An update from Lauryn Smith on conducting dissertation research abroad during the pandemic

Here is an update from Lauryn Smith, one of our doctoral students working abroad during the pandemic:

For the 2019-2020 academic year, I was based in the Netherlands to conduct dissertation research. This time abroad allowed unprecedented access to objects examined in my dissertation and primary documentation critical to my argument. In addition to visiting institutions in the Netherlands, I also scheduled research trips to England, France, and Germany. However, on March 12, 2020, the Netherlands went into lockdown in response to Covid-19, bringing everything to a halt. Fortunately, although I could not physically visit libraries and archives, over the last 6 months, I had already built an extensive personal library of scanned scholarly articles and books, photographs of objects/sites, and archival material. Being sequestered in my apartment provided me the opportunity to spend significant time translating and analyzing this data. Over the summer I completed my first core chapter and a draft of my introduction, as well as organized and translated primary documentation included in my appendices. In addition to devoting time to my primary documentation and writing, I began to actively participate in online conferences and symposia, as well as to organize virtual gatherings for graduate students studying the early modern period to provide a space for us to discuss our research, support one another, and crowdsource materials. As the Netherlands slowly reopened in June, I returned to museums and libraries to continue researching and studying primary documentation. As the world became more optimistic, I began receiving acceptances to virtual and hybrid conferences. I co-organized a roundtable panel for the virtual Universities Art Association of Canada/Association des universités d’art du Canada (UAAC/AAUC), which critically examines issues related to access, equity, and diversity in the art world. This spring, I will present my dissertation research at the Historians of Netherlandish Art (HNA) Annual Conference in Amsterdam and The Hague, The Association of Art History (AAH) Annual Conference in Birmingham, UK, and the Netherlandish Society for Seventeenth-Century Studies Conference in Utrecht. I will also chair sessions at HNA and AAH. I am currently based in Venice for the Fall 2020 term as a scholar-in-residence at the Giorgio Cini Foundation and will be moving to Oxford this winter to continue conducting research. I am in the process of applying to fellowships to extend my time in Europe and to reschedule postponed research trips for 2021. I continue to write and edit my dissertation and plan to defend during the 2021-2022 academic year. I am deeply indebted to my network of colleagues and my advisor, Dr. Catherine B. Scallen, for their constant support during these uncertain times.