, (1) a résumé; (2) a statement of interest describing how the summer program will contribute to their professional and intellectual goals, and (3) an academic transcript. Candidates should also arrange for two letters of recommendation to be emailed to the program directly by the referees. All application materials should be emailed to with “2019 Plant Summer Program” in the subject line.  All application materials must be received by Friday, April 5, 2019Selection criteria will include (but not be limited to) a demonstrated need for the program and the candidates’ present and future research objectives. International candidates are eligible to apply; however, Dumbarton Oaks does not sponsor J visas for this program. For further information, please contact

Margaret Mee, Ananas bracteatus, 1964