The Barra Foundation International Research Fellowships in American History and Culture

The Library Company of Philadelphia and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania offer one-month fellowships to support research in residence in their collections by foreign national scholars of early American history and culture living outside the United States. The fellowships are funded by the Barra Foundation, Inc.

These two independent research libraries, adjacent to each other in Center City Philadelphia, have complementary collections capable of supporting research in a variety of fields and disciplines relating to the history of the United States and the Atlantic world from the 17th through the 19th centuries, as well as Mid-Atlantic regional history to the present.

The Library Company, founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1731 and located in Center City Philadelphia, holds over half a million rare books and graphics that are capable of supporting research in a variety of fields and disciplines relating to the history of the United States and the Atlantic world in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. The holdings include the nation’s second largest collection of pre-1801 American imprints and one of the largest collections of 18th-century British books in America. Information about the subject strengths of the collections can be found here.

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP), now enriched by the holdings of the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies, holds more than 19 million personal, organizational, and business manuscripts, as well 500,000 printed items and 300,000 graphic images concerning national and regional political, social, and family history. The Balch collections have added rich documentation of the ethnic and immigrant experience in the United States. Information about HSP’s holding is available here.

Together the two institutions form one of the most comprehensive sources in the nation for the study of colonial and U.S. history and culture. HSP’s strength in manuscripts complements the Library Company’s strength in printed materials. The Library Company’s collections reflect the whole range of early American print culture, including books, pamphlets, and magazines from all parts of the country, as well as books imported from Britain and the Continent. HSP’s archival collections richly document the social, cultural, and economic history of a region central to many aspects of the nation’s development. The Balch Institute collections bring the HSP new strength in documenting ethnic and immigrant history, with significant holdings of ethnic newspapers, records of benevolent societies and other local and national ethnic organizations, and personal papers of prominent leaders in ethnic and immigrant communities. Both collections are strong in local newspapers and printed ephemera; the print and photograph collections of both libraries are rich in images of the Philadelphia region and graphics by local artists. The two libraries combined have extraordinary strength in the history of women and African Americans, popular literature, business and banking, popular medicine, philanthropy and reform, education, natural sciences, technology, art, architecture, German Americana, American Judaica, and a host of other subjects.

Terms of the Barra Fellowship

The stipend is $2,500 plus an allowance for travel expenses up to $1,000. The fellowships support both postdoctoral and dissertation research. The project proposal should demonstrate that the Library Company and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania have primary sources central to the research topic. The fellowships are tenable for one month at any time from June to May. The Library Company’s Cassatt House residence offers simple room rentals at reasonable rates and shared office space.


Applications for 2023–24 Barra fellowships have closed. Applications for 2024–25 fellowships will open later this year.

To apply, fill out the online application form and upload a single PDF file containing the following elements:

  • a brief CV
  • a ca. 150-word project abstract
  • a two- to four-page description of your proposed research (single-spaced, not to exceed 1,500 words)

The proposal should make clear how Library Company and/or HSP collections will support your research. Application files should be named using this format: Lastname_Firstname_application.

In addition, one letter of recommendation in PDF format should be uploaded here; please ask your recommender to name the file using this format: Lastname_Firstname_letter.

For more information

For assistance in determining how the Library Company’s collections might support a particular project, contact Librarian Emily Guthrie (

For general information about fellowships and application procedures, contact the Library Company’s Fellowships Manager Christine Nelson (

For information about collections at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, contact Scholarly Programs Manager Christina Larocco (