Fellowships Program FAQ

Who may I contact with questions?

What types of projects are eligible for fellowship support?

Fellowships support advanced humanities research in a range of fields and disciplines that align with the collection strengths of the Library Company and/or Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Eligible project categories include (but are not limited to) doctoral dissertations, book projects and scholarly articles, digital humanities initiatives, editions of historic texts, and research-based creative projects. Because our fellowships support collections-based research, it is essential that application narratives articulate how the holdings of one or both institutions will support the project research.

Are independent scholars, artists, and cultural professionals eligible for fellowships?

The majority of our fellowships are awarded to academic researchers who are pursuing or hold a PhD. Academic scholars who are currently unaffiliated are eligible for all short-term and postdoctoral opportunities. Applicants from other backgrounds (including, but not limited to, special collections librarians, museum curators, artists, public historians, and other cultural professionals) may apply for short-term fellowships provided they are seeking support for a well-defined project that requires significant consultation of collection resources of the Library Company and/or the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and that they articulate a clear planned outcome. 

How are fellowship selections conducted?

The Library Company and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania convene review committees of scholars from various disciplines whose expertise aligns with the institutions’ collection strengths. Staff members of both institutions also review applications to assess whether the proposed projects can be well-supported by the collections. Because our collections span several centuries and various fields of study, applications will be read by some reviewers who are not specialists in the applicant’s field; we therefore encourage applicants to describe their projects’ aims and significance in terms accessible to non-specialists.

What is the relationship between the Library Company of Philadelphia and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania?

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP) and the Library Company of Philadelphia (LCP) are independent research libraries located adjacent to each other on Locust Street in Center City Philadelphia. While we are separate institutions with separate staffs, collections, and policies, we have long worked together cooperatively to provide mutual support for fellows, who benefit from the libraries’ physical proximity to each other and remarkably complementary collections. The two institutions are fellowships program partners, with some fellowships awarded jointly by the two libraries and some by one or the other. Applicants for short-term fellowships submit a single application to be considered for all relevant awards offered by one or both institutions.

How do I determine which of your many short-term fellowships I am eligible for?

Applicants for short-term (one-month) fellowships submit a single application to be considered for all relevant opportunities at the Library Company and/or the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. If you have a particular interest in being considered for a specific award, you are welcome to articulate your preference in your application narrative or an optional cover letter, but you are not required to do so.

Do you offer flexible scheduling for short-term fellowships?

Yes. We recognize that it is a challenge for some scholars to spend four consecutive weeks in the Philadelphia area. It is not necessary to begin a short-term fellowship at the beginning of a calendar month. Short-term fellows may divide their four-week residency into multiple visits. We also offer the option to complete the fourth week remotely. If you are awarded a fellowship, we will confer with you about these scheduling options.

I am not a US citizen. Am I eligible for a fellowship?

Citizens of any country are eligible for fellowship awards.* Award holders from outside the United States are individually responsible for fulfilling any regulatory requirements to enter the country. Most long-term international fellows require a J-1 visa. The Library Company is not a participant in a J-1 visa sponsorship program; long-term fellows who meet necessary requirements may be able to secure a J-1 visa through an outside agency with the Library Company acting as a host organization. In such instances, the fellow must bear any applicable costs.

*Note that applicants for NEH Postdoctoral Fellowships who are foreign nationals must have lived in the United States for the three years preceding the application deadline.

What housing options are available?

Fellows may arrange for their own local housing or request a room in one of the Library Company’s residences. The Cassatt House, the Library Company’s main fellows’ residence, is conveniently located next door; six simple bedrooms are available for rent by the week or month. Also available for rent is a large apartment on the second floor of a renovated carriage house behind the Library Company; the apartment is large enough to accommodate fellows who will be in residence with a partner and/or children.

I have already received a fellowship from the Library Company and/or the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. May I apply for another fellowship?

  • If you have already been awarded a short-term fellowship, you are ineligible for a second short-term fellowship to support the same project.
  • Past short-term fellows may apply for another short-term fellowship to support a new project.
  • Past short-term fellows may apply for a long-term dissertation fellowship or long-term postdoctoral fellowship to support the same project; the application should make clear why you would benefit from additional sustained time with collections and from the fellowship community.
  • Past long-term dissertation fellows may apply for long-term postdoctoral fellowships to support further development of the same project (e.g., to develop the dissertation into an expanded book manuscript) or to support a new project.
  • If you are a past fellow applying for another award, there is no required waiting period between one award and a new application.

I applied for a fellowship in the past and did not receive an award. May I apply again?

Yes. We receive more strong applications each year than we are able to fund, so if you did not receive an award in the past you may apply in a subsequent year. If you choose to reapply, be sure to make clear how Library Company and/or Historical Society of Pennsylvania collections will support your research.

Do you provide feedback to unsuccessful applicants?

We receive a high volume of applications and we are not able to provide written comments from review committee members. If you wish to reapply and would benefit from assistance in identifying collection holdings that would support your research, you are welcome to contact a relevant collections staff member or curator to request assistance.

What are a fellow’s obligations?

Fellows conduct regular collections-based research at the Library Company and/or the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in support of the project described in their application, present a brief overview of their research at a colloquium, attend other fellows’ colloquia while they are in residence, abide by both institutions’ policies, and submit an exit report upon completion of the fellowship. Further details and particular requirements associated with certain awards will be shared in the fellowship offer letter.

I submitted an application and need to correct an error or make an update. How do I do that?

Email fellowships@librarycompany.org and we will assist you.

May I defer my fellowship?

Fellowships must be fulfilled during the academic year for which they are awarded. If you are unable to fulfill your fellowship, you are welcome to reapply in a subsequent year.

What are the strengths of the collections of the Library Company and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania?

  • The Library Company 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), 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 collections of the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies, now held by HSP, include rich documentation of the ethnic and immigrant experience in the United States. Information about HSP’s holdings 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.